For The (Indonesian) Woman In You

On The Fork
An adage said,
every woman should make bread at least once in her lifetime.
I said,
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Repeat the layering process until the batter is done. To finish the cake, bake using lower heat only for another 7-10 minutes.
  7. 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.

Some wisdom:

  • 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.

Gosh, I feel complete now.
Classic Lines


33 thoughts on “For The (Indonesian) Woman In You”

  1. I think I must get my granny’s sister’s recipe, she’s been baking LL for ages and hardly fails. May have to try it once in my lifetime, I”ll send you the recipe later…

    O yes, you must πŸ™‚ ——-Riana

  2. This looks lovely. I would love to taste it…not sure if I have the time to bake it all day πŸ˜‰ but maybe after I taste it. Pity Indonesia is so far away from the Caribbean.

    Carribean! Sea, sun and sunset…. Gosh.. ————Riana

  3. hiya, lovely cake. May i asked was it icing sugar and not castor sugar in the recipe.
    You must have tasted some of the best LL in indonesia , how does this compared to by taste and texture wise. I hear that the dutch butter makes lots of difference in the LL.thanks

    Hi Mary, what I can conclude from classic recipes like this was that icing sugar will make sure the texture is smooth, no coarseness whatsoever like castor sugar tends to form in cake. It doesn’t need very much leavening, so castor sugar was not crucial for the leavening process either.
    O yeah, I forgot to mention dutch butter in the “note” above, thanks! Dutch butter is very fragrant and, yes of course, makes it better in taste and aroma.
    Well, best LL in Indonesia, I think, still those of homebaked :). Taste-wise, this is neck-to-neck with the best. But that’s possibly because I labored myself for approximately 5 hours, so I might overjoy the reward. Sorry, I guess I’ll always be biased toward that :D. Texture-wise, maybe not so much, due to the lack of experience of the chef, ha-ha. ———Riana

  4. mbak riana..kok baca ini jadi terharu ya…
    inget mamak..huaaaaaaaa

    hihihi… dikau kan udah curhat ke Mark πŸ™‚ ———Riana

  5. unluckily my great aunt left her recipe book in her house whereas she now stays with my aunt, so we just got to be patience and wait for her next home visit – and I’ll grab the recipe for sure!

  6. thanks riana…i will definately give this recipe a try…the 5 hours really paid off for u because the cake looks wonderful.

    Thanks, Mary πŸ™‚

  7. mbak Riana, ovennya ga ada api atas ato bawah gitu, kira kira bisa ga ya? wong tombolnya cuman ngatur temperatur doang.

    Yakin gak ada api atasnya? Kalo emang gak ada, gak bisa deh kayaknya 😦

  8. Riana api atasnya pake broil bisa gak ya? soale oven sini gak ada setting buat api atasnya 😦

    Api atas = broil, say…

  9. hello riana, the dutch butter comes in a can, how do i make it into cold butter since it soft and cannot be cut into cubes? Does tradional indonesia LL uses duck eggs..Can i use half duck egg + half chicken eggs. thanks

    Yes, it does come in a can. Just let it sit in the refrigerator until cold and hardened, then cut it into cubes. You can open the can first if you like.
    Yes, traditional LL uses duck eggs. You can use half duck eggs + half chicken eggs or you can use all chicken eggs. You have to try both to experience the difference between the two.

  10. Salam kenal…telaten ya.
    Aku sihnunggu suami bawain aja nih 2 minggu lagi..maminya the best LL maker I’ve ever known, well my grand auntie was a LL maker too even her spekoek was shipped to US. But to hard for me .. specially don’t have to much time hihii…
    Aussies pun demen banget pas dibagiin tuh kue..tiap kita pulkam dari indo hehe…

    Wow, you’re very lucky to have a LL maker family. I’d like to have some spekoek of hers πŸ™‚ ———-Riana

  11. oya….kalo buat ku …asal butter sih biar generic..asal resep and yang bikin bener..namanya fresh from oven pasti enak…
    tapi kalo ya brand minded ya…emang Weissman butter have the best aroma.

