Lapis legit/spekkoek/Indonesian thousand layers cake is a must for special celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, or Eid. Traditional recipes use 40 egg yolks, but this recipe with 12 eggs still yields a very rich and very tender cake, and full of aroma of spekkoek seasoning.
Chinese New Year is fast approaching and my parents and little brother are coming to the States all the way from Indonesia to celebrate the new year with me!
I am going to be on full gear, preparing many Chinese New Year goodies to share with my family. The first thing on my long list of food to make is, of course, lapis legit (thousand layers cake).
Lapis legit is probably not going to be on your to-do-list for Chinese New Year if you do not grow up in Indonesia, Malaysia, or Singapore. But since I did grow up in Indonesia, this gorgeous cake is a must-have along with nastar (pineapple tart).
What's in spekkoek/lapis legit seasoning?
A bit of a history lesson. This cake is actually a hybrid Indonesian and Dutch cake, a legacy from the Dutch colonial era but is still widely enjoyed to this day. The Dutch call this cake spekkoek, which translates to bacon cake, because all the layers look like bacon! But, there is no bacon involved, only spices. :)
The most defining characteristics of a lapis legit, aside from its multi-layers look, is the use of spekkoek/lapis legit seasoning. I usually buy packaged spekkoek seasoning, but you can also make them yourself from an equal amount of cinnamon powder, mace powder, and nutmeg powder.
Ingredients for a lapis legit cake
This cake uses only very basic pantry ingredients. You will need butter (unsalted), cake flour, eggs, sugar, salt, sweetened condensed milk, rum, and cream of tartar. Of course, you need the requisite spekkoek seasoning too.
In Indonesia, the most premium lapis legit is the one made with Wijsman butter. It is a Dutch preserved salted butter and comes in a can. If you are going to use this, please omit the salt since the butter is already salted.
In the States, I usually either use Kerrygold or Plugra butter. Still a bit pricey, but not Wijsman pricey. 😅
Preparing the cake batter
We will need to prepare three separate batters for this cake before finally mixing all three together into one cake batter.
Batter A is simply creaming together butter, sweetened condensed milk, and rum until fluffy at medium speed for about 8 minutes. Then add in cake flour, spekkoek seasoning, and salt. Mix this just until well combined (probably 1 minute), set aside.
Batter B is the egg yolks. In another mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar at high speed until THICK! Please don’t stop before the batter is pale and thick. The color of the batter should turn a pastel yellow, and when you lift up your beater/whisk, you should see ribbons. This should take about 5 minutes.
Batter C is the egg whites. In yet another mixing bowl, preferably a stainless steel bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy, then add cream of tartar, and then sugar in 3 batches. Whisk until stiff peak.
Combining the three batters. First, add batter B into batter A, mix until well combined. You can use an electric mixer for this if you wish. Next, using a spatula, fold in 1/3 of batter C (egg whites) into batter A/B combo until well mixed, then fold in the rest of batter C until well mixed.
Baking the cake
For the very first layer, you will need to first preheat the oven to 200 Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). Then spread a small amount of cake batter (about 1/8 inch) on the prepared pan, and bake in the center rack of the oven until golden brown for about 8 minutes.
Second layer onward
For the second layer onward, turn off the oven, but switch on the oven broiler instead. Then position the rack near the top closer to the heating element.
Spread batter evenly (about 1/8 inch), the batter will look more melted and runnier once placed into the pan, and bang the pan on the countertop to remove air bubbles. Then broil for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
Take note to stand watch and be extra careful from here on out. Each broiler heats differently, and yours may need less or more time. But be extra diligent in the first few layers so you don’t accidentally end up with a burnt cake.
Once a layer is cooked and looks golden brown, add another layer, bang to remove air bubbles, and broil again. Continue doing this until all the batter is used up.
Fixing the air bubbles. Every time you forget to remove the air bubble before broiling, you may notice that the layer bubbles up instead of laying flat evenly. Don’t fret, take a skewer/toothpick, and poke any bubble that forms. Then gently press with a spatula to flatten that layer.
Serving lapis legit
The cake itself is very rich and indulgent, made of mostly eggs, butter, sugar, and not much of flour. Since this is a very high calorie count cake, we usually serve this in a teeny tiny portion, so a little goes a long way. It is not uncommon to divide an 8" square cake into 40 portions!
Aside from Chinese New Year, lapis legit in general is regarded as a celebration cake in Indonesia, so every Idul Fitri, Christmas, and New Year, bakeries will be selling them like hot cakes (pun intended).
