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.

Kue Lapis Legit resep

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.

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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.

Spekkeok Lapis

When it comes to making Lapis Legit, here are some of the essential ingredients / equipments you should know about!

Flour

  • 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.

Butter

  • 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!

    Security Alarm attached to butter, because stealing the butter is OBVIOUSLY every bakers' dream...
    Security Alarm attached to butter, because stealing the butter is OBVIOUSLY every bakers’ dream…
  • 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.

Eggs

  • 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.

Spekkeok Bumbu
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.

Kek Lapis Original Moist


I don’t claim to be an expert in making Lapis Legit. So these are only my humble observations and opinions on my past experience of making the cake.

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Tips and Tricks on making Lapis Legit.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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
    4. Use ONLY upper heat. This should be the “grill” / “broil” mode on your oven. Convectional ovens are definitely discouraged.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.

      Indonesian Kueh Lapis Legit
      19 Layers for this!
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Kue Lapis Legit

by Sammie

Thousand Layer Cake Lapis Recipe

  1. Remove the eggs from fridge and separate the yolks and whites first so that they will be at room temperature when used later.
  2. 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!
    Creaming butter lapis
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 350F. Grease your pan and make sure it’s pre-heated in the oven as well.
  4. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until very fluffy and tripled in volume. MAKE SURE BEATERS ARE CLEAN!
    Beating eggs lapis
  5. 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.
    beating eggs and butter lapis
  6. Finally sift in flour, milk powder and spekkeok powder. Fold gently.
    Sift in flour lapis
  7. 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.
    Lapis batter bakeBaked Lapis layer
  8. 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

food photography studio lapis
My “Photography Studio” in Jakarta! LOL

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85 Comments Add yours

  1. This looks very lovely, can’t say I’ve ever had it but you’ve got me salivating. I keep forgetting you’re not in the states and had to re check that it said it was tomorrow there and it’s yesterday here, LOL Happy New Year!!

  2. Hi Sammi, this is definitely a work of art! I’m in awe with your painstaking attention to detail and tips/hints on this cake. When I was in HK recently I saw the round version (which you mentioned) from a previous post and the not only looked great, but smelt good in the shops. A very aspiring challenge which I’m sure will get msny great results with your knowledge.

    Ps, the pics look fabulous in your ‘temporary’ studio 😉

  3. Eva Taylor says:

    Do you bake one layer at a time? Pouring the next layer over the already baked layer? How long does each layer bake for? This is a very interesting cake, I love the look of it.

  4. Sammie says:

    Happy New Year to you too! Yeah! It’s a very interesting cake for sure! It is also very rarely seen in North America.

  5. Sammie says:

    Thank you Alice! ooh wow! I didn’t know it was popular in HK too! 🙂 ahh and yes, I really love the smell of Lapis Legit! It’s smells so good that everyone in my family keeps asking when the cake was gonna be ready even during my initial layers! hahaha..

    omgg!! My “photography studios” keep changing every time I relocate somewhere! It’s all about improvising and natural lighting for my very noob skills. 😛

  6. Sammie says:

    Hi Eva. Yes! It is indeed one layer at a time! About 5 minutes per layer. Thanks! It’s a very traditional Indonesian classic. 😀

  7. Humi says:

    hi Sammy, you have explained it so well. I was little scared about trying out this classic recipe of kue lapis.. I am soon gonna try it out.

  8. Eva Taylor says:

    The eggs are sure a commitment, can you reco a recipe is uses fewer eggs?

  9. Carolyn Jung says:

    Nineteen layers! Holy moly! Now, that’s a layer cake. A beaut, too!

  10. Sammie says:

    Thanks Humi! I hope you find them helpful! Do try it out! It’s really not as intimidating as it seems! I’ve gone through 85 eggs in the last 3 days! LOL. 🙂

  11. Sammie says:

    Hi Eva. If you like you can try this recipe. It’s my first attempt in making Kue Lapis Legit. It only uses 15 eggs and if you half the pan, you’ll only have to use 7 or 8 eggs. Of course, it’s not going to taste as rich as the 30 yolks, but beware! Your kitchen is going to smell so good!

  12. Sammie says:

    Thanks Carolyn!! Yeah! The layers are definitely what makes it!

