Carol Widjaya of Ratu Lemper tapped on age-old family recipes to make her own kuehs.
Although she has more of a savoury tooth than a sweet one, hence her forte in lempers or glutinous rice snacks, Indonesian-born Carol Widjaya grew up enjoying the layered cake kueh lapis and the honeycomb-like kueh bika ambon. Studying abroad in Singapore and the US, she often craved these snacks from home.
Says Carol, “I always got my parents to bring some from Indonesia whenever they visited. When they didn’t, I pretty much had no way of having a slice. None could match up to our expectations. After converting to Islam 13 years ago, it was even harder as the lapis we commonly found in the market in Singapore contained alcohol.”
She began making kuehs herself last year using Medan recipes passed down from both her mom and dad’s families. “In the end, we tweaked the recipes to what we were happy with, namely lapis that is soft, moist, yet not oily, and ambon that is soft yet chewy and springy. As I am very conscious with the amount of sugar intake at home, we also reduced the sugar in the recipe. It has to be just slightly sweet.”
The self-taught baker learnt everything by trial and error. She says that many cakes got burnt or the consistency were just not right in the learning process. Despite the challenges, she feels it is all worth it when the final product tastes just the way she intended it to. “For the chempedak, I like to taste the fruit in my cake, so first I added toppings of slices on top. Then I added slices within—which I found very difficult to cut when we were slicing the cake. The bits worked better and the layers came out a lot neater. Instead of using chempedak essence, we use chempedak puree that we make ourselves.”
Premium Lapis Legit Chempedak
By Carol Widjaya, Ratu Lemper
500g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
30 egg yolks (make sure eggs are at room temperature)
200g raw brown sugar (reduced sugar recipe, but feel free to replace as you like)
1 tbsp ovalette
5 egg whites
100g all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
30g milk powder
150gm chempedak puree
200gm chempedak flesh (flatten some for topping, and dice the rest)
For the chempedak puree
200g chempedak flesh
100g fine caster sugar
1. Make the chempedak puree. Combine the chempedak flesh, fine caster sugar and water in a blender and blend till you achieve a smooth puree. Boil in a saucepot and continue stirring until it thickens to a creamy consistency. If it’s too runny, it’ll affect the batter.
2. Prepare the batter. Cream butter and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy, and colour is pale. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with 150g sugar and ovalette. Beat on high speed until thick and fluffy. In another bowl, beat egg whites with the remaining sugar until you achieve stiff peaks.
3. Fold in the egg white mixture and the egg yolk mixture alternately into the butter mixture, then sift in the flour. Be careful not to overmix. Add in chempedak puree, and mix well.
4. Bake. Preheat oven at 170-180°C. Grease and line the bottom of 8” by 8” baking pan. Lay out pieces of flattened chempedak flesh on the bottom of the baking pan. Pour over 1 ladle of batter to cover the whole layer thinly. Make sure it’s even and covers all corners. Add a bit more if necessary. This will be the top layer of the cake. Bake until the cake is cooked and the top turns golden brown, roughly 5-6 mins. Use top and bottom heat (bake) for this first layer.
5. Adjust oven setting to top heat only at 200°C (grill). Pour over another ladle of batter, spread out evenly, and bake until golden brown, about 4 mins, depending on the oven.
6. Do this repeatedly with the exact same amount of batter until all the batter are used up, randomly spreading diced chempedak bits every few layers. Take note to brown the top of each layer, being very careful not to burn it. You might need to reduce the timing each time. The last layer may just be 2 mins, depending on the oven.
7. After the final layer, bake the whole cake using top and bottom heat at 180°C for about 10mins. Remove cake from oven, turn it upside down on the cooling rack. This will create the nice lines on the cake as it cools down.
8. Once the cake is cooled, cut and serve. The cake keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer, but best enjoyed at room temperature. If thawing them out takes too long, let it spend 5 to 10 secs in the microwave.
Pandan Bika Ambon
By Carol Widjaya, Ratu Lemper
Serves 40 pcs
200ml coconut milk
2 pandan leaves
3 lime leaves
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
50g sugar (reduced sugar version but feel free to add more to your liking)
85g tapioca flour
1/4 tsp pandan paste
1 tsp dry yeast
Preparation of the batter
1. Pour coconut milk in a small pot and boil slowly with pandan and lime leaves. Let it bubble slightly for a minute, mix well and cool it slightly (about 45°C if you have a thermometer).
2. With a mixer, whisk 3 eggs in a bowl until foamy and frothy, and then mix in the salt and sugar.
3. Slowly whisk in the tapioca flour until even and smooth.
4. Slowly add in pandan paste and mix well. It is recommended to add in drop by drop to adjust the brightness of the green.
5. Mix in the yeast.
6. Slowly pour in the warm coconut milk, mixing consistently.
7. Cover the bowl and let the yeast work in the batter for about 2.5 to 3 hrs. Leave the batter in a warm place and stir the mixture slowly every hour.
Baking the cake
8. Preheat oven to 160°C.
9. Warm baking tray by pouring hot water into it and drying it before use.
10. Line the baking tray.
11. Pour the batter into the tray and cover. Let it rest for about 30 mins.
12. Turn the oven on (only under-heat).
13. Place the baking tray on the lowest rack and bake for 35 mins.
14. Turn up the heat to 180°C.
15. Move the cake to the middle rack and bake for another 8 to 10 mins, until the top is golden brown
16. Let the cake cool completely before serving. The cake keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer, but best enjoyed at room temperature. Recommended to microwave or steam to warm cake.