Kueh lapis or kek lapis is a popular layered cake handmade without any preservatives, artificial coloring or additives and the ingredients used are all natural. It is traditionally served during special occasions such as Christmas, birthday functions or weddings in Malay families. Usually, these cakes taste so good you will want more after the first bite.
Mostly famous in Malaysia and Brunei, almost every lady has to learn this as part of their culture. That is why during the Raya New Year, it would be a good idea to pay a visit to their houses for these lovely pieces of cakes that they will serve.
To the people of Sarawak, Indonesia, it is a family tradition as well and it is there where the kueh lapis originated from. The Indonesian version has been known since the Dutch colonial era, its most famous being Lapis Legit, a spice-flavored multilayered cake, and Lapis Surabaya.
It is extremely labor intensive to bake kueh lapis as it is done layer by layer. The more layers there are, the more time consuming and exquisite the kueh lapis is. They also come in several varieties such as Kek Lapis Sarawak, Kek Sarawak or Kek Lapis.
Each piece is handmade and not mass produced by machines. The kueh lapis can be divided into 2 main types: ordinary layers or with patterns, motifs or shapes, and they have at least two colors. Oven and microwave are mainly used to bake them. The batter consists of butter or healthy vegetable oil, milk and eggs, a strong arm or an electric mixer is required for the preparation. The baked cake has a high, firm texture and the layers are fastened together with jam or a similarly sticky sweet substance.
The cake is very popularly known as lapis legit, which literally means (very) rich layer-cake. The cake is very rich, for a 20x20cm size of the cake contains up to 30 egg yolks, half a kilo butter, and 400g sugar. The name of the cake is derived from its layered structure. This layered structured is achieved because of the many very thin layers of cake that are piled on the top of each other. A good lapis legit has more than 18 layers. It requires a lot of dedication and effort in baking slowly layer by layer, therefore kueh lapis is rather an expensive delicacy.
Many people buy it as a gift for celebration on Chinese New Year, Aidilfitri and Christmas celebrations. It is also served or given as gifts in many local festivities, sometimes in a birthday party. Finally, having kueh lapis for tea is the best thing ever!