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I represent a diverse combination of cultures from around the world. On my dad's side there's Irish, Scottish and possibly a little Native Canadian mixed in there somewhere, but we're not too sure. On my mom's side there's Dutch and Indonesian.
I could have chosen to make any classic dish from any culture, but that wouldn't be as meaningful. Sure it would probably be delicious and I'd learn a lot about it, but I'd prefer to learn a bit about my own culture and, in turn, learn something about myself.
I'm pretty familiar with Scottish, Irish and Dutch food so I opted for something a little outside my comfort zone and also very challenging. Though I am part Indonesian I've never tried any Indonesian desserts like this Kue Lapis Legit (Indonesian) a.k.a. Spekkoek (Dutch) a.k.a. Thousand Layer Cake.
Through my research I found out that this cake was born out of the colonial period in Indonesia when Dutch settlers were melding with the native people. Both cultures influenced each other and out of the diverse sharing of traditions came this cake. Dutch baking methods collided with Indonesian spices.
The symbolism of the layers is poetic. Two cultures, both unique and beautiful, both contributing equally to make something sweet. Everyone has their layers and we would be lucky if they were made of sugar and spice and everything nice.
I like to picture my beautiful Indonesian great great grandmother baking this cake with her loving Dutch husband. It's a sweltering morning on the island of Sumatra and the lazy breeze sends the scent of this new cake whirling through the settlement past banana trees and around mischievous monkeys. She hums a curious tune to herself as she adds the final layer to the cake while he puts another log in the oven.
Kue Lapis Legit (Thousand Layer Cake)
Source: Adapted from The Exotic Kitchens of Indonesia by Copeland Marks' Thousand Layer Cake.
2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 vanilla beans, halved and seeded
20 eggs, separated
2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Note: I doubled the measurements in order for it to fit nicely in a 9 inch spring form pan. If you'd prefer a smaller cake then half this recipe fits snugly in a 9 inch loaf pan.
Preheat the oven to broiler and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch round spring form pan then set it aside.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and vanilla seeds until it's smooth.
In a separate bowl with an electric mixer beat together the egg yolks and half the powdered sugar until it's light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on high speed.
In yet another bowl (yes I know the dishes are piling up but, trust me, it's worth it) with an electric mixer beat the egg whites and the remaining powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
Add the butter mixture to the egg yolks while mixing on low speed. Add the flour next and stir it until it's all combined. Add the egg white mixture and carefully fold it in.
Pour a layer of spice batter into the prepared spring form pan about 1/8 of an inch thick and smooth it out with a rubber spatula until it's even and level. Bake it under the broiler for 1 – 2 minutes until it's just set and barely browned, but not completely baked. Next layer the vanilla batter the same way and bake it under the broiler for the same time. Keep alternating the layers this way until you're out of batter.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and bake your completed cake for about 15 - 20 minutes. This is to ensure the cake is baked through. Let it cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes then remove the outer ring and let it cool completely on the bottom plate of the pan. Flip it upside down and transfer the cake to a cake plate.
Source: Food and Wine's Candied Orange Slices.
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 orange, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Note: The original Kue Lapis Legit recipe recommended garnishing the finished cake with candied fruit, but I thought I'd go one step further and make my own.
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set it aside.
In a medium frying pan combine the water and sugar then bring it to a boil. Add the orange slices and cook them over medium heat, turning them occasionally until the liquid is reduced to a thin liquid and the slices are translucent, about 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low and let them simmer for another 10 minutes or until the syrup is thick and the slices are tender but still intact.
Transfer the slices to the prepared baking sheet and let them cool completely. Reserve the syrup for later.
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp orange juice
Reserved orange syrup
In a small bowl mix together the powdered sugar, orange juice and leftover syrup until there are no more lumps. Add more sugar or orange juice to get your desired consistency. Pour it over the cooled cake until the edges drip slightly. Curl and shape the candied orange slices into ribbons then arrange them as you like on the glazed cake. Enjoy!