Chinese New Year Bakes Part 1 – Kueh Lapis

One of the items I am baking as part of the CNY bake fest this year is kueh lapis aka thousand layer cake. When I was a kid, I used to wonder why it was called thousand layer cake when clearly it does not have a thousand layers. Now that I bake it, I’m extremely relieved it doesn’t have a thousand layers!

I’m not entirely sure why kueh lapis is eaten during CNY, but it’s possibly because its a rich and indulgent cake, and making it requires lots of effort, so people feel there must be an occasion to justify the hassle of baking it.

To start, the ingredients that go into making the cake are quite alarming for any health conscious person – tons of egg yolks and butter, sugar, condensed milk, brandy, flour, spices etc. But one does need to bear in mind that kueh lapis is generally consumed in small quantities, so its actually not that heart attack inducing (if you consume in moderation).

Ingredients

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To make the cake, it is advisable to have multiple mixing bowls. Otherwise you will be doing a lot of washing up as you go along, as there are quite a few mixtures that need to be prepared.

First, you whisk the egg yolks with about half the sugar the recipe calls for.

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Next you whisk the butter with condensed milk, brandy and vanilla.

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Then you mix the flour into the butter mixture, and then mix in the egg yolk mixture thereafter. After that (yes, we’re still not done!), egg whites need to be whisked until stiff peaks form. (P/S: in my excitement, I forgot to take a photo of this step of the process). Only after the egg white has been folded into the other mixture is the mix ready for baking.

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And now the hard part begins (heh amazing right, that what went on before is considered easy). For those who don’t already know, the cake is baked layer by layer. Each layer consists only of a couple of spoonful of batter.

I forgot to take a photo of the very first layer – too excited to get it into the oven. But here’s how the cake looks after the first layer is done.

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The second layer is then added onto the baked first layer.

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And back into the oven it goes.

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This laborious process is repeated anywhere between 15 to 20 times until all the batter is used up!

The end product looks like the next photo. Not entirely sure why, but kueh lapis almost always come with these grid lines. Without them, it just doesn’t feel like kueh lapis. I make them by pressing the cake (top down) on a cooling rack with a grid design.

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Cross section where the layers are clearly visible.

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Every time I make this cake, about halfway through the process, I would be asking myself why on earth I bother with it. But once I cut into the finished product and see the layers, I cannot help but think about how I improve on it on my next attempt – make more layers, make the layers thinner, work on producing even layers!

Guess this cake is truly addictive! Not only can I not stop eating it, I can’t stop baking it again and again to improve on it!

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