All About Lapis Legit – Recipe & Tips on the Indonesian Layered Cake
If you love traveling and eating, I am sure this question has crossed your mind. Why does the same food in one place taste different in another? And I’m not talking about variation of one food, but the exact same food. Having lived in Vancouver for several years, which is arguably one of the most multi-cultural city in the world, I often hear my friends complain, “Nah, the Korean food here is nothing compared to the Korean food in Korea” or something along those lines.
Now of course, there could be many reasons for that, to name a few: The cooks’ expertise, taste assimilation, alterations made intentionally to cater to the locals, accessibility to certain ingredients etc.
I always attributed the main reason to be the competency of a chef… until my one-month stay in Jakarta with Grandma just this past month (I’m half Indonesian.. and half Singaporean). Since I began baking, the supermarkets and grocery stores have become my “Happy Place”. Visiting the Indonesian grocery stores made me realize one thing. Everything is so drastically different! The flour is different, the butter is different, and even the EGGS are different! But come to think of it, I would probably find it more bizarre if they were the same. After all, if people from one place differ so much from another, I’m sure chicken and eggs would too! Perhaps this factor contributes to why some things will never taste the same in other places.
When it comes to making Lapis Legit, here are some of the essential ingredients / equipments you should know about!
- If unspecified, use all-purpose flour. (Tepung Terigu Protein Sedang) Some recipes call for cake flour. I’ve tried using cake flour too and it seems to work just as fine.
- This is probably one of the most important defining component of a lapis. Good quality butter will produce good quality lapis. Some bakeries in Indonesia even price their lapis according to the brand of butter employed. IF you have access to it, do try the famous Wijsman Dutch Butter. It comes in a can and can be found in most grocery stores in Indonesia (probably Singapore and Malaysia too. You guys would know better :P). A can of Wijsman can cost about USD$11. It is so expensive that the Indonesian supermarkets even attach security alarms to it!
- I have used other brands of butter such as canned Orchid butter and my lapis turns out fine too, but the Lapis connoisseurs would argue that Wijsman precedes all other butters! I personally like to mix the butter up a little so the lapis doesn’t taste TOOO rich.
- As for butter temperature, if unspecified, I would use cold butter, cut into cubes.
- I’ve heard that the best eggs are Telur Ayam Kampung ones. (Free range eggs!) Rasanya lebih enak! They are of course, more expensive as well. I have yet to experiment with free-range eggs since my lapis seem to turn out fine with the regular ones.
- When considering the number eggs, look at the ratio of eggs : butter : flour instead of just focusing on how many eggs one lapis has. 30 eggs, 500g butter, 100g flour is less fattening per serving than 20 eggs, 400g butter, 60g flour. Why? The former uses more eggs simply only because it produces a taller lapis!
- Keep in mind, the reason for the number of yolks is to moisten the cake. Egg whites on the other hand may dry the cake slightly. Many Indonesian lapis legit will completely omit the egg whites.
- Eggs are easier to separate when cold and will beat to a bigger volume when in room temperature. When beating egg yolks / whites, make sure the beater is always clean! The smallest trace of butter will prevent the eggs from beating to its full volume.
Baking powder / Emulsifier
- If you live in North America, you can forget about using emulsifier. I haven’t seen a single one after searching for over a year. You may want to use a little bit of baking powder instead when the recipe calls for it or you may completely omit it. I usually omit either of them when making my lapis.
If you don’t have this, here is a substitution I like to use. For 1 tbsp, substitute with the following:
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
Baking pan “Loyang”
- The best pans to use are the aluminium tin pans. Most lapis are baked in rectangular or square shaped pans. They are easily found in Asia and very affordable (US$1.50 in Jakarta!!) However, when I was living in North America, they were like needles in a haystack. You COULD use non-stick pans but they can sometimes burn the sides of your lapis. The sides of your lapis will usually be quite dry regardless, but non-stick pans exaggerate that dryness, hence sacrificing half an inch more of lapis goodness on each side.
