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Lapis Legit, spekuk, spekkoek


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#1 Chufi

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 08:38 AM

I've been thinking about the pastry that in The Netherlands is known as 'spekkoek'. Koek means cake and spek = pork belly, because of the dark and white layers resembling pork belly.
In The Netherlands, you can buy spekkoek at Indonesian shops and toko's, and i't's served as dessert in Indonesian restaurants. I've never seen it, or anything like it, in Dutch shops or bakeries, not have I seen anything like it in my old Dutch recipe books.

Recently I found this recipe online: James Oseland's spekkuk. The author says this cake is 'an inheritance from the Dutch colonization of Indonesia'. Sri Owen basically says the same thing in her book Indonesian Regional Food and Cooking.

Of all the recipes I've seen, there seem to be 2 basic ones: either there is one spiced batter which is baked/ put under the grill in layers, to get the layered effect, or the batter is divided in 2 , 1 part spiced and 1 part plain, and then baked in alternate layers. Oseland's version linked to above, is the only one I've seen that bakes the cake in it's entirety (ie not in layers).

The confusing thing to me is - if this is a Dutch legacy, why isn't there a Dutch pastry that resembles this? The pastry that the Dutch tried to recreate while in Indonesia? I know there are Indonesian layered sweets (kue lapis). Somehow, spekkoek does not seem Dutch to me at all. So, maybe lapis legit was already an existing cake in Indonesia, and the Dutch just gave it the Dutch name?

Is this cake a regular fooditem in Indonesia nowadays?

Any thoughts?

#2 markemorse

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 09:14 AM

Ah, good to see you've joined my quest to de-mystify the Dutch-Indonesian kitchen. :raz:

I personally don't think it's based on a Dutch recipe, I think that the name is taken from the Dutch word for bacon (because of the visual similarity in the layers), but that the concept and technique are Indonesian. Wikipedia suggests that the original source might be German (click), but maybe they mean Austrian, a la dobostorte, which is actually Hungarian in origin?

OK, glad I could help de-mystify things. :rolleyes:

Looking forward to an informed opinion,
mem

#3 Chufi

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 10:10 AM

I've also read somewhere (but can't remember where - sometimes I'm a terrible researcher :sad: ) that spekkoek is 'Indisch', not Indonesian, just like rijsttafel.
Mark do you know the English word for Indisch?

#4 markemorse

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 10:43 AM

Well. My general understanding is that there's no English word for it because it's the Dutch word for the Nederlands-ification of the Indonesian kitchen. So, it's a very specifically Dutch thing.

The best explanation I've seen of it is in this Rotterdams Kookboek from Linda Roodenburg (click, in Dutch)...I'll translate it if you don't have this book....


mem

Edited by markemorse, 18 March 2007 - 10:48 AM.


#5 Chufi

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:00 AM

well, even though there haven't been many replies, I'll add another question.

The Duch adapted spices for use in sweet dishes (speculaas, spicecake etc.)
I browsed the Kueh thread but, did not see any other Indonesian sweets with spices. Are there Indonesian sweets with spices?

Also found this:
baumkuchen in a trip report from Adam Balic. The link in his post is to a website which explains the origins of Baumkuchen, but I can't find any reference there to spekkoek.

#6 Shiewie

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 09:22 PM

Hi Chufi

Found these which may be useful to you. I didn't quite realise what it was until the link to Adam Balic's post as the James Oseland recipe didn't look familiar since the version I know is always in layers and made with a monstrous amount of egg yolks.

This Jakarta Post article traces the origins of spekkoek (now more commonly known as Kue Lapis Legit in Indonesia) back to the Hungarian dobosch torte which travelled via the Hapsburgs to Germany as baumkuchen before evolving into spekkoek which in turn became spekkuk.

Spekkuk has spread out to the rest of South East Asia (err at least Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore :raz:) and is also known as Kueh Lapis / Kueh Lapis Batavia / Kek Lapis / Kek Lapis Betawi (Batavia = Betawi = Jakarta) / Layer Cake / Indonesian Layer Cake (recipe). Indonesian migrants in Sarawak have also modified the cake in various flavours, colours and patterns that mirror the traditional weaving patterns in that state - see Kek Lapis Sarawak.

