An adage said,
every woman should make bread at least once in her lifetime.
every Indonesian woman should bake Lapis Legit,
once if she’s lucky, many times to polish her layering skill 🙂
Now as Eid Mubarak is approaching in approximately 3 months, a time frame you barely notice to be flying very fast, we all have a perfect reason to sweat ourselves learning to bake this gorgeous rustic looking cake all day. Yes, that’s how long it takes. Along with 60 eggs, that is.
There are many variety of recipes for Lapis Legit (Lapis = layer; Legit = scrumptious, very tasty). The one that yields densed texture, spongy texture, the one using food coloring to achieve more egg-yellowy tone, the one using egg yolks only, with the whites, and we haven’t even started with its modification. There are Lapis Legit with different toppings: prunes, almond, raisin; different layers and flavors: chocolate, mocha, pandan, cheese; different shape and pattern: rolled, batik, tikar (braided mat), etc.
All comes down to the basic ingredients and technique: abundant butter, abundant eggs, just enough sugar, a little flour, a good teaspoonful of spekkoek spice, baked in an oven using mostly upper heat, layer by layer. This basic formula was used by our great-great-great-… grandmothers when they invented this indulging treat with so very traditional means. They only had firewood, tin oven, some bowls, and wooden spoon. Yet they invented and mastered such a magnificent nibble that combines everything good in life in one single slice: incomparable deliciousness for your tongue, heavenly aroma for your nose, stunning intricate layers for your eyes. And the whole day labor intensive work for the patience in you! Aren’t they incredible, our grandmothers? Let’s send them our most beautiful prayer tonight. For without them, there wouldn’t be a national treasure called Lapis Legit. They certainly deserve a beautiful prayer.
About the magical thing called spekkoek. Spekkoek spice is a blend of everything nice, apparently. Cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg,.. God knows what else. The spices growing on our motherland, Nusantara, the land of spices. This spice is the heart of Lapis Legit. The magic dust you put in that makes it fit for a king. To quote Anthony Bourdain, “There’s a reason why they fought war over spices, you know.” I know.
Now, onto the recipe. I used the most basic one. The one written by Hadi Tuwendi, one of Indonesian baking maestros, in parallel with Mrs. Liem, or Nyonya Liem as she often be called. He was once the man behind Holland Bakery, a well established bakery in Jakarta with respected reputation throughout the decades. So, you’re in good hand.
Classic Lapis Legit
by Hadi Tuwendi
20 egg yolks
500 gr butter, beat until fluffy and pale
400 gr powdered sugar
200 gr all purpose flour
1 Tbsp spekkoek spice
10 egg whites, beat until stiff
- Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celcius. Grease a 20 x 20 x 8 cm cake tin with margarine or butter, line it with baking paper, then grease the paper again. Mix flour with spekkoek spice.
- Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale in color. Using spatula, fold in butter alternately with the flour mixture. Blend well. Fold in the egg whites.
- Weigh the batter 100 g, pour into the cake tin, spread evenly. Bake using lower and or upper heat for about 5 minutes or until the cake surface is set and golden in color. Turn off the lower heat.
- Take the tin out of the oven, if any bubbles turn up, prick it with a clean toothpick. Using a smoother, press lightly the layer surface to make sure there is no gap formed between layers.
- Weigh the same amount of batter for the next layer, pour on the previous layer, spread evenly. Using the upper heat only, bake for another 5 minutes or until the surface is golden and set.
- Repeat the layering process until the batter is done. To finish the cake, bake using lower heat only for another 7-10 minutes.
- Take the tin out of the oven, let it cool on the rack. Turn the cake out onto a wax paper, peel of the baking paper. Turn it again onto a cake plate, slice and serve.
- To my preference, I like to use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs. They taste better, provide better volume and sponginess. And fat!
- Using real butter, especially dutch butter, would be best. But in tropical climate like Indonesia, it often creates problem as the butter tends to melt at even our room temperature. The texture will ruin when the butter melts too much. What you can do, start with cold butter. Cut the butter, keep it in the refrigerator until needed, so you start beating with cold butter. This helps the butter to stay in manageable consistency. You also can substitute margarine for half of the amount of the butter. But I’d prefer all butter. No compromise.
- When using the smoother, do not put too much pressure on the layer as you will squeeze the layer and ruin it. Just lightly, very lightly, enough to make sure that the surface is flat and smooth, no bubbles. Most of the time you don’t even need to flatten it. When the layer was perfect, just leave it the way it was. No smoothing and pressing.
- If your lines didn’t form very nicely, chances are:
- you didn’t brown the surface enough. It’s got to be golden brown without baking it too crispy. Correct it by adjusting your oven temperature, turn it up a little bit and see the result.
- you didn’t put enough batter for every layer. Maybe 100 gr per layer was not just enough for you, who knows. Try adding another 20 gr per layer and see the result.
- You press it too much with your smoother.
- Finally, challenge yourself to perfection and have fun during the process. It will pay off, mark my word.