Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

My mother used to make something we would call 10-Egg Cake, a name based on the number of eggs baked into it. Spekkoek, or Thousand Layer Spice Cake, is a similarly egg-laden concoction. Though the name is more poetic than actual, it’s composed of multiple layers, almost crepe-like in consistency, and subtly flavored with a blend of fragrant ground spices. The striated appearance of this Dutch-Indonesian specialty is formed layer by layer through the unusual method of baking each one under a broiler before adding the next.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

Requiring almost a whole dozen eggs, this is a celebratory sort of cake. Though Spekkoek is culturally most often associated with such holidays as New Years, Christmas or Ramadan, it seems perfect for welcoming spring with given the abundance of farm-fresh eggs that mark the commencement of the season.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

The eggs are separated and the whites beaten into fluffy peaks, then folded into a mixture of egg yolks, butter, sugar, and a minimal amount of flour. Though the number of eggs could be reduced, we like the custardy, moistness from using the full amount.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

A mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves is folded into half the batter for a contrasting hue. As the flavor is utterly dependent on the freshness of your spices, this may be a good time to update your supply. Given the small amount of flour called for, we imagine this cake would take readily to the many gluten-free substitutes now available.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

Alternating between spice and egg batters, a thin layer is poured one at a time into a cake pan, then placed under the broiler to set before adding the next. To help keep track of cooking time, setting a timer for 2 minutes per layer eases the process, which can take from 45 minutes up to an hour, depending on one’s patience and agility. As the layers cooked, we noticed a few bubbles forming; for more even-looking stripes, they may be poked and deflated before moving onto the next layer.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake
Instead of a 9 inch pan, we used an 8-inch one for a taller version. While 12 layers is the mark of a well-made cake, it may be a matter of practice but the batter seems to allow for only 8 layers. The richness of this cake calls for it to be sliced thinly, and is especially amenable to being served alongside a strong cup of coffee, regardless of the time of day.

Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

10 large eggs, separated
1 pinch salt
½ pound butter, softened
1 cup | 7 ounces sugar

1 cup | 4.25 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

– Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a clean bowl and set aside. Next, cream the butter and sugar together with the electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until smooth, then gently fold the flour into the egg yolk mix.
– Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mix, and gently fold together. Continue adding and folding in the remaining egg whites, one third at a time. Divide the batter between two bowls. Combine the spices, then add to one of the bowls; fold the spices into the batter until well-mixed.
– Line the bottom of a buttered 9″ round cake pan (or springform pan) with parchment paper. Pour about 1/2 cup of the spice batter into the pan, spreading to form a thin layer. Place pan under a preheated broiler until the layer is firm and very lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Spread 1/2 cup of the plain batter over the top and broil until firm. Repeat layering and broiling until all the batter is used, approximately 8 layers total.
– Let the cake cool, then remove from pan. Sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar. Serve in thin slices. May be kept covered in an air-tight container or in the fridge for a week, or wrapped in foil and frozen.

Adapted from Food.com. Submitted to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Simona at BricioleThough technically Spekkoek doesn’t contain herbs, which refers to the leafy parts of plants, they’re often grouped with spices, which are the roots, bark and seeds.

Local ingredients: Eggs from Brandmoore Farm; and organic cultured butter from Casco Bay Butter Co.

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28 Responses to Spekkoek — Thousand Layer Spice Cake

  1. Chris says:

    Whoa! Definitely incorrect, from a cholesterol point of view. In addition, the Dutch word “Spek” usually means “Bacon”, which might indicate it was once even more dangerous…. Looks delicious, though.

    • Depends on which studies you’re reading ;) And thanks for the reminder about “spek,” which refers more to it’s stripy appearance than any actual inclusion of bacon, though that might be an idea worth exploring…

  2. janebalshaw says:

    Looks amazing! I always wondered how that layering was done…thanks for the history lesson. Jane

  3. Jane Ward says:

    Wow, a cake I’ve never heard of before! It looks both unusual and delicious.

  4. Norma Chang says:

    I am aware of the cake but not one that I would attempt, lack the patience. You did an excellent job.

  5. Jean Eno says:

    I’LL PAY YOU TO BAKE ME ONE!!!! PRETTY PLEASE!? You know how to find me! (Or should I say I know how to find you, haha!)

  6. Annie says:

    I love reading and learning about new recipes. This one looks DEEE-licious!

  7. Nandini says:

    It looks so yummy :-). This cake sounds so similar to the Goan Bebinca we make for christmas just minus the spices, we use nutmeg and coconut milk. I love learning about different food cultures. What a pleasant surprise.

    • Thanks for the tip, Nandini! They do look similar, with coconut milk for the Bebinca instead of butter, making it more pudding-like. Reminds me of another favorite dessert, Hawaiian Haupia.

  8. Simona says:

    I had never heard of this cake, whose preparation sounds like an exercise in patience and precision. But the result is well worth the effort: what a beauty! And for an egg lover like me, using an abundance of eggs is a pleasure. Thank you for contributing to WHB.

    • We first had this cake at a potluck featuring Indonesian food, and have been wanting to try out the recipe ever since. The process of baking it sounds more intensive than it turned out to be, which went by surprisingly quickly!

  9. elena says:

    This cake is beautiful, the spices give the perfume, the eggs give softness, thanks for sharing the recipe, bye

  10. Karen says:

    Wonderful job on the cake…I had something similar at a cafe in Munich.

  11. cathy6c says:

    I’m not sure I have the patience to execute this many layers but it looks well worth the effort – from WHB – cathy from Delaware Girl Eats

  12. lucia says:

    It’s an interesting recipe, it looks delicious!!! Cheers

  13. Dana Fashina says:

    Love this! What a great use of spices!! You’re quite the creative cook!

    – Dana of http://ivegotcake.wordpress.com

  14. tasto says:

    Ooh, this looks amazing! As an NH transplant living in the Netherlands, this is a cake I’ve learned to love. Can’t wait to try making it myself!

  15. Nicholas Tan says:

    Tasted this Kue Lapis in Jakarta in 1985. It was baked by an old lady especially for her party that include royalties from the embassy. She is not here today. Since then on every of my visit, I never leave Jakarta without a Kue Lapis ( Layered cake ) or Spekkoek….. Spek – Koek sound like Kue.
    I am still searching for my first taste of 1985.

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