Kek Lapis Rempah or Spiced Layer Cake

imageOne of my fondest memories of Hari Raya was visiting Mak Timah’s house in Singapore. Besides her lovely hospitality and welcoming children, what I really looked forward to was her Kek Lapis. Those golden layers  of rich, buttery decadence were redolent with the taste and smell of unknown spices. I could never eat more than 3 or 4 slices (haha), but the memory of those wonderful squares would remain with me until the next Hari Raya when I could have my next fill.

It is therefore unfortunate that I could never find another kek lapis to match Mak Timah’s amazing concoction. Mum managed to obtain Mak Timah’s recipe and I have been trying to replicate it without much success. Somehow I always felt that there was something missing. Her recipe called for 30 egg yolks  and 600 gm of butter (yes, gasp!) No wonder I could never eat more than a few slices at a time. It also meant that I can only try to make the cake once a year – way too expensive to try to make this cake too often.


This year, I decided to try making this cake again. However, I had also forgotten to bring with me to Namibia the essential mixed spice for layer cake (and the recipe book with Mak Timah’s recipe in it!) Well, I thought it should not be a problem. I could just google the layer cake spice recipe and try to make  it myself. Ha! Good luck! All of the Malaysian spiced layer cake recipes that I found online used the store bought spice mix. I decided to dive more into the history of the cake and found a similar cake of a Dutch-Indonesian origin called Spekkoek – the thousand layer spiced cake. The spice mix included ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom. It sounded promising, but I also recall tasting a hint of fennel. So, I began blending a few different versions and stuck with the one that smelt the most familiar. I generally don’t have ground ginger in my pantry, but I did have a piece of dried ginger that I put into the spice blend.



That is not the dried ginger that I used…

In terms of the cake itself, I have made a few different versions but the one that I really loved in terms of the texture is the one  by Asma Laili in her book “Mintak Ampun, Sedapnya” which used a little almond meal, and some condensed milk in place of ovalette, (which I also did not take with me from Malaysia. They don’t seem to have ovalette or any such thing here, and this could be a good thing. Who needs more chemicals?)

So, I took the recipe from here (which I believe is based on Asma Laili’s version) and tweaked it based on what I had on hand.

Kek Lapis Rempah

20 egg yolks

5 egg whites

500 gm butter

350 gm castor sugar

130 gm cake flour mixed with 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

60 gm almond meal

4 tbs condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Spice mix: 1 cinnamon bark (size of your pinky), half fresh nutmeg, 12 cardamoms (shelled), 12 cloves, 1 small piece of dried ginger (about 1/4 of your pinky), a teaspoon of fennel. – Blend fine, sieve, blend, sieve until you have really fine powder – mix with the cake flour.

Rempah: Kulit kayu manis (sebesar kelingking), setengah biji buah pala, 12 biji pelaga (buang kulit), 12 cengkih, 1 keping halia kering (1/4 jari kelingking), 1 sudu kecil jintan manis – kisar hingga halus, ayak, kisar lagi hingga jadi macam tepung. Gaul dengan tepung kek.


Grease and line an 8″x 8″ cake pan.

In your stand mixer, beat the butter and condensed milk till fluffy and white

In another bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff, slowly add castor sugar and keep whipping till glossy like meringue. Add egg yolks, keep beating till pale and thick. Add vanilla essence.

At this point, pre-heat your oven grill.

Add the butter mix to the egg mix gradually and keep beating till well amalgamated. Add the almond meal. Finally add the cake and spice mix. Mix gently.

Put a scoop and a half of the cake mix into the pan and spread gently. Bake till golden. Take it out. Press gently with a spatula (I don’t have the cake leveler thing). Brush with a small amount of melted butter. Add another layer and bake. Repeat until all cake mixture is done.

As you are layering, only use the top grill heat. Once all the layers are done, use both top and bottom heat and bake for about 10 minutes.


About mumstech
Retired at 40 after working in various industries including banking and financial services, oil and gas as well as higher education.Now a stay-at-home mum, cheerleader for husband and son, cleaner, nutritionist, cook, laundry lady, driver, clerk cum administration assistant, public relations, personal assistant... I never knew that squeaky clean floors can give me such satisfaction!

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