Friday, October 19, 2007

The Art of Kek Lapis

Sarawakians like to think that Kek Lapis belongs to us. Well, within Malaysia, it definitely is. I saw some in Penang before and my Aunt Linda gave me some of her friend's version while we were in KK, Sabah earlier on this year. But they're mainly the usual kek lapis (layer cake) or Greg's Zebra Cake. In Sarawak, we have Kek Lapis, Kek Lapis Corak (Pattern Layer Cake), Kek Lapis Gulung (Lapis Roll).

NEE's San Cha (haw flakes) Lapis

Layer Cake is the most common. The batter is so thinly spread that baking is done with high with top oven fire only. Each layer takes 2 -3 min to cook and next layer is spread on, level and bake again. Repeat process til batter finishes. Layer cakes comes in many flavours but we prefer the ones with original ingredients like prune, yam, chocolate, cheese, san cha, horlick, coffee and the usual traditional ones with spices.

Kek Lapis originated from Indonesia. Apparently it was first brought into the state by an Indonesian lady, who sold & taught the art of lapis in Singapore (weird, most Singaporean only eat the Traditional Indonesian Layer Cake which is with a hint of spices like cinammon and nutmeg).

I guess the local creative ingenuity had reengineered layer cakes into many different varieties and flavour and compositions. Of course the Indonesian ladies who married local men working in timber businesses in Indonesia, actually helped add to the local lapis scene. Sarawak is so closely linked to Indonesia that transfer of 'technology' & 'sociology' easily seeps through.

I haven't been making lapis at all since Chinese New Year. But the Hari Raya celebrations has gotten me in to the mood again.

Ros pased me a book called Kek Lapis Sarawak by a Malay lady called Rabiah Umit. It has many mind-bending psychedelic flower-power patterns, but the recipes suck! It tells people to literally throw everything in the mixer and beat. Ehmmm where got people bake like that unless they're making dry hard rocks.

So that's why I preferred to stick to my usual Indonesian version for very soft & moist cakes. And use it for Pattern Lapis and Lapis Rolls.


There are countless many many patterns one can do with Lapis Rolls. I've tried 4 types only. Like Pattern Lapis, this Lapis Rolls required precision in cutting the cakes and the patterns are formed by 'glueing' the various cuts together with strawberry or apricot jam.

This is the simplest form of Pattern Lapis. By pressing each layers with a mold during baking, wavy curves are created and can be seen once you cut the cakes.

This one took me the whole afternoon. I dont think I want to do this anymore for quite a while. Pattern Lapis is the hardest. Accuracy and precision is required. Otherwise, the cake will look completely off balance. There are so many patterns. Some even have sunflowers or words such as Happy Raya once you cut the cake. Cutting a Pattern Lapis is a true delight!

Tips for buying good lapis:
1) Cake must be moist. If you refridgerate it, you should defrost before serving and it will still be moist
2) Cake should last at least a month or more without any persevatives added if you store in normal refridgeration
3) Layers are even and fine for layer cakes
4) Patterns are nicely balanced for lapis rolls and pattern lapis.
5) Lapis rolls and pattern lapis look nice but taste so so and has a fair bit of colouring included. Beware! Some could be very very sweet.

Dont leave Sarawak without one! Price Guide: Layer Cakes with different flavours should not cost in the range of RM 50 to RM 80 for 8"X 8", depending on the ingredient. Lapis Rolls should not costs more than RM30 per 8" roll. Pattern lapis ranges from RM 90 to RM150 depending on the complexity of the patterns.

Try getting homemade ones if you can. Ask around, there will always be someone who knows someone who sells them.

2 comments:

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

so so impressive!how do ppl make such intricate patterns??if i ever go to kuching i'll order a ton frm u.i've only made lapis once, under a teacher, but the amt of eggs put me off. but it's yummy.

Patty from Canada said...

This is the first time I've ever read someone mention that Rabiah Amit's cake recipes are awful -- and thanks for doing so! I have just ordered her book, so now I know just to use it for design references.

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