When I was growing up, we would have this cake on rare occasions; rare because I can safely say I’ve eaten this cake maybe five times in my life so far but everytime I do, this beauty of a cake leaves an impression on me. I would pause to marvel at the multi-layered construction that tastes just as heavenly as it looks. Sometimes, I would take all the time in the world to peel and savour each layer; other times, I would ferociously attack the whole piece to experience the full effect of sweet buttery heaven. It is an immensely rich cake and you will know why when you see the recipe. Also known as spekkoek or lapis legit in Indonesia, the layer cake has its origins tracing back to when the dutch colonised the region and naturally a marriage of sorts are in order; western cake making methods with the inclusion of local spices. The flavour of the spices are quite subtle; you know they’re there but it’s not overpowering. I also believe that this cake taste better after a day or two and the brandy probably has something to do with that, hmm.. not sure.
A friend mentioned the layer cake on the phone last week and I decided to attempt it pretty much straight away. Fortunately J bought a large carton of eggs last week because the recipe I referred to called for 15 yolks and mind you this is only for a small, 7 to 8 inch cake. It also contains a heck of a lot of butter which explains why mom always cautioned us not to eat too much of it at one go. Savouring it in bite-sized portions also lets you appreciate the tedious effort that goes into this visually appealing cake; as a little of the cake batter is grilled a layer at a time until the desired height is achieved. I used to think that the layers were made with different coloured batters but this isn’t the case. The layers are achieved by the grilling process. Think of it as thin layers of cakes with their respective crust, hence the darker lines represent the crust and the lighter layer is the cake; build it up and you get a beautiful cake that looks complicated. I’ve always found the idea of making this cake intimidating but after my first attempt, I thought it wasn’t difficult at all; granted, it does require quite a bit of patience. It is this labour intensive cooking process that makes it one of the pricier cakes to purchase back home.
I plucked the recipe from Poh’s Kitchen and I must admit I was a bit skeptical with the method at first but hey, it worked and you learn new things everyday so I should not be too quick to judge. Just as a note, the butter has to be really softened and then whipped till fluffy before you add it in batches to the meringue ; otherwise you’ll end up with butter lumps. It doesn’t help that we are at the height of winter and butter takes eons to soften so what I do is zap a large chunk of butter in the microwave for about 8 – 10 seconds. You just want it to soften, not melt. Click on the underlined link above to Poh’s Kitchen for the recipe and the video. I will seek out alternative recipes for future attempts, just to experiment.