Monday, August 31, 2015

Baking Around the World: Spekkoek

Spekkoek is often mistranslated as "spice cake" because you would think it meant that, when you see the ingredients of the cake. But spekkoek actually means "bacon cake," a reflection of the striping effect of the cake rather than its contents.

I think of spekkoek as the "cake of empire." It would have been impossible for this cake to exist without the European influence and the Indonesian spices. Dutch traders and settlers in the Indonesian islands came together to create this cake, and it is one of the remnants of empiricism worth hanging onto.  It seems like a cake designed to be either simple or impressive - a quick Google search will reveal some spekkoek that are complete works of art, simply unbelievable.

The cake uses a pretty unique technique - the two flavors of batter are alternated in thin layers of the pan and broiled until just set. Ideally the cake is quite high; I didn't pay attention and used a regular cake pan. It worked but I ran out of pan before I ran out of batter. The batter is thinner than normal cake batter, and it is almost like a pancake.

Some of the pictures I've seen have a darker brown batter, and I'm not sure if they are using more clove. One idea I had was to add espresso to help with the contrast. I also added some pandan juice to the white layer, but not enough to alter the texture or flavor really. There was a bit of "oh what is that" that can probably be blamed on the combination of six spices and pandan. (Also I used Chinese Five Spice Powder in place of the star anise that I didn't have on its own so that wasn't very traditional.)

One thing I liked about this cake was that once it cooled, I could slice it into wedges and drop them into a ziploc to take to work. It is sturdy and snackable and would be great for lunches the next day!

I used the recipe from Jenessa's Dinner but there are many out there (plus I thought her suggestion of serving this with maple syrup was strange so I did not do that). I also watched a fantastic instructional video in Dutch from an old grandmotherly type who clearly makes spekkoek pretty regularly (3 at a time!).  I'll add it to the end of this post.


Ingredients: (makes an 8"-9" round cake)

  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground anise 
  • 3 sticks/1.5 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Prep: Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper, and butter well.  Set the oven to broil.
  2. Combine all spices in a small bowl, set aside.  Separate the eggs.
  3. Cream the butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Add the egg yolks, and mix until smooth.
  4. Fold in the flour by hand with a spatula.
  5. Combine the egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, beat with a hand mixer until very stiff.  In four parts, fold the egg whites into the other batter.  Do not over mix.
  6. Divide the batter into two large bowls, stirring the spices into one.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of the spiced batter to the bottom of the buttered pan, spreading it evenly over the bottom.  Cook under the broiler for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.   Spread a 1/2 cup of the plain batter on top of the cooked layer, broiling again for 2 minutes.  Repeat this process of layering/cooking with alternating batters until the pan is full.
  8. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.
  9. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve with maple syrup, whipped cream, or fruit preserves.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to store

1 comment:

tanita✿davis said...

WHOA. This looks... intensely rich and yet imminently edible! It also looks like it WOULDN'T be sturdy, at all, but it's cool that it is!

And the Dutch grandma needs to come live at my house...