Kueh lapis is a rich buttery spice cake that is grilled layer by layer, resulting in its definitive layered look. It is said to have originated in Indonesia during its Dutch colonial days and went by the names spekkoek (Dutch) or Lapis Legit (Indonesian). Today, it can be found in many Southeast Asian countries and is an ubiquitous item enjoyed during Chinese New Year in Singapore and Malaysia.
Kueh lapis is truly a labour of love as each layer is grilled in the oven under the watchful eye of the baker, who must pay attention not to burn it. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, we decided to make our lapis rainbow-coloured! If you are not fond of food colouring, you can skip it and simply use the same batter to make a traditional kueh lapis that will impress your family and friends when they visit!
(Yields: One 7” square cake)
400g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
120g condensed milk
4 tsp brandy (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
2 tsp lapis spice (also called rempah kueh)
15 egg yolks
5 egg whites
200g caster sugar
Gel food colouring: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet
- Beat egg yolks with 160g of sugar until pale and creamy.
- Meanwhile, mix butter and condensed milk together until smooth
- When egg yolk mixture is ready, slowly mix in butter and condensed milk mixture.
- Sift flour and lapis spice together and slowly add it into mixture on low speed
- Stir in brandy and vanilla extract until just combined.
- In another mixing bowl, whip egg whites with remaining 40g sugar until stiff peaks and then fold into the rest of the batter.
- Divide batter into 6 equal portions of ~200g each.
- Stir food colouring into each bowl of batter until desired colour is achieved
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 7” square pan with butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper
- Preheat oven to grill function (top heat, 220oC/420oF) and place baking tray in oven to preheat as well
- Starting with the violet layer, spread half (~100g) of the coloured batter on the bottom of the tin.
- Grill until surface is cooked and golden brown, about 7 minutes.
- Remove tin from oven and press down the cooked layer with a flat tool to remove air pockets. If there are huge air bubbles, poke the bubble with a skewer then press down to remove the air.
- Spread remaining violet coloured batter on top of the first layer and grill.
- Repeat steps 11-14 for remaining coloured batters until all the batter is used up.
- For the final layer, make sure the surface is evenly browned before removing from the oven.
- Allow the cake to cool slightly, then loosen the sides of the cake with a knife and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Leave the cake tin on to prevent the cake from drying out while it cools completely.
- Slice and serve or cling-wrap and store in the fridge.