Tips and Tricks on making Lapis Legit.
- Greasing the pan: Use a parchment paper for the bottom of the pan and grease with butter. The entire baking process should take minimum 2 hours (usually longer). Therefore, only grease up to an inch up the sides of your pan until you get to the later layers.
- Always keep an extra bar of butter for greasing the pan and in between the layers of the lapis. Don’t over-grease or you will end up with a very oily and gross lapis.
- Every oven differs slightly in temperature. When making Kue Lapis Legit, the difference of a minute can result in a burnt layer. Here are some tips on making lapis
- Use ONLY upper heat. This should be the “grill” / “broil” mode on your oven. Convectional ovens are definitely discouraged.
- Set the temperature of your oven according to the recipe you follow. Preferably, each layer should only be in the oven for about 5-7 minutes and it should brown by then. You may need to adjust the position of your rack or your temperature for this. If your heat is too low, your lapis will take too long to brown, hence producing a dryer cake as the entire cake has been in the oven for too long. If your heat is too high, your layer will burn and you will notice a lot of “holes” in your lapis.
- Keep in mind that as you layer your lapis, the topmost layer will slowly inch towards the upper heat element. You may need to adjust the time / temperature / rack position slightly when you notice that your lapis begins to cook faster.
- Strive to make each layer even by measuring it. I like using approximately 60g-80g per layer / 4-5 tbsp. The first layer can be a little thicker (100g). This is for a 20×20 pan.
- If your layers are too thick, they will not be cooked sufficiently. At the end of making your lapis, if you notice that the inside of your lapis is uncooked, cover the top with aluminum foil and bake the entire cake using both top and bottom heat for 10 minutes at approximately 160C / 325F. Of course, it will be best if you can avoid this.
- After your lapis is done, remove from the pan and let cool. You can slice one side of the lapis to see if your layers are sufficiently cooked.
- Storing your lapis: Lapis usually taste better as it ages. I like mine best after 3 – 4 days, since the flavours continue to develop even after it has been baked. If you used rum in your lapis, it will preserve for even longer. Refrigerating will also extend its shelf life. I however dislike eating cold lapis, and if refrigeration was necessary, my lapis will have to go through the “microwave chamber” for 5-10 seconds before I have it. If you own a George Foreman, try actually grilling your lapis for half a minute. It tastes pretty darn awesome grilled and crispy.
Here is my very own Lapis recipe after experimenting on a couple of different ones ranging from 15 to 50 eggs. Here is my happy medium.
Kue Lapis Legit
- Remove the eggs from fridge and separate the yolks and whites first so that they will be at room temperature when used later.
- Beat the butter and condensed milk together until it turns pale. This should take about 10 minutes. Here is when the Kitchen Aid comes in very helpful!
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 350F. Grease your pan and make sure it’s pre-heated in the oven as well.
- Beat the egg yolks and sugar until very fluffy and tripled in volume. MAKE SURE BEATERS ARE CLEAN!
- Slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and beat at low speed until the mixture comes together. Careful not to overmix! This is exactly the consistency you want! Your batter should not separate / curdle.
- Finally sift in flour, milk powder and spekkeok powder. Fold gently.
- Remove your pan from the oven, switch to TOP HEAT ONLY. Pour 100g of batter for your first layer and 60g of batter for the following layers. Brush each cooked layer with butter before adding the next layer. The hot lapis / pan will melt your batter as you pour it in, resulting in smooth layers.
- If you see any air bubbles, poke them with a toothpick and flatten the layer with a spatula or fondant presser.
I got 19 layers in total for this! YAY! Good luck!
I am participating in Aspiring Bakers #27: Through Thick and Thin – Kue Lapis Classics that I’m hosting this month! Here is the first of many lapis submitted!
Oh by the way, would you like to see my temporary “photography studio” while I’m in Indonesia? lol