  13. What a masterpiece! 19 layers? Wow!!! Thanks for all the tips…I’d love to make this one day!!

  14. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Adding layers requires patience and love…and you did such a great job making this. I like your temporary photo studio shot. 😉 We all love what’s behind the scene… 😀

  15. Beautiful job Sammie! I’ve never made lapis as I have always heard that it is so difficult but thanks to your helpful recipes and fantastic tips, perhaps I can do it! 🙂

  16. Eva Taylor says:

    Thanks so much Sammie, Emeril has a recipe on Food Network too that just uses 12 eggs, so I was thinking about making half of that one. Although, I am not sure how authentic Emeril’s recipe would be.

  17. Cool – I went past a window-full of these pretty looking treats the other day and wondered what exactly they were so this is great! Now I can even make my own 🙂

  18. Tandy says:

    I know for sure that the feed makes a huge difference to the taste of animal proteins varying from region to region. Just as soil makes a difference to the taste of fresh produce. Great informative post Sammy 🙂

  19. Euan says:

    This looks and sounds fab! A labour of love too. I’m not averse to painstaking recipes, so I think I’m makin a note of this one 🙂

  20. crustabakes says:

    Thanks for the great tips sammie! i do hope to try your recipe soon! hopefully i can perfect it in time to serve on cny!

  21. Joanne says:

    These are some awesome tips! I’ve alwyas wanted to make this cake but it looks so intimidating!

  22. Nice tips. I also am big into eating and traveling 😉 although I haven’t been anywhere in such a long time 😦

  23. Norma Chang says:

    You sure have a great deal of patience and attention to detail, your cake sure is gorgeous.
    I remember my Mom making something similar, layer upon layer, but steaming instead of baking.

  24. Jilly says:

    that looks too delicious! sammy, you gotta bake one for me when i’m home 😀

  25. Sammie – this looks fantastic!!!! I grew up eating this Lapis Legit; and loved it. My grandma and grandaunts were all bakers – too bad that I never learned how to bake from them. I don’t dare to try to recreate it at home though, so I get to indulge myself in it when I go back to Jakarta. Have a great 2013 my friend!!

  26. rsmacaalay says:

    Very nice, I never knew the process until now. Love this sweet treats

  27. Jennifer says:

    Omg Sam you’re amazing! I had this in Brunei recently and fell in love with it, I’ve been trying to find a recipe for it since.

    Will let you know how to goes

  28. Margaret Ng says:

    I missed kueh lapis legit. Can anyone let me know where can i buy this cake.

  29. nelly says:

    Hello Sam

    Thanks for posting this recipe. Your kue lapis looks amazing. I tried it today however the cake turns out a bit dry and the color is more brownish rather than a nice golden yellowish like yours. Could you please give me some suggestion??

    Thanks

  30. Sammie says:

    Hi there! Could be your butter. Butter is really the defining factor of a nice moist lapis! Try to use Wjysman. If unavailable however, use any tinned / canned butter. Also some ovens are stronger than others. You may have to shorten your bake time to 2-3 minutes if that’s the case. Perhaps this would prevent the cake from turning too brown. Hope this helps!

  31. Nathasja T says:

    Great recipe, very detailed and helpful! I cant wait to make this. I am Dutch but now live in the USA and miss this (spekkoek)! I am on an Indonesian kick lately, and after making gado gado for dinner tonight I was inspired to look up a recipe for lapis legit.

    I have always wondered what makes the difference in color for the layers.. do you know why they have different colors?

  32. Sammie says:

    Hi Nathasja. Oh I’m glad you’re loving Indonesian goodies 🙂 one of my favourite cuisines as well. 🙂 the difference in colour is due to the top of every layer being grilled! When grilled accurately and sufficiently, the cake should have an even tone of brown on every layer. Not sure if that’s what you mean by different colours! I also have other lapis cakes with colours like dark brown or green. Those ones have food colouring added on 🙂

  33. Anne Tan says:

    I love kuih lapis but it’s so much work. I just made one for my husband today using 12 eggs and a can of Golden Churn butter. I can’t get the brand you mentioned here in Malaysia. When I am in Melbourne I use the Red Fern butter. I have no complains about the recipe I have except for the fact that usually towards the end of grilling, my batter turns watery so I usually have to throw the last 1 or 2 ladles of batter away. What a waste. How can I avoid this?

    Anne

  34. teck says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips, so if the layer of batter is cooked through, there is no need to bake the whole cake in the oven at the end of grilling the last layer?

