Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Cake that Rocks My CNY

To me, Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the major festive celebrations of the year. The whole reunion dinner, steamboat, pineapple tarts, love letters (The edible kind. Valentine's over, my dear.), spicy prawn rolls, kok zai (crispy shells encasing sweet chopped peanuts), nian gao (New Year Cake) and mandarin oranges usher in the mood for family gatherings and visits, ang bao collecting, snack attack and unfortunately, over-eating.

But I just love CNY. My family gets together and bake kueh lapis(Thousand Layer Cake). This seems to be some sort of tradition since I was in kindergarten. My Dad told me that even before I was born some 23 years ago, he and Mum used to bake these cakes for extra cash during CNY. Although I've been helping out through the years, this year was my first time assuming the lead role. All the long, I've helped out in the measuring, mixing, baking etc but getting everything together and knowing and coordinating all aspects of the kueh-lapis-making session was a different thing. Being my first time in the lead role, the resultant cake did not match up to my Mum's version. While mine tasted equally good, the layers seem thicker and not as consistent as hers.

So here's a short intro of my Kueh Lapis mania.

You know there's some serious churning when the KitchenAid looks like this. Keep out.

Part of the magic is when butter, sugar and eggs combine.

The delicious-smelling Kueh Lapis batter. Did I mention I added XO into this? The bitter-sweet lingering aroma of the alcohol drives me crazy. And I bet also my neighbours.

Even baking two cakes at the same time nearly took halve my life away. I took 14 hours of non-stop baking action to churn out another four Kueh Lapis.

Looks like a normal cake? Check out the huge, happy empty glass container at the back. You should have seen the even happier cow.

Now it looks like a normal and UGLY cake.

Slice away and you'll reveal the precious layers inside. Simply B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

Kueh Lapis is a VERY tedious cake to bake. Unlike most cake recipes that call for the ingredients to be mixed, dumped into the baking dish and chucked into the oven, Kueh Lapis is painfully made one layer at a time. Each layer takes about 10 minutes to bake and considering that the cake could possibly consist of about 15 layers, you get what I mean by TEDIOUS. I started baking non-stop late on a Friday after school at about 10+pm and ended at 8.30am the next morning. Maybe that's why the layers were generally thicker than normal. Thick layers could indicate a squeeze to finish the cake batter, or just mere impatience or, in this case, sleep deprivation.

A good Kueh Lapis cake should be sufficiently moist with a good dose of rempah (mixed spices). The layers that make up the cake should be of a consistent colour (from consistent baking time in the oven) and not be too thick. Too faint a colour from being baked too short a time and the cake loses its fragrance. Personally, I use my family's Kueh Lapis as the benchmark for the cake. I have found few worthy challengers that can actually topple it.

But just a word of caution for those with high cholesterol and heart problems, go ahead and enjoy Kueh Lapis but in moderation as it contains a lot of butter, sugar and eggs. After baking eight Kueh Lapis, I have used up enough eggs that could have been potentially sufficient to raise an army of chickens.

The Hungry Cow wishes one and all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Chinese New Year. Go visit the relatives. Go collect the ang paos. Go pig out on those once-a-year goodies.

Chew On This: I had actually wanted to sell these Kueh Lapis for CNY but was too caught up in school work to plan the sale. Oh well, maybe I'll make it available round the year on this blog. A good Kueh Lapis can be eaten anytime, not necessary just during CNY. Do let me know if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

wow! major baking project! i'm thoroughly impressed :) so how much is one cake ?
- skinnyepicurean

The Hungry Cow said...

Hi Mia, yeah. In fact, it seems as if something is a miss without baking Kueh Lapis during CNY. It would be $40 for a ~1.2kg Kueh Lapis.

cal said...

wow, looks really yummy. i haven't eaten kueh lapis these few years!