Spekkoek – Indonesian thousand layer cake

Spekkoek finishedIt seems like a humongous ordeal to make a spekkoek cake or thousand layer cake, also known as spekuk or kue lapis legit. But it was not too bad at all. My cake takes 1,5 hours to make from start to finish. It’s not that you can do anything else in the meantime but that’s part of the fun 😉

The thousand layer cake or spekuk was developed in the Dutch East Indies. The spekuk was the Dutch-Indonesian version of the German Baumkuchen, which is baked on a rotating spit.

This recipe is for a hefty Beb Vuyk Spekkoek of 26 cm in diameter. It’s baked in a springform, not on a spit. I cut it into thin slices, because it’s a very rich cake. You can easily serve this to 10 people.


Thousand layer cake or spekkoek translated from Beb Vuyk’s Groot Indonesisch kookboek, page 444

Ingredients

100 grams of flour
7 large eggs (No. 7 or 10, small No. 3)
500 grams of butter
250 grams of white caster sugar or powdered sugar
10 teaspoons of cinnamon powder
5 teaspoons of fine anise powder
3 teaspoons of nutmeg powder
3 teaspoons of cloves powder
3 teaspoons of cardamom powder
2 tablespoons of coffee cream
seeds removed from 1 vanilla pod or 5 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
salt

Stir in the butter and vanilla and half of the sugar until it’s a glossy mass.
Separate the yolks and egg whites of all the eggs.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until frothy.
Whisk the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks.
Stir in the butter and vanilla sugar mixture with the egg whites and the foamy egg yolks.
Add sifted flour and salt and mix it through with the coffee cream.
Divide the batter between two bowls in equal amounts.
Add spices to one bowl. This will color beige-brown, the other remains pale yellow.

Grease a springform of about 27 cm in diameter.
Spoon in a thin layer of the light batter.
Slide the springform on the upper grid under the grill, which should be set on the highest heat.
When the batter is done, already after a few minutes, the same thin layer of brown batter is applied on top of the cooked layer.
Repeat this process until all the batter is finished.
After 5 or 6 layers the cake should be placed on the lower grid. The cake is ready when the last layer is baked.

Instead of a grill, the cake can also be baked in a oven with separate upper and lower heat. Preheat the oven at a temperature of 125 ° C. Put in the tin with the first thin layer and turn the lower heat off. Continue baking the cake as if under a grill.


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The ingredients list of a spekkoek is impressive. Yet I can get all the spices at my supermarket. My kitchen smells like Christmas. Spekkoek is very rich and has lots of flavor.

I follow Beb Vuyk’s recipe closely. But I use a square baking tin in stead of a round one. Practical for freezing and cutting. The surface area of my form is slightly larger (26 × 26 cm).

I make a thin Spekkoek. I think it’s extra chique; one or two slices next to an espresso will work for me ;-). A round shaped springform 26 centimeters in diameter makes a smaller and higher layered cake.
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Loulou helps mix the butter. That’s a tough job by hand. The butter is at room temperature, but we ultimately use a blender to get it smooth. It’s a whopping 500 grams of butter!

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Separating the eggs is a fun job. Make sure your egg white does not come into contact with fat. Use metal bowls that are super clean. Completely free of grease. Make sure you separate the eggs properly, otherwise your egg white will not form stiff peaks.

In the meantime I turn on my oven on the highest grill temperature (for me that is 250 degrees Celsius).

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Now the mixing starts. Add to the egg yolks half the amount of sugar and whisk until a frothy, light yellow batter that has doubled in volume. Now mix on high speed the egg whites too. Use well cleaned whisks and mix until you can form stiff peaks. Mix the butter and sugar until it shines.

Add salt. Beb does not say how much. I add about 3/4 of a teaspoon.

Now stir in the butter with the egg yolk and egg white batter gently. My batter was a little lumpy, but that was no problem for the end result. Divide equally into two separated bowls.

572-spekkoek-mix-bruinbeslagAdd all the spices to one part of the batter. It’s a lot of spices all at once. It makes the batter thicken a bit but that’s fine. It already smells amazing in our kitchen.

Mix the brown batter well. I use a spoon and mix until equally brown. Now baking starts.572-spekkoek-mix-bruinbeslag1I grease my tin well. At the bottom I place baking paper. The butter/batter cannot leak out this way.

Your first layer can go in. To get evenly thick layers I count the amount of spoons that go in per layer. In my case I use 3 tablespoons of batter per layer. With the back of the spoon I smooth the batter out as evenly as possible. The batter will smoothen more while warming up in the oven. I also write down the number of layers to keep track, because after 5 layers you have to place the cake in the middle of the oven.

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Now I leave my layer 5 minutes under the grill. It burns on the edges a bit so I turn down the heat to 200 degrees. That works perfectly. Every oven is different. Try what works best and remember the layers really need just a couple of minutes to bake. When it turns golden, it’s done. I take the cake out and carefully add the next layer with the spiced batter.

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It’s easier to distribute the batter because of the hot layer underneath. In the beginning it sticks to the spoon, but be patient, it will even out in the end.

572-spekkoek-laag-bruinThe recipe states that after layer 5 or 6 you have to place the baking tin in the middle of the oven. Not directly under the grill anymore. At 6 layers my cake batter is finished. That’s because I chose a larger springform. In my case I place the cake with my last layer in the middle of the oven and let it grill a bit longer (7 minutes).

Wow, we finished it. The Spekkoek is done. 😉Spekkoek doneLoulou tests if the cake is done all the way through. It is! We let the thousand layer cake cool down for 15 minutes and then take the mold off. It smells so good. We taste it half warm. Phew, yummy!

Beb Vuyk, best known for her Groot Indonesisch Kookboek (Great Indonesian Cook Book), was much more than a great cook. She belongs to the most important Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) writers and journalists of her time. Check this out.

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2 Responses

  1. Carolina says:

    I also love spekkoek but use the name Thousand Layer spice cake in English ?

    • Pauline Chavannes de Senerpont Domis says:

      Dear Carolina! I’m looking at your blog and love it! Thanks for the name idea. Better for my SEO. Good luck! and I’m following you now ;-).

      Love Pauline

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