Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spekkoek

For some foods you have to slow down, relax and take it easy. Long simmering stews on the back burner, bread dough slowly rising on the counter.... Hurrying will make it no better, or faster, and in the long run the patience exhibited is key to the wonderful, rounded flavors of the dish. So too with this Indonesian layered cake called spekkoek. Each layer is painstakingly spread, baked and brushed. Cakes will often count up to twenty layers: they sell for high prices on the market as time is money, and money is easily spent. One of these Sundays, treat yourself to some time in the kitchen. Get an easy chair, or a comfortable stool and park yourself next to the oven, monitoring each layer's progress carefully. You'll be so glad you did!

The name "spekkoek" initially doesn't sound very enticing: "spek" means bacon, or fat, and "koek" is cake or cookie. Fat cake just doesn't have that sort of  a ring to it where you want to drop everything you're doing and get yourself a slice. Much less two.

And yet, the Indonesian layered spice cake that is graced with such a...shall we say, unfortunate name, does look a little bit like bacon at first glance. The alternating light and dark layers could very well be considered a modernist rendition of a slice of bacon, but that's where all similarities end. For the rich, flavorful cake does not taste anything remotely like bacon, but contains a wonderful mixture of spices and sweetness instead.

The spekkoek is thought to be a Dutch adaptation to an Indonesian recipe, or perhaps a Dutch invention or an Indonesian rendition of a Dutch spice cake....who knows. Regardless of the fact how this tastebud-teasing cake came to be, it is a small work of art and a feat of patience. For each layer is to be baked separately, painstakingly slow. But not so slow that you can walk away from it. Because if you do.....dang! The whole thing burns and you have to start from scratch. Which is no fun.

This "thousand layer cake" is incredibly rich, and that's perhaps where its "fat" name applies. Ten eggs, two sticks of butter on merely two cups of flour, and a cup and a half of sugar......this cake is not for the faint of heart, neither in preparation nor in consumption. No wonder the layers are carefully counted in certain circles and if found lacking, considered to be the work of a "lazy housewife". Cakes should have at least ten layers or more in order to be respected and appreciated!

So, this time, no slicing thick pieces of spekkoek and devouring it in two bites or three. Neither the richness of the cake nor the time spent to make it allows for a quick snack. It is a cake to be taken in carefully, small bite by small bite, and shared with those we care most about.

Spekkoek
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar, separated
10 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
parchment paper
1 tablespoon of flour

For brushing: melt 3 tablespoons of butter

Cream the butter with 1 cup of sugar until light golden and creamy. Carefully mix in two egg yolks at a time until all 10 have been blended in well. Mix in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, squeaky clean, whip the ten egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until stiff. Rub a little bit of whipped egg white between thumb and index finger to see if all the sugar dissolved: if not whip a little longer.

Sift the flour above the creamed butter mixture and carefully fold it in, until well blended. Then spoon the egg whites in the mixture and fold in. You should have a light, scoopable batter.

Divide the batter into two bowls, and assign a half cup measuring cup to each batter. Sift the spices above one and fold them in. Sometimes the fine spices do not fold in fully and create lumps: just squish them on the side of the bowl and fold them right back in.

Grease and flour an 8 inch spring form pan (the traditional form is round, but you are also welcome to bake the spekkoek in a bread pan or a square pan). Cut a circle out of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan and grease it as well. Flour the pan with a tablespoon of flour, tap the pan and remove any loose flour.

Heat the oven to 325F. Spray the inside of the measuring cup and scoop half a cup of spiced batter into the pan. Spread it along the bottom, so that it covers the whole pan. Now place the pan in the oven for several minutes and bake the first layer. Since it's a very thin layer, it only takes a few minutes. You want the layer to be baked and have a slight toasted top.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully brush the layer with melted butter. Spray the inside of the second half-cup measuring cup and scoop out half a cup of the light batter on top of the baked layer, spreading it and making sure all areas are covered, preferably with the back of a spoon so the bottom layer doesn't rip. Put the pan back in the oven, but this time turn on the broiler.

Wait several minutes, remove the pan from under the broiler and check to see if the layer is baked and is lightly golden on top. If yes, brush with butter and add a layer of spiced batter. If not, return it to the oven and bake for a little while longer. On average, between brushing, spreading and baking you need about 8 to 10 minutes per layer. Keep track of which batter goes on top of which, you want to make sure you alternate the colors and flavors!

When the last layer is baked, brush it, and use a skewer to test the done-ness of the cake. Insert it in the middle, and if the skewer comes out clean, it's ready to cool down. If there is still some batter clinging to the skewer, turn off the broiler and bake the cake for several more minutes. Sprinkle the top with the powdered sugar.

Cool the spekkoek in the form, then carefully insert a knife around the edge and cut the edges loose: sometimes it will not release by itself. Carefully slice a piece of cake to admire and taste your hard work, then wrap it in plastic film and cover it with aluminum foil, to avoid the cake drying out.

Serve a thin slice with coffee, or as a well-deserved ending to a rijsttafel.

19 comments:

  1. Ik ben gek op spekkoek!!!
    Heb het nooit zelf gemaakt.
    Miscchien neem ik ooit nog de tijd.
    Heb well een hele lekkere "Spice Cake"
    gemaakt van het boek
    " Cradle of Flavor" by James Oseland
    http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Flavor-Indonesia-Singapore-Malaysia/dp/0393054772/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332620385&sr=8-1
    The taste is very good with out the layers.
    Again, love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, thank you for this great recipe! I had a quick question - you say to turn on the broiler but have the pan in the oven... wouldn't this lessen the heat in the oven? In my oven, at least, if you turn on the broiler, you are turning off the oven (I believe). Is this what you meant? Or should I be putting the cake into the broiler section of the oven?

