Indonesian Spice Layer Cake (Spekkoek)

Photo by cleong/flickr

This is no ordinary cake. The baking process requires time and patience since the many layers (usually 18-20) are baked and grilled one at a time!

Makes 1 x 20 cm (8 in) round or square cake.


10 egg yolks
375 g/12 oz/11/2cups caster sugar
250 g/8 oz butter
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
8 egg whites
185 g/6 oz/11/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
extra melted butter (optional)


In electric mixer whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and light. Cream butter with 3/4 cup sugar and the vanilla essence until light and smooth. In a clean, dry bowl whisk egg whites until stiff, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk again until thick and glossy.

Mix egg yolk and butter mixtures together well. Fold in the flour, then the egg whites. Divide mixture into two almost equal portions and mix the ground spices into the slightly larger portion.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F). Generously butter a 20 cm (8 in) springform cake pan with softened butter. Line the base with baking paper and brush with melted butter. Dust with flour and tip out excess.

Put a measured amount of spice batter into the tin, approximately 1/3 cup. Spread the batter thinly with a spatula and tap the tin very firmly on the bench top to help the batter spread thinly and evenly. Bake in the centre of the oven until firm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat grill and place the tin under the grill about 15 cm (6 in) from the heat for 30-40 seconds until top is evenly browned. Watch carefully to ensure it doesn't burn but achieves a coffee colour.

Spread the same amount of plain batter over the spicy layer, tapping the tin to ensure a thin, even layer. Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes, then grill as before. Continue with alternate layers of spiced and plain mixture until the batter has been used.

For those who enjoy a really buttery cake, the extra melted butter may be used to brush lightly over each layer after grilling and before the next layer of batter is spread over.When the last layer has been baked, test by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should emerge slightly buttery. If there is any uncooked batter clinging to it, bake the whole cake for a few minutes longer. Cool completely, then remove the side of the springform pan and cut the cake into thin, small slices as it is very rich.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)