Monday 11 February 2013


For Chinese new year, cakes symbolize a rich and sweet life and layers signify rising abundance. Hence, this cake is the perfect offering at the beginning of the year.

Kueh lapis legit is an Indonesian layer cake that takes after the Dutch spekkoek. This cake is grilled layer by layer to produce the striped effect. It is popular during celebrations in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. 

I fell in love with this delicacy the first time I tried it. Although it is traditionally flavoured with spices, the first one I tried was plain but was so delicious because the richness of the butter and egg yolks was unadulterated by anything else. I did not add spice to my cake mix but added a teaspoon of vanilla instead to recreate that cake.

In the pre-blogging days, I found it difficult to find a good recipe for this cake. I have tried several through the years but was not satisfied until now. This kueh lapis legit recipe from The Baking Biatch is a keeper. First of all, the ingredients were all simple  and the amounts were very reasonable. When I tried it, the steps were pretty straightforward and easy. All it takes is time and patience really. This is the time to bring out the OCD in you. 

When the cake is done, you'll realize that it is all worth the effort. All the butter and egg yolks would have worked their magic on the cake. It is not just the ingredients that give the cake flavour. It is also the grilling process that gives it alternating layers of rich cake and toasty brown crust. This recipe produced the kueh lapis of my dreams: moist, rich but not cloying, ultra delicious, buttery with a hint of rum. It is served in thin slices and the fun way of eating it is to peel off each layer and savour them individually. Merely eating it makes life so sweet.


500 gms. of soft, room temperature butter
1 c. of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp. rum
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. plain flour
1 tsp. gingerbread spice (I did not use this) or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
20 egg yolks, room temperature
1 c. castor sugar
10 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 c. castor sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar


Pre-heat the oven to 390° F/200° C.

Line a 25 cm. square tin with baking parchment. I don't have one in this size so I used a 20 cm. square tin instead. I had a little bit extra batter left which I cooked in another small pan.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the condensed milk gradually while mixing. Add the rum and vanilla and mix again.

Mix the flour and gingerbread spice (if using) together. Sift over the butter mixture and blend together.

Whisk the egg yolks and 1 c. of sugar together until thick and light in colour.

With the mixer running, add in the egg yolk and sugar mixture to the butter and condensed milk mixture until well combined.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the 1/4 c. sugar and cream of tartar. Whisk until stiff but not dry.

Add the egg whites to the batter 1/3 at a time, folding after each addition.

Pour 100 gms. of batter into your prepared pan, spread with a spatula and bake in the middle of the oven for 3-5 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

After the first layer is baked, the subsequent ones are grilled. Switch the oven to grill. Although a higher temperature was recommended, I found that I only needed the same temperature for my grill. Every oven behaves differently so adjust yours accordingly. The layers shouldn't cook too fast as the batter might still be uncooked inside, too slow and the cake becomes dry.

Each layer has to have a uniform amount of batter to achieve even layers. If you are using the 25 cm. tin, the recipe suggests weighing 100 gms. of the batter for each layer. I measured 1/2 c. of batter for each layer for my 20 cm. tin (about 3/4 c.  for the 25 cm tin if you prefer to measure rather than weigh the batter).

Pour your second layer and grill. Each layer has to be fully cooked before another layer is poured on it. Timing is important to end up with a moist layer with nicely browned crust. You should see the batter cooking: the surface dries and firms as it cooks before it slowly browns. The colour of the crust should be medium brown. It takes about 3 1/2 minutes for each layer to cook.

After grilling, you need to press each layer to make it completely flat. I used a fondant smoother but a cake slice would also do.

Repeat the process (pour batter, grill, press) until you've used up all the batter.

As you build up the layers, you might need to decrease the temperature of the grill or lower the oven shelf so that the cake doesn't cook too fast.

When done, invert the tin onto a cooling rack. Let the cake cool in the tin.

When cooled, unmold, peel off the paper and slice. Store in an air tight container.

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