There's some discussion of this in the Chinese Sweet Pastries, Candy and Desserts thread. The Indonesian Layer Cake is now well entrenched in many Malaysian and Singaporean households as a must-have for Chinese New Year and Eid (Hari Raya).

#7 amapola

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 10:42 AM

I've also read somewhere (but can't remember where - sometimes I'm a terrible researcher  :sad: ) that spekkoek is 'Indisch', not Indonesian, just like rijsttafel.
Mark do you know the English word for Indisch?

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I'm afraid I can't shed much light on this topic but I did find a discussion on the matter of spekkoek being Indisch rather than Indonesian on this wikipedia discussion page (in dutch, unfortunately...). Just do a page-search for spekkoek and you'll find quite a lenghty talk about what various peoples 'kokkies' have to say about it (or scroll down to just over halfway).

From this and what few other things I have come accross, it would appear that the spekkoek you refer to here is indeed Indisch. But then as you said, to what dutch pastry is it connected...?

#8 Chufi

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 03:01 PM

Shiewie, thanks so much, that's exactly what I was looking for. Very interesting!
I also found this gorgeous cake, made by Tepee, while searching eGullet for info on this pastry:

And this cake is from the Msian and Chinese side of me. The cake is a Kek Lapis (spiced layer cake) and is stacked nine storeys to signify 'Everlasting'. A chinese dragon (and you're an honorary one) is energetic, decisive, optimistic and intelligent and everything or anyone connected with him is especially blessed. Thank you!

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amapola, I read that page on Wiki, yes all signs are telling me that this cake is indeed a Dutch 'legacy'.
Looked through an Indonesian cookbook today in a bookstore, by Lonny Gerungan who is I think some Dutch authority on Indonesian food. He put Lapis Legit in his chapter about Java, the curious thing is, that though his cake has the seperately baked layers, there are no spices in it.

I think I need to make one now instead of talk about it :laugh:

#9 SuzySushi

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 03:57 PM

Lapis legit/spekuk/spekkoek really does look like baumkuchen -- which is popular in Japan, of all places! We buy baumkuchen at the Japanese supermarket here. It comes in several flavors, including regular, caramel, and milk.
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#10 Cadbury

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 05:22 PM

I've been thinking about the pastry that in The Netherlands is known as 'spekkoek'. Koek means cake and spek = pork belly, because of the dark and white layers resembling pork belly.
In The Netherlands, you can buy spekkoek at Indonesian shops and toko's, and i't's served as dessert in Indonesian restaurants. I've never seen it, or anything like it, in Dutch shops or bakeries, not have I seen anything like it in my old Dutch recipe books.

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I found a recipe in my 1941 cookbook for spekkoek. It contains clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and coriander and is baked in 5 or 6 layers.

#11 Abra

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 10:24 PM

This week by total coincidence I made this cake from a recipe in a 2006 Saveur article on Banda Islands cuisine. It contained cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, 4 eggs as well as 3 additional yolks, a ton of butter, and was made in 4 layers. We found it to be incredibly delicious, and right away I sent Chufi a note saying that it tasted Dutch. The combination of the butter flavor with the spices reminded me of Dutch flavors, and I actually wouldn't have thought of it as Indonesian at all if I hadn't known.

The article called it Spekkuk Bumbu, and Chufi mentioned that she thought bumbu wasn't properly used to refer to a sweet spice mix. Where's Yetty when we need her?

#12 Chufi

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 08:08 AM

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Because I believe that research should be made more fun with tastetesting, I made spekkoek today.
I looked at 6 different recipes and then made one up.
I used 16 yolks, 8 whites, 400 grams butter, 200 grams soft white sugar and 150 grams flour for the batter. The spice mix had cinnamon, cloves, corianderseed, nutmeg, cardamom, staranise and a tiny bit of pepper.

I'm pretty happy with the result. It wasn't as much work as I thought (it's a LOT of work, just not as much as I thought :wink: ). Notes: next time I shold use more spices. I like it spicier. Although it's possible that after the recommended overnight rest, the spiciness will develop.
It's not as compact as it should be - some airbubbles and holes. Not sure how to prevent those though. And maybe next time I'll use a smaller tin or make more batter, so the layers can be stacked higher.