The price a bakery charges for this cake is through the roof. Last I check, an 8" square cake easily sells for $50-$60, and that is in Indonesia where food in general is pretty cheap. And even at such astronomical price, it is still best to pre-order or risk running out. So much ouch right?
If you like this cake, the best way to enjoy one is master making it, so much cheaper and you can still make it at home even when you are not in Indonesia, like me :)
Chinese New Year cookies and sweet treats
Similar to last Chinese New Year, I am collaborating with other super talented food bloggers to bring you a collection of cookies and sweet treats recipes to celebrate Chinese New Year. Go all out and make your very own treats to serve your family and guests with our recipes :)
- snow fungus soup - Christine Leong from Vermillion Roots
- bingka ambon (Indonesian honey comb cake) - Marvellina Goh from What To Cook Today
- Chinese peanut cookies - Charmaine Ferrara from Wok & Skillet
- Vietnamese steamed rice cake - Amy Nguyen from A Taste of Joy and Love
- gluten-free Chinese almond cookies - Ann Kaufman from Grits & Chopsticks
- black sesame shortbread cookies - Lily Ernst from Little Sweet Baker
- ice cream mooncakes - Linda Kurniadi from Brunch-n-Bites
- coconut red bean pudding - Lokness from The Missing Lokness
- Korean caramelized sweet potatoes (goguma mattang) - Jean Choi from What Great Grandma Ate
- cashew nut cookies - Ann Low from Anncoo Journal
- one bite pine nut cookies - Betty Hung from Yummy Workshop
- baked coconut walnut sticky rice cake - Jeanette Chen from Jeanette’s Healthy Living
- black sesame cream puffs - Gina G from Pink Wings
- cashew nut cookies - Linda Ooi from Roti n Rice
- mini peanut puffs (kok chai) - Linda Ooi from Malaysian Chinese Kitchen
- nastar (pineapple cookies) - Anita (yours truly) from V for Veggy
- almond orange spiral cookies - Lindsey Tom from Butter & Type
- che ba mau (three color dessert) - Lisa Le from The Viet Vegan
- year of the rooster mochi - Bonnie Eng from Thirsty for Tea
- dasik (Korean tea cookies) - Jin Joo Lee from Kimchimari
- sweet sticky cakes (kuih bakul) - Lisa Ho from Lisa’s Lemony Kitchen
- tang yuan (sweet rice balls with peanut butter) - Maggie Zhu from Omnivore’s Cookbook
- mut gung (candied ginger) - Ann Mai from Plant Crush
- chick egg tarts - Anita Chu from Dessert First
- red bean soup - Sharon Wong from Nut Free Wok
- orange scented sweet red bean - Soe Thein from Lime and Cilantro
Lapis Legit - Thousand Layers Cake
- Batter A
- 300 gram unsalted butter, room temperature
- 120 gram sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon rum
- 90 gram cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon spekkoek seasoning (*)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Batter B
- 12 egg yolks
- 85 gram sugar
- Batter C
- 6 egg whites
- 55 gram sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 200 Celcius (400 Fahrenheit). Line a 9" round cake pan or an 8" square cake pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- First, make batter A. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sweetened condensed milk, and rum at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add in cake flour, spekkoek seasoning, and salt. Mix again until well combined. Set aside.
- Next, make batter B. In another mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar at high speed until thick.
- Next, make batter C. In another mixing bowl (stainless steel is best for this), whisk egg whites until foamy, then add cream of tartar, and sugar in 3 batches. Continue whisking until stiff peak.
- Now we will need to combine all the different batters together. First, add batter B into batter A, mix until well combined. Then using a spatula, fold in 1/3 of batter C into batter A/B combo until well mixed, then fold in the rest of batter C until well mixed.
- For the first layer, spread a small amount of batter, about 1/8 inch, on the prepared pan. Bake in the center rack of preheated oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- For the second layer onward, turn off the oven, but switch on the oven broiler, position the rack near the top closer to the heating element. Spread batter evenly (about 1/8 inch), the batter will look more melted and runnier once placed into the pan, and bang the pan on the countertop to remove air bubbles. Broil for 1-2 minutes until golden brown, you will need to stand watch and be extra careful from here on out. Each broiler heats differently, and yours may need less or more time, but be extra diligent in the first few layers so you don't accidentally end up with burnt cake. Once a layer is cooked and looks golden brown, add another layer, bang it a bit on the countertop, and broil again. Continue doing this until the batter is all used up.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes. Then gently work a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Gently turn the cake out onto a wiring rack, and cool the cake completely.
- (*) I use spekkoek seasonings from Butterfly brand. Or make your own from equal amount of cinnamon powder, mace powder, and nutmeg powder.