Spekkoek (Indonesian Layer Cake)

A bright green piece of spekkoek, Indonesian layer cake, tempts the viewer with its lush colour that you can almost taste. It looks dense but oh so good. Is your mouth watering yet?

It’s green!

I know, I know. The spekkoek in the picture was made with pandan, a bright green plant extract. This recipe, however, uses spices for flavour, but that makes the green layers brown instead. Still very yummy, though as you can probably tell from the picture and the ingredients, this is a dense, sweet cake! Cut it wisely…

Advanced tip: if you use two cake tins, you can have one in the oven while you put another layer on the other.


500 g / 2.2 cups butter
400 g / 2 cups light brown sugar
10 eggs, separated
2 tsp lemon juice
250 g / 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp salt
3 tbsp cream
5-6 tsp ground aniseed
10 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cardemom
1 vanilla pod


  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high (175C / 350F). Grill? Yes, grill! Start in the middle of the oven, changing to a lower position once your cake gets higher.
  2. Slice open the vanilla pod and remove the marrow.
  3. Add the butter to a bowl with half the sugar and all of the vanilla and lemon juice and cream it together.
    In Holland, we use a special kind of sugar that’s called basterdsuiker. Adolescent that I am, I would love to translate that with bastard sugar, but unfortunately, there isn’t really a similar product outside of the Netherlands. Light brown sugar comes closest as it also has that cool, almost alive quality. You pour it out and it keeps moving. After all these years of baking, that still fascinates me!
  4. Beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until frothy.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  6. Mix the sugary vanilla butter with the egg yolks along with the flour, salt and cream.
  7. Carefully mix in the egg whites.
  8. Divide the mixture over two bowls and add the spices to one of the bowls. Mix well.
  9. Grease either a larger cake tin (mine is about 9.5 inches) or two smaller ones (I use 8 inch ones). Whether size matters is for you to decide. Line the bottom with baking paper.
  10. Now comes the fun part. Add a thin layer (2-3 mm / 1/16 in) of batter to the tin and bake it for around 3 minutes. Poke it with a skewer to see if it’s done, but don’t let it get too brown or it’ll dry out.
  11. Then, add a layer of the other colour and bake that for 3 minutes until it’s done.
  12. Keep alternating layers. Traditionally, the top layer has to be the darker colour.

Now, I know it smells amazing and you really want to have a taste, but do you remember how much butter and sugar you put in there? Allow me this moment of being a Mum to tell you to enjoy this cake with as many people as you can bear to share it with.

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