  35. Ramen Enak says:

    Hi there, this weekend is pleasant in favor of me, for the
    reason that this point in time i am reading this wonderful educational article here at my house.

  36. I never made this, but my mother used to make it. I do not have her recipe, but I remember that she divided the batter into 2 parts. One part remained the original and the other part she added the spices. She used each batter alternately. Before she put the next layer of batter, she pressed the cooked layer with the bottom of a drinking glass, so the layer is compressed.

  37. Jos says:

    I’ve been eyeing this recipe for quite sometime and eventually I’ll give it a try. Being born and raised in Indonesia, this cake has always have a special place in my pantry. Although my eating style has changed recently by omitting processed sugar, I strive to re-make this into gluten free and processed sugar free as much as possible. I will let you know how it turns out.

  38. liliyenli says:

    Hi…..boleh saya tanya tak ? Knp ya klo saya bikin pasti rasanya macam kering…

  39. Sammie says:

    Hi. There could be a number of reasons for that. But I would say it’s usually the butter or oven temperature that affects the moisture of your lapis most. Make sure you use the best butter. Low quality butter with insufficient fat content will cause the lapis to be dry.

  40. tinayusof says:

    Hello Sammie, I have tried and succeed!! I live in Malaysia and purposely bought Wijsman butter in Bandung to experiment your Legit recipe. Wowww, the smell and taste using Wisman really speechless.

  41. Sammie says:

    Wow! That’s wonderful! Very glad to hear that! 🙂

  42. M. Chris says:

    Hello Sammie – we have tried this cake a few times over the recent years with varying success. Your recipe and descriptions look very helpful – now if only we can produce a similar result! I was wondering if the dutch butter you mention is available in Vancouver? We also live in Vancouver (at UBC in fact) and I would like to try it if we can find it here.
    Thanks

  43. M. Chris says:

    Hello Sammie – Your lapis legit looks tremendous. We have tried this cake with varying success over the recent years. I really like your recipe and descriptions – now if only we can produce a similar result. I wonder if the dutch butter you mention is available in Vancouver? We also live in Vancouver (at UBC in fact) and I’d like to try it if we can find that butter here.
    Thanks

  44. Sammie says:

    Hi Chris! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find Wijsman Dutch Butter anywhere in Vancouver yet! I can only get them from Indonesia!

  45. Han says:

    Been looking for this for a while. Thank you so much for your effort Sammie. So are you saying no egg white needed in this particular kue lapis legit recipe? Sorry if that sounds noob, first time trying to make a cake haha

  46. kue bandung says:

    I every time spent my half an hour to read this website’s posts all the time along with a mug of coffee.

  47. jeanne says:

    Hi Sammie
    My cake came out dry and compact but when you touch it, it is oily and smells of butter. Any feedback as to the outcome? I am from New Zealand and we cannot find any kueh lapis here unless someone brings it for us from Singapore.
    Regards
    Jeanne

  48. Sammie says:

    Hi Jeanne, it sounds like your butter had curdled during the process. You can try to avoid this by bringing your eggs to room temperature and also add a couple tablespoons of flour whenever you notice it curdle. Hope this helps!

  49. Joanne says:

    Hi Sammie, can I do without the spekeok powder if I can’t find one? will the cake still taste good? what about replacing the spekeok powder with other flavours? will it work? thanks!

  50. Sammie says:

    Hi Joanne, yes you can replace your spekeok powder. I would recommend using cinnamon and cloves instead. 🙂

  51. Yust says:

    Hi Sammy! I’m so glad to find your website! Well done! Thank you so much I’m making this tonight , but got trouble with the oven because we don’t have the oven like in Indonesia glad to know I can use “grill” 🙂

  52. Sammie says:

    Hi Yust! That’s great! Good luck!

  53. zenobig says:

    I tried cooking lapis legit with (another) recipe yesterday. The taste was there, but the texture was not. Needless to say, I am bookmarking your page for future reference should I feel like challenging the mighty Spekkoek again. Great stuff!

  54. Tiffany says:

    Hi Sammie,
    Thanks for the recipe! I made this yesterday, but struggled with combining the butter and the eggs together, resulting in a mildly curdled mixture. I panicked from your “do not over beat” message and poured the egg mixture in faster than I probably should have, in order to minimise beating.
    Taste is all there but it was a bit of a struggle to flatten the layers, and my cake seems to have quite a lot of bubbles throughout. Ayy tips?

