Words of Wisdom

In life, we have to choose between the jeans and the cookie jar. Liz Hurley chose the jeans and I chose the cookie jar

~ Nigella Lawson....(on women's body image and her own voluptuous body)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kek Lapis (Layer Cake) 'Misadventure'

I was determined to try making layer cakes on Sunday. My old school buddy was on her 5-day break from work and she kind of challenged me into making one so she can have a taste.

So, there I was. No experience. No hands-on knowledge. Just a couple of layer Cake recipe books as my guideline. I chose to make the ones with cream cheese.

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I got all the necessary gears. The 8"x8" cake tins. The cheese. The butter (real butter!). Grade A eggs. The Hong Kong flour. The caster sugar. The colourings and the flavourings. My Kenwood Patissier.....wink...wink.... . This would be her 'maiden voyage' on my mother's new portable kitchen island handmade by my father.

The one with the Lemon Flavour.............

I tried the first recipe which originally required 14 egg yolks and 7 egg whites. I changed it to only 10 whole eggs. I'm pretty hopeless at separating eggs so as long as the weight of the eggs added up, I'd changed the recipe.

Basically layer cakes are done in two mixtures. The egg mixture and the butter mixture which are then joined together. So, that's what I did.

I was a bit worried about beating the flour together with the eggs as I remember what happened to a cake batter I beat for 12mins once. It was all-purpose flour which had enough gluten and made the cake tough like a badly cut badly cooked piece of beef. But this time it was Hong Kong flour which was low-protein and the mixture was fantastic.

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Then, the cheese and the butter mixture. It looked curdled. My sister theorized that it could be because we kept our cheese in the freezer instead of a normal fridge. Whatever the cause was, my batter looked curdly and runny. Nothing like the pictures in the book. Now THAT was worrying.

The book also included instruction to make the 'layer adhesive' which is a thick mixture brushed on each cooked layer before pouring another one. For this particular recipe, it was a mixture of margarine and condensed milk. I felt that the combo was too rich but I persevered (BIG MISTAKE!).

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Easy to tell when the basic uncoloured batter is cooked.

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How to know when the coloured batter is cooked?

I ran into a snag with the purple layer. This cake had yellow and purple layers with lemon flavour. I really couldn't tell how cooked is the purple layer because the colour is dark enough not to be able to tell the browning. I 'marched on' and diligently brush each layer with the condensed milk/margarine mixture.

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It was strange how the cake didn't layer as high as I thought it would. I already dubbed the cake as a failure before even finishing it. It looked awful.

The TWO recipes baking in the oven.
I don't have the proper picture for the 'lemon' recipe as it turned out so bad that I had to throw it out to the chickens in the backyard.

The one with the Chocolate Rice.........

Being impatient as I am, I was determined to go for the next recipe. It was still cream cheese and no different coloured layers this time. Just sprinkles of chocolate rice on each layer.

So, off I went beating two basic mixtures. I beat the egg mixture with the Patissier and the butter/cream cheese mixture with my hand-held mixer. The Patissier worked fine except I thought the mixture was not as fluffy high as the first recipe. Maybe it was because this second recipe had more flour.

My butter/cream cheese looked curdled at first but this time I continued beating till the curdles were gone finally. So, you DO have to beat the butter/cream cheese THAT long, huh?

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Now this is what it should look like. No curdles. Just fluffy.

AT LAST! My batter looked like the one in the book. Smooth and fluffy.

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I had a good feeling as I layered the cake. I went overboard with the chocolate rice as I'm a chocoholic. I still diligently brushed each layer with the margarine/condensed milk mixture. A LOT.

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The cake looked OK till I turned it over.

Then the cakes were finished and when I turned them over, I didn't like what I saw. I couldn't see the layers and they were way too soft/fragile. What was wrong? It was supposed to be firm, dense but soft to cut. Certainly not fragile and crumbly.

They were oily. I guessed it must have been the 'adhesive' mixture. As for the invisible layering, did I need more time to heat the cake to make each layer browner? How brown should it be?

I tasted the cakes and they did taste rich. Cream Cheese, condensed milk, pure butter and blobs of margarine. Yes, lots of eggs too. It was a bit too sweet for my taste. Maybe I need to reduce the sugar next time because obviously the condensed milk made them sweeter.

So, I decided to re-bake the cakes. Then, I went off to do some ironing while the cakes were heated. BIG MISTAKE!

When I returned, the cakes were overbaked and the outer sides were all crusty. OMG. The cakes were tough and seemed to be missing out the milky rich taste this time. All I got was sweet and too sweet. It was a disaster. It was embarrassing as the whole family saw me slaving over the cakes for the better part of the day and I failed BIG.

The lessons learned were:

1. Don't bother brushing the 'adhesive' on every layer. The cake becomes too sweet. ONLY use the 'adhesive' when I need to make the patterns (similar to the sugar candy in Blackpool, UK).

2. Beat the butter mixture thoroughly till the curdles are gone or else you will not get the smooth and fluffy cake batter.

3. Don't be afraid to beat low-protein flour on high speed for a long time.

4. If you still feel the need to re-bake your cakes, 5 minutes will do. 10 minutes max and that is with watchful eyes. BTW, I was using a gas oven which did not have a temperature indicator. Assuming your baking temperature as 180°C or 350°F or Gas Mark 4.

5. If it's a first-time recipe, always always always halve it at the very least. I had successfully put 1/2kg of cream cheese and 1/2kg of butter to waste. These items are not cheap. Yes, I also wasted 20 Grade A eggs.

6. Don't go overboard with the chocolate rice. Ha...ha...! My cake was kinda crumbly and very fragile because the chocolate melted in speckles.

7. Layer Cakes need to be left to cool first before cutting. THIS IS A MUST. Only proper cooling down could firm it up. Or just put it in the fridge. No wonder I saw stacks and stacks of filled baking trays being cooled off in a video of a Layer Cake House. I was way too impatient and dived into it not long after taking the cakes out of the oven....ha...ha...

Ok. So, at the moment, I certainly do not see myself making money out of selling Layer Cakes. Certainly not AFTER the mess I had made.

Anyway, I haven't given up. I certainly will try again. Yes, I'll remember to halve the recipe next time....ha...ha...


  1. hmmm... why dnt u upload the pics???

  2. mistake make perfect... when will i taste your layer cake???
    hey my baju raye is 1 of the favorite... it becoz of the "manik"..

  3. Hi. Sorry la friend. I actually emailed the story from my office. That explains the missing pictures. So, I just uploaded the pictures today. So, I hope to see your baju raya soon. Send me pic ok.

  4. Hi,

    I made layer cakes few times before, and I always use whole eggs. I never brush the cakes with anything before I put the next layer on, and the layers never seem to peel off. If the cake dun seem to have layers, it means each layer's top is not brown enough before u put the next on
    Most recipes I see uses emulsifiers like ovalette. Never be scared when u beat flour with emulsifiers, they never get tough, even with all purpose flour. :) Never tried bread flour tho :) but it's not because of the low gluten flour. Even with low gluten flour, over mixing will cause it to toughen.

    BTW, if ur cake seems dry the moment it is out from the oven, do not fret. Pack it uncut in a tupperware or ziplock (after thoroughly cooled down). Leave it overnight room temp, it'll be alright. My first layer cake was so so dry, and I did that to salvage it. It turned out fine. Later on, I baked my layer cakes in a waterbath, and I don't have any over browning issues on the base, and my cakes were moist, just that need to cool them off properly uncovered.

    If u have the time, do drop by to look at my layer cakes, I ahve 4 versions.
    One of them :

    Selamat Hari Raya Haji!!!!!