Anyway, spekkoek, kue lapis, food for thought about the spiceroutes and Dutch bakers in Indonesia, but also delicious!

#13 ludja

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 11:58 AM

^Wow, that looks beautiful, Chufi! Thanks for sharing your recipe and the tip to increase the spices a bit.

So, if I understand correctly, you bake each layer for 5-10 min or something; then add another thin layer of batter and bake again? Repeat the process, alternating between spiced and unspiced batters each time, until you build up the final cake?

Sorry if I'm forgetting this from your Dutch blog but is "soft white sugar", the American "powdered" or "Confectioner's" sugar?

Any guidance on cooking temperature and times for baking each layer and the approximate pan size you used?

Thanks much!
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#14 Chufi

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 01:20 PM

about the soft white sugar, there was some discussion here. I don;t think it exists in the US. Just substitute fine sugar.

I used a 23 cm. square tin.

Yes, you have alternate layers of plain and spiced batter.
I had each layer under the grill for about 3 minutes. You have to watch it like a hawk all the time! Then when all the batter is used up, turn off the grill, heat the regular oven and bake the whole thing for another 15 minutes.

You're supposed to keep it overnight but we already had numerous slices. It's also supposed to freeze well...

#15 anzu

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 02:06 AM

This is not helpful with the question of origins, but the Goan bebinca is made in essentially the same manner, traditionally with 16 layers.

There is also a debate about its origins here in eGullet: bebinca.

Chufi, your spekkoek looks delicious.

#16 yunnermeier

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 01:27 PM

My mum used to make spek koek (we call it layer cake) quite often when I was younger (not anymore because she says it takes too much time!). We always assumed it's from Indonesia. I've tried baumkuchen in Japan but it's not the same as spek koek somehow!

My mum actually sent me her recipe (you might remember that I wanted to combine spek koek with weed in my eG foodblog ^^ ). It's in a black garbage bag somewhere in the garage;) I'll have to search for it but I remember it containing an obscene amount of yolks too! ;)

#17 JasonTrue

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 02:52 PM

Baumkuchen is decidedly German, but is decidedly easier to find in Japan than in Germany. I remember seeing it at a small number of places... I suppose it might be easier to find in larger cities than Marburg.
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#18 Abra

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 06:40 PM

Klary, that's such a lovely cake, with its alternating layers, and a great photo with the striped cloth beneath. It's much more cake-like and much less biscuit-like than the one I made. Can you give us the recipe?

#19 anzu

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 01:21 AM

Baumkuchen is decidedly German, but is decidedly easier to find in Japan than in Germany. I remember seeing it at a small number of places... I suppose it might be easier to find in larger cities than Marburg.

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Jason, you're right about it being easier to find in Japan than Germany, but the reason, I suspect, is not that you were in the wrong city, but that you were there at the wrong time of year. Baumkuchen is usually sold only in the 6 weeks or so leading up to Christmas. At that time, it's pretty much everywhere.

#20 JasonTrue

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 11:33 AM

Ah, good point... I lived in Germany through two Christmases, though... maybe it was too expensive for my student budget and blocked it out of my memory :)

Baumkuchen is decidedly German, but is decidedly easier to find in Japan than in Germany. I remember seeing it at a small number of places... I suppose it might be easier to find in larger cities than Marburg.

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Jason, you're right about it being easier to find in Japan than Germany, but the reason, I suspect, is not that you were in the wrong city, but that you were there at the wrong time of year. Baumkuchen is usually sold only in the 6 weeks or so leading up to Christmas. At that time, it's pretty much everywhere.

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#21 Shaya

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 04:55 PM

Stunning, Chufi, both the cake and the photography.

#22 yunnermeier

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 05:56 AM

Mum made Indonesian layer cake today. Lekker ~

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#23 JustKay

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 06:09 AM

I recently stumbled onto this blog.
more here

This guy makes all kinds of Kek Lapis, some of which are too pretty to eat. :raz: And if you see the texture, that's how it's supposed to be. Not too 'oily' looking. These cakes should be very buttery, rich and moist.

Edited by JustKay, 04 February 2008 - 06:12 AM.