Our family have a secret. Every Chinese New Year, we have tons of baking to filled up every non-working hours. Our kitchen turned into underground production house. During these few weeks prior to the big lunar day one, Nobody is allowed to cook because bags of flour and sugar took up every available counter space. The refrigerator is filled with dozens of eggs and butter. There’s no space for other food. No one is allowed to eat at the dining table too! We use the table for packaging the cookies into their container. Naming and tagging them for delivery.
Oh yeah! It’s all hard work. Rolling, cutting, egg washing every single cookie. We lose sleep over them. We got fat with them (Let’s talk about QC, we taste every batch!). We baked churning trays after trays, hundreds and thousands of new year goodies. Last year, we had a successful our Charity Bake Sale raising a hefty sum for Club Rainbow – committed to help children suffering for chronic and life threatening illnesses. This year, although there’s no cookies sale (Thank you peeps for sending me enquiries this year), to put things into action, I’ve signed up to be a volunteer with Club Rainbow. I am sure you all will agree. Nothing is more fullfilling than seeing a smile on an ill child’s face. I like to be part of that.
Back to the Kueh Lapis. My grand aunt used to hold to realm to this particular recipe. Year after year, she will bake this laborious cake for everyone. Her kueh lapis is highly praised by everyone. Soon, she had a stream of fans that will knock on her door to buy this cake (Along with her addictive almond cookies, recipe here). After offering to help her with the baking a few years ago, she handed me a piece of hand-written recipe (that’s exactly what I was after). Sadly, the recipe don’t tell much details but luckily I’ve remembered every unwritten part of it. So, here you go, enjoy the recipe and happy baking! I promise you. This recipe is very good.
This fascinating Kueh lapis is not difficult to make, but you do need lots of patience. Be prepared to hover next to the oven for a couple of hours grilling each layer of batter. The cake is served in very small, thin slices as it is so rich and fragrant.
If you can’t find rempah lapis, you can mix your own.
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon aniseed
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cardamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
( all spices are ground )
Firstly separate the yolks and whites. Then, grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch aluminum tin pan (Aluminum pans are relatively cheap and best for kueh lapis cake as non-stick pan will let the sides brown too much). Set your oven to top grill or broiler setting to preheat.
Cream butter and sugar together in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until light and pale. This should take about 10mins on medium speed. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then add the condensed milk, brandy and vanilla extract.
Sieve the flour and spice together and set aside. In a clean mixing bowl. Whisk the egg whites and pinch of salt till stiff peak. Start by mixing 1 tablespoon of egg white to the butter mixer. This loosen up the batter. Then lightly fold in ¼ of the flour and ⅓ of the egg whites. Always end the folding with flour.
Set the pan into the oven to warm up. Then pour about ½ cup of the spiced batter into the pan, spreading with a spoon to form a thin layer. The first layer will be thicker than the other layers. Place pan under a preheated broiler (oven grill) for 2 minutes, or until the layer is firm and very lightly browned. Spread ⅓ cup of the batter over the top and broil until firm and browned. The hot pan will melt your batter as you pour it in, resulting in smooth layers. Repeat layering and broiling until all batter is used. In between each layers, poke the surface or any air bubbles with a toothpick and flatten the layers lightly with a metal fondant presser. Also turn the pan each time to ensure even cooking.
If you find that the sides are still wet, turn the oven to “bake” setting at 180 degree C and bake for a further 5 minutes. Covered the top with foil.
The whole process will take about 2 hours. And do watch the batter in the oven as they turn brown very easily.
Leave cake to cool for 10 minutes, loosen the sides with a knife, then invert the pan onto a wire grid rack to give a nice pattern to the top before turning the cake the right side up. Serve in thin slices. The cake will taste better the next day.
The kueh lapis keeps well for 10 days in fridge or if you are making in advance, you can freeze the cake wrapped in plastic for up to a month ahead.