    Thank you again! :) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question! Either way will work. If turning on the broiler automatically turns off the oven, just position your pan a level higher towards the broiler, so that the heat will bake the top layer. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't get too dark too soon.

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  3. Hey dat ziet er lekker uit. Wist niet dat spekkoek zo werd gemaakt, maar dacht al dat het een klusje zou zijn met die verschillende lagen.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ik vind deze site prachtig! En wat een werk zit hierin!

    ReplyDelete
  5. try a slice at a passar malam ... but nothing will beat selfmade, just as your own nasi goreng is always gonna be better than that from the toko!

    indo-van-60-jaar-geleden

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  6. Zou je dit recept ook in Nederlandse maatstaven kunnen schrijven?
    Ik bedoel in gram en ml etc in plaats van cups and sticks ....zou dit heel graag willen uitproberen, maar weet niet goed hoe ik het naar mijn weegschaal moet vertalen..

    ReplyDelete
  7. hier een handig tabelletje om US recepten te converteren...

    VOLUME MEASURES CONVERSIONS
    Metric equivalents are rounded.
    U.S. Measurement Metric Measurement

    1 teaspoon 5 milliliters
    1 tablespoon 15 milliliters
    1 fluid ounce (2 tablespoons) 30 milliliters
    2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) 60 milliliters
    8 fluid ounces (1 cup) 240 milliliters
    16 fluid ounces (2 cups = 1 pint) 480 milliliters
    32 fluid ounces (2 pints = 1 quart) 950 milliliters (.95 liter)
    128 fluid ounces (4 quarts = 1 gallon) 3.75 liters



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    WEIGHT MEASURES CONVERSIONS
    Metric equivalents are rounded.
    U.S. measurement Metric measurement
    1/4 ounce 8 grams
    1/2 ounce 15 grams
    1 ounce 30 grams
    4 ounces 115 grams
    8 ounces (1/2 pound) 225 grams
    16 ounces (1 pound) 450 grams
    32 ounces (2 pounds) 900 grams
    40 ounces (2-1/4 pounds) 1 kilogram



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    TEMPERATURE CONVERSIONS
    Celsius equivalents have been rounded.
    Degrees Fahrenheit (°F) Degrees Celsius (°C)
    32° 0°
    40° 4°
    140° 60°
    150° 65°
    160° 70°
    170° 75°
    212° 100°
    275° 135°
    300° 150°
    325° 165°
    350° 175°
    375° 190°
    400° 205°
    425° 220°
    450° 230°
    475° 245°
    500° 260°

    ReplyDelete
  8. en hier een site voor allerlei conversies.. in de meest rechtse kolom kun je selecteren wat je wilt:
    boter, flour etc.
    en dan zie je in het midden van de pagina als je naar beneden scrollt de tabellen..

    http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. leuk zeg om deze site te vinden! bedankt voor al de mooie recepten en foto's!
    Het helpt tegen de soms optredende heimwee!

    Irene van Laarhoven, Kisumu, Kenia

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would to personally invite you to share your gorgeous food photos with us over at Food Foto Gallery . com - In April alone, we had 26,742 visitors to the site & there's no complicated approval process like the big guys. Any photos related to food (that are not watermarked) are accepted & get posted automatically. Being a food blogger, myself, we also share our daily faves on social media, giving exposure to fellow foodies whenever we can.

    Let me know if you have any questions and hope to see you at the site :)

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  11. Would it be possible to make this using a 13x9 pan? Would I need to double the recipe? Considering making this for a party tomorrow and need answers quickly.

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    Replies
    1. The only problem with changing the size of the pan is that all of the ingredients would have to be proportionately changed. A 13x9 inch pan has a surface area of 117 square inches. A 8 inch spring form has a surface area of 50.24 square inches. This means that the pan that you would like to use is 2.33 times larger than the pan that is called for. If you want more cake than this recipe calls for, I would buy 2 8 inch spring forms and double the recipe. I guess if you want to take all of the ingredients and multiply them by 2.33 then you could do that too.

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  12. I always thought spekkoek a.k.a lapis legit was actually speculaas cake, because my Indonesian grandma (who speaks Dutch) said a long time ago that spekkoek got its name from speculaas. The Dutch introduced speculaas cookies and the technique of baking baumkuchen to the East Indies and locals embraced the delicious speculaas cookies (which you can buy in Indonesia) and the layering technique and made spec-koek (speculaas cake), later spelled as spekkoek (maybe to be funny because it sounds strange? :) To this day most Indonesian recipes of speculaas (and many speculaas-inspired variations of cookies and cakes we have) will call for 'bumbu spekuk/bumbu speculaas' (spekkoek/speculaas mix) already sold in packets.

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  13. can anybody tell me what a broiler is?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, a broiler is a grill component that is usually found on the "ceiling" of your oven - it is used to crisp up or brown the top of your oven dishes with high, dry heat. Both electric and gas ovens have a broiler, sometimes in the top of the main oven, or in a drawer below the oven. Hope that helps!

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  14. Wat fantastisch om dit recept hier te vinden! Vroeger hadden mijn ouders een Indische vriendin die dit voor ons maakte en het is nog steeds een van mijn favoriete lekkernijen. Ook mijn Engelse man en kinderen vinden het heel lekker en bijzonder. Dit is trouwens de beste site met Nederlandse recepten, interessante voedselverhalen en foto's die ik ooit heb gezien, een geweldige prestatie, Nicole, hartelijk dank. Ook leuk dat The Dutch Table Nederlanders van over de hele wereld bij elkaar brengt in nostalgie over het eten uit onze jeugd.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your comments! Please be so considerate as to include a name, as anonymous postings will be deleted.