Hello everyone! This is my first post in 2016 (!!!). I know I’ve been away for quite a while – it’s all been a whirlwind of travelling, feasting and merry making since the beginning of December last year. I had gone home for a month to a wintry, blistery, snowy white Christmas in Canada. While it was all fun-filled and wonderful, I’m just so happy to be back to my beautiful, sunny, warm, wet and humid, Singapore. I’ve been completely rail-roaded off my daily routine the past 2 months, and I have to say that I’m still not feeling all that settled, but day by day, I’m beginning to get back into the swing of things.
Some things never change, though, and I have to admit, folks, that I am completely useless when it comes to baking goodies and treats in advance for Lunar New Year. Every year, I have an ambitious list of all the goodies I want to bake, and as it always turns out, life has a way of pulling you in a thousand directions at the same time in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, making it almost impossible for me to achieve my baking goals.
But, not all is lost yet! In spite of all the day-to-day hubbub, I’m doing whatever it takes to carve out time to make my must-have Chinese New Year favourites! And the first of these are Indonesian layer cakes (kek lapis). These are insanely buttery, rich, spice-infused, fat-loaded festive cakes, but Chinese New Year feasting just wouldn’t be the same without these traditional treats on our table.
So, I’m kick-starting my bakes with this durian Indonesian layer cake (durian lapis or kek lapis durian) – a twist on a traditional favourite that will please those of you who are durian lovers. If you prefer traditional layer cakes, you can check out this recipe for Kueh Lapis Batavia.
Now, I know that when most of us (at lease in my circle of friends) often think of baking a home-made lapis cake, it’s not hard to see how daunted or discouraged we can feel when we realise how tedious and long the process can be. Let’s face it – you’ll need about 30 minutes to prep your ingredients and make the cake batter, and then, there’s the average 8 to 10 minutes wait to grill each layer, which can work out to almost 2 hours for a 12-layer cake. And then, there’s all that time in between – the pricking, pressing, and spreading. So, you can expect a good 3 hours, most of it spent hovering by the oven, by the time it’s all good and done. Is it really worth it? In my opinion – one hundred percent, absolutely!
Just a few things to note when making any Indonesian layer or lapis cake:
You can achieve distinct and beautifully mocha-coloured layer lines, only if you brown the tops sufficiently to a deep or dark golden brown (note the emphasis on dark, folks), just don’t end up burning the tops. And when it comes to deciding how many layers, it all depends on the amount of batter, and the size of your cake pan. Though, you would surely impress if you’ve got many, many layers, and as thin as possible. It takes some skill and careful watching to get the layers very thin, and browned, without over-baking or burning them under a grill. I’m not too ambitious, and am happy to aim for 10 to 12 layers.
And something else I’ve picked up on from fellow food bloggers, it helps (a lot!) to use a fondant or lapis press to firmly ‘seal’ or press down each baked layer onto the one below it, before adding batter for a new layer. Pricking and pressing the layers will help eliminate the probability of gaps or air pockets appearing in between layers. This will give you a tight and tidy cross-sectional pattern when sliced.
Don’t have a fondant or lapis press? No worries, I don’t either, and I ended up using a fairly heavy glass container (like the air-tight Lock&Lock ones) as a weight. If you’re using glass weights, do be careful though – press lightly and just briefly for 2-3 seconds in any one particular area, wipe the base dry of steam or condensation with a clean paper towel (or else the browned top may end up sticking to your glass base, and we can’t have that happen, can we?), before pressing the weight onto the next area.
By the way, I get my supply of frozen durian puree from Ah Seng Durian located in Ghim Moh Temporary Market (you can check out their Facebook page here). I usually divide the puree into 150 to 200 gm portions, which are more or less the amounts that are called for in recipes using durian puree, and bag these in freezer bags. Frozen durian puree are good for up to 6 months, so I think you’ll have lots of time and opportunities to use them in your future bakes.
So, I really hope you’ll have a go at it – this is a really easy cake to bake (have a good friend come over to help you – you’d be surprised how eager friends can be to see you torture yourself). But, the real deal is that once you’ve turned out a really good lapis cake based on a tried and tested recipe like this one here, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make home-made lapis cakes sooner! So…, let the feasting begin!