I do not remember eating this during Chinese New Year when I was young. In fact, I do not remember ever eating this during my early schooling days.... Then one day, it found its way into our household, and we've never been without it during Chinese New Year ever since... Initially, this (as with many other rare treats like,Bakwa, barbecued minced meat) was regarded as a special once a year Chinese New Year only treat. We would normally purchase this from the neighbourhood bakery which would only offer this during the CNY festival. Then, bakeries like Bengawan Solo which specialises in local kuehs and tarts started to expand aggressively and the kueh lapis became more accessible.
The cake which evolved from the Dutch Butter cake in Indonesia during the Dutch colonisation days,was given a well-spiced twist. Better known as Spekkoek in Indonesia, it literally means 'bacon cake', so named for its semblance to streaky bacon. This is possibly the most expensive cake that is served during Chinese New Year. Rich,buttery and moist, this is also the most decadent unfrosted cake I have ever come across. An 8x8 inch cake uses 17 eggs and almost 2 blocks of butter. If not for the way this cake is meticulously built by grilling layer upon impossibly thin layers of batter, I cannot imagine how something so rich and dense can even be palatable.
Indisputably the King of all spice cakes, this is best enjoyed in thin slivers (as shown in the photos above) with a cup of aromatic coffee. Heaven forbid that anyone should hoard a wedge of it like the way butter or pound cakes are usually served!
This is the first time I am baking this cholesterol choked treat. Thanks again, to Valerie Kong's class, the process became less intimidating and I have to admit, is less tedious than making pineapple tarts! Baking the Kueh Lapis is not tedious, it just needs a lot of patience to build layer by layer.
Valerie spiked her recipe with dark rum while others, I know like to add cognac for depth and flavour.
The traditional plain Spekkoek is modernised here with the addition of pitted prunes, the honeyed acidity of which pairs really well with the richness of the cake.
Last but not least, I would like to wish everyone celebrating CNY, A Very Happy And Prosperous Chinese New Year!
I am not publishing Valerie's Recipe here but I have found a very similar recipe at Swee San's Blog. This is the recipe from her blog...
Prune Kueh Lapis
(makes a 9″ square)
1 vanilla pod
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 whole eggs
1 can of 510g condensed milk
240g cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
prunes, snipped half, flattened
1. Preheat oven to 230 C using the normal top and bottom heat to heat up the entire oven. If your oven has grill function with temperature control, use that. If yours’ is like mine, I heat the oven, then before I put the batter in, I turn on the grill function (which only need less than 2 minutes to warm up)
2. Line the bottom of a 9″ square pan. Prepare a water bath and put the empty pan into the oven to warm it up for more even batter distribution later.
3.Cream butter, sugar till light and fluffy. Scrape seeds off vanilla pod and add into butter. DO NOT discard vanilla pod. Put them into your sugar jar or rum. It makes everything smell nicer.
4. Crack eggs, add in vanilla extract. Mix in eggs one at a time, making sure the batter is well mixed before adding the next egg.
5. Mix in condensed milk (this stage, you can have 1 eye closed and forget about the fact that IT IS a whole can of condensed milk lol)
6. Sift flour and salt. Fold into the batter.
7. You can use a scoop / ladle to pour the batter in, making sure each time, it’s the same amount. Or separate them into 10 bowls. I used the 1st method, and ended up with 9 layers. But you can adjust it up to your liking or the size of the ladle.
8. Remove pan and water bath from oven. Turn on grill function. I transfered the water into a smaller cake tin and left it in the oven, this way my oven stays at a nice temperature without being too dry or hot.
9. Spread a portion of batter into the pan. Level batter with a spatula or tilt left and right to level the batter. Grill for 5-7 minutes or till golden.
10. Remove from oven, press cake layer to remove excess air. Spread another portion of batter, level it and arrange prunes onto the batter. Grill for 5-7 minutes or till golden.
11. Repeat step 9 and 10 till batter is finished. After that, I turned off the grill function, turn down the temperature to 180, and let the cake bake for 10-15 minutes to let it dry a little.