    Iya, aku juga sependapat. Asal butter, dan preferably fresh butter. ——–Riana

  12. Riana,
    Watch the channelnewsasia and saw you on TV. Am interested in making LL. Is this recipe is the almost the same as the one shown on TV? When do you add in the egg whites? Thank you.

    Oops, thank you for noticing. I’ve corrected the instruction above: the egg whites come in the last, after flour and butter.
    Yes, this recipe is almost similar, the difference was that the one on TV didn’t include egg whites in it. But it’s quite similar.
    Hey, I myself didn’t watch it! Gosh I missed it 😦 ———Riana

  13. Apa itu spekkoek spice. Kalo Inggrisnya namanya apa sama? Bisa diganti spice lainnya enggak? thanks

    Itu bumbu lapis legit. Gak ada bahasa inggrisnya deh kayaknya. Diganti sama apa ya? Mungkin pumpkin pie spice, tapi tetep beda. —–Riana

  14. I do not have upper heat in my oven.
    How do I bake since it requires upper level heat.

    Hi Glory, then you can’t bake it 😦 Sorry. Upper heat is required, dear. —————-Riana

  15. Mbak Riana, I made myself an Indonesian woman yesterday.. baking my first LL ever. All the efforts.. long-hours standing & heat exposed by the oven had paid off.. This is not just simply baking a cake, this is somewhat like building my legacy in my kitchen….
    I made my mark!!!

    Congratulation, girl! It’s like we finally did the triahtlon πŸ™‚ ———Riana

  16. Riana, aku pake oven yang nyatu sama kompor gas model kayak ariston gitu, yg apai atasnya cuma manjang vertikal di tengah aja, itu bisa buat bikin LL ga?

  17. maap ya Ri, being 87 si Oma not only occassionaly forgets her recipe, but also forgets where she keep her recipe book! BTW, she makes her spekuk herself, too! Aduhhh..tuh kan kalo sampe resepnya ilang, kacau deh! heheh

  18. Hi …thank you so much for this recipe, I will be trying it for sure. Many years ago I worked for a Dutch/Indonesian man whose Aunty made it for him. He said it was a very special recipe but did not know how to make it. He allowed me to try it then and I fell in love with its delicious spicy taste.

  19. I don’t have upper and lower heat in my oven either – it’s a fan forced, so the heat comes from the back. We had an oven with separately controlled upper and lower heat when we lived in Europe, but I don’t think it’s common in Australia. I would love to try this, and suspect I could do it in my griller, that would provide upper heat, and finish off in the oven. One day I might try it! (I have just been given 120 eggs, and I want to use them!)

    Wow, so you’re destined to make this one! Yes, you can do it with your griller, one of my friends did it successfully in her grill oven. Good luck! ——–Riana

  20. hi mba Riana… aku udah cobain loh resepnya mantab mba rasanya, aroma khasnyapun jadi. mba kalo pengen agak basah manggangnya gak terlalu kering gitu yah? soalnya pas nyobain kemaren kayaknya agak kering deh.

    Iya manggangnya dipercepat, berarti api perlu dibesarkan lagi supaya permukaan cepat mengering sementara dalemnya masih agak basah. ————-Riana

  21. mbak ri, aku pengenn deh nyobain bikin LL.. Tapi masih takut2 nih mbak.. aku bingung sm resepnya, which one is the better, the one with full egg yolks or the one which contains egg whites like yours? bedanya apa mbak? apa lebih oily or spongy ato apa? aku beneran buta nihh masalah LL. oia satu lagi, how to use LL smoother ya mbak? just press it di semua bagian ato harus dimajumundurin spt setrikaan beneran? thx a muchie mbak!! hehe

    yang pake egg yolk aja lebih gurih, tekstur lebih padat tapi lembut.
    just press dibagian yang bergelembung. tapi kalo sudah rata, gak usah dipress lagi, nanti lapisannya malah rusak dan garisnya gak keliatan.
    Sukses yaaa… seru loh bikinnya.. gerah, hahaha…

  22. Thx ya mbak semangatnya, jadi semangat buat bikin lapleg weekend ini.. hehe.. oia mbak, klu aku pake full wysman butter gpp kan mbak? baca2 pengalaman temen2 lain banyak yg benyek soalnya..
    trus butternya dikocok smpe fluffy atau asal aja mbak? apa ga meleleh wysman-nya klu sampe fluffy?
    oia, aku mau pakai loyang brownies mbak, kira2 untuk tiap lapisan butuh brp gram ya mbak?
    fyi, aku pakai resep lapis legit klasiknya pak HT.. hehe.. thx bgt mbak..