  55. Sammie says:

    Hi Tiffany, I would suggest that you poke the bubbles if you see any so that the layers would flatten. If the mixture curdles, just add a little flour. 🙂 Hope this helps! Cheers!

  56. Ellie says:

    Wonderful cake. It`s so beautiful, also I`m sure it should be yummy. But 30 egg yolks?It`s possible reduce or replace egg yolks with something else?
    I can not stop to say how much beautiful is that. Cheers

  57. Win says:

    can I know how much Baking powder / Emulsifier to put and when to put?

  58. Liz says:

    Hello there, quick question..
    Do u use 100gr flour or 90gr??? as your top article mention 100 gr use of flour.

    What mixed butter you use? You mention orchid and regular butter, what is regular? I.e wich brand?? I’ve got orchid in hand not sure if you meant blueband margarine.

    I am attemp to make this recipe today, hope will turns as good as your picture. 🙂

  59. KELLY NG says:

    Hi Sammie, i am attracted with your lapis legit its look so good…would like to try next week but i have a few question. Hopefully you can help me. My question is if i wanted to make vanilla flavour should i avoid mixed spice or its still necessary..and i much vanilla should i add? Waiting for your reply tq.

  60. joan says:

    hi,

    I made the kueh lapis but after it has cooled down, the centre portion of called becomes lower than sides. pls help!!! thank you!!!

  61. Rowena says:

    What size cake does this recipe make? Am wondering if I have the right size cake tin for this. Thank you!

  62. Adeline says:

    Hi can I use wrapped butter as I could not find tinned butter.

  63. Sammie says:

    Hi There,

    I would highly recommend tinned butter as the texture you get from normal butter will be very different.

  64. Sammie says:

    This makes an 8×8 cake! If you want it taller, you could do 7×7. 🙂

  65. Alan Tan says:

    Hi Sammie, thank you so much for the very detailed recipe. I had tried it a couple of times and it has been successful. I have a question which a couple of my friends had debated is, could we leave the egg batter overnight? Some of my friends claim that it gives even better result? Have you tried leaving the raw batter overnight? Thank you – alan

  66. Eka says:

    Thankyou for your awesome review and recipe of lapis legit. Very very very helpful. Gonna try to make it.. wish me luck 😀

  67. Li Huan Quek says:

    Thank you so much for your very helpful tips! My mother was Indonesian but I am Singaporean and I am trying to learn some of the old Indonesian bakes we used to make! Like Spekkoek and semprot. I lost my semprot mold – do you know if I can buy one in Jakarta now?

  68. Ben says:

    Hi Sammie, I am using baby belling oven and it do not have the top heat or grill function. Can I still bake this cake?

  69. Lim Kian Him. says:

    So half Singaporean. Am Singaporean working here in Indonesia for past 15 years. Back n forth SGP n JKT. Had interest in cooking. Tried simple cusines n desserts. Ketan lupis. Kecang hujau bubur. Lapis Legit will be a high end class act. Am exploring. Your article helpful. Will be in touch. Many Thanks. Sunny Lim.

  70. Marion says:

    Dear Sam, after a lot of trial and error I found your recipe for kueh lapis!! All went well and it tastes simply delicious!! All quantities, heat and timing perfect for my oven.
    Highly recommended!
    Marion

    PS on a personal note I would even add more than one tbsp of spices, but that’s probably cause I am from the Netherlands and used to Indonesian cuisine 😉

  71. Sammie says:

    Thanks Marion for your comment! Glad that it worked very well for you! 🙂

  72. Ester says:

    Hello, I’m tempted to try your recipe for coming CNY. With diabetic family member, how much more can I reduce the sugar and/or condensed milk yet still having a moist cake? p/s: your baking tips are very helpful! Thank you!

  73. Sammie says:

    Hello Ester, I wouldn’t reduce too much! Maybe 10-20% max! But to be honest this is not a cake for a diabetic person! It’s by no means a healthy cake at all!

  74. Lina says:

    Hello, may I know the butter is unsalted or salted butter?

  75. Sammie says:

    Hi Lina, usually unsalted would be better. However please note that with Lapis you cannot use regular butter, it needs to be canned butter. If you are in Singapore, most supermarkets would sell Golden Churn canned butter. Hope that helps

  76. Lina says:

    Thanks Sammie for the tips!

  77. Lina says:

    Sammie, just noticed your recipe calls for regular butter besides canned butter. Does it mean to use the normal block butter in supermarket?

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