What is Spekkoek?

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  • Written By: H.R. Childress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Spekkoek is a dense spice cake made in many layers. It is a dessert most commonly served in the Netherlands and Indonesia. The cake is usually reserved for special occasions since the process of creating the layers is time-consuming and labor intensive.

History suggests that spekkoek was developed by Dutch colonists in Indonesia and the East Indies. The cake was an adaptation of Dutch baking using native spices from the area. It may be related to the German baumkuchen or the Hungarian dobos torte, which are both cakes containing many layers.

The term spekkoek translates literally as pork belly — or bacon — cake, a name derived from the appearance of the dark and light layers. Its Indonesian name is lapis legit, or layer cake. The English translation is often given as thousand layer cake, or thousand layer spice cake. In some parts of Indonesia, the cake is known as spiku.

Lapis legit contains several different spices, generally including cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves. It may also contain ginger or aniseed, and sometimes vanilla extract is also used for flavoring. A spice mix called spekkoek powder, which contains the common spices used in the cake, may be available in grocery markets in Indonesia and the Netherlands.


The cake batter is similar to that of a sponge cake. It contains many eggs — usually at least 10, and sometimes up to 45 or more. Some versions of the cake incorporate both egg yolks and whites, though some use more yolks than whites, and some contain only the yolks.

Butter or margarine is beaten together with sugar and the egg yolks to make the cake. Some recipes also include condensed milk, which is added to this mixture. The egg whites, if they are used, are beaten separately until they form stiff peaks. They are then folded into the mixture of butter, sugar, and egg yolks.

Flour is sifted and folded into the batter. The spices used in the cake are mixed together separately. The batter is divided equally into two bowls, then the spices are folded into one bowl of batter.

Spekkoek is usually baked in a round cake pan or a springform pan. The oven broiler is turned on so that each layer cooks from the top. A thin layer of one of the batter mixtures is spread into the cake pan and baked for just a few minutes. Then a layer of the other batter mixture is added and the cake is put into the oven again. This procedure is repeated until all the batter is gone. Lapis legit usually has at least a dozen and up to as many as 40 layers.


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