    Kalo mau pake full butter, masukin ke kulkas dulu supaya beku. Potong-potong, baru dikocok, supaya gak leleh waktu dikocok (tips dari pak HT). Iya memang kalo full butter cenderung benyek karena iklim tropis di Indonesia, jadi banyak yang nyampur dengan margarin 1:1. Kalo full butter gak bisa sampe fluffy, cukup sampe lembut dan mudah dicampur/diaduk. Kalo dicampur margarin bisa sampe fluffy.
    Kalo pake loyang bronis, ukur volumenya berapa, bandingkan dengan volume loyang yang dianjurkan dalam resep. Dari situ bisa dihitung kurang lebih berat adonan per lapisannya. Hayoo, inget matematika SD, hehehe…
    Sukses yaaa… Apapun yang terjadi, kuenya pasti akan enak rasanya πŸ™‚ Selamat menjadi wanita Indonesia sejati! Gak perlu pake kebaya dan kondean, cukup bikin lapis legit aja! ————-Riana

  23. Mba Riana… salam kenal ya. Aku mau tanya ni, apa suhu api atas (broiler) harus sama dengan suhu api bawah? kalo pake broiler kan suhunya ga bisa diatur jadi pasti panas. Di kompornya Mba Riana broilernya bisa diatur ya suhunya?

    Iya sebaiknya sama, terutama ketika manggang lapisan-lapisannya yang hanya pake broiler aja. Kalo pas matengin seluruhnya, suhu atas bisa lebih kecil (150 derajat celcius) . Ovenku suhu atas dan bawahnya selalu sama. —-Riana

  24. mbak riii.. lapor!!
    aku uda buat lapisnya, bagus sih, lembut, enak bgt.. tapi kenapa msh tetep membal yah mbak teksturnya? ga lemes kaya yg biasa aku beli.. padahal aku uda pakai 100% telur ayam kampung loh mbak.. ada saran ga mbak biar kue lapis bener2 lembut, lumer di mulut gitu deh.. hehe.. thx mbak riana..

    Hehehe… kalo gitu harus cari resep lain πŸ™‚ Macem-macem sih versinya, kamu harus cari yang persis sama dengan seleramu. Happy hunting! ———Riana

  25. Ah, it’s impossible to buy spekkoek in London, I have to eat it every time I come to Holland.
    Look forward to trying to make one myself, but how do I make the spekkoek spice? I doubt they’ll sell it in England! And how do I make a pandan version?

    I found two version on the net to make spekkoek spice. You can try both and decide which one you like the most:
    From Riama Haryanto’s foodblog:
    4 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    2 Tbsp ground cloves
    2 Tbsp ground nutmeg
    1 Tbsp ground cardamom

    From Key Ingredients:
    2teaspoons ground nutmeg
    2teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1teaspoon ground cloves
    1teaspoon ground mace
    1teaspoon ground cardamom
    1teaspoon ground ginger
    1teaspoon ground anise

    For pandan version, you need to add pandan paste or pandan extract (squeeze it from fresh pandan leaves) to the cake batter. About 1 Tbsp for this recipe if you use pandan paste. If you use fresh pandan extract, you would have to tweak the recipe a little bit as it is more watery. —–Riana

  26. mbak tanya dong, emulsifier itu buat apa ya ? apakah resep jadi gagal kalo saya tidak pake bahan tsb ?
    tks alot. i lovveeee all your recipes. yum !

    Emulsifier itu untuk bikin adonan jadi tercampur rata, ngeblend sempurna dan kental. Gak gagal kalo pengocokan kamu sempurna dan telurnya segar. Sukses ya.. —-Riana

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