Metro Recommends is a regular recommendation of food we love, whether it's an unsung hero we want to share with the world, or a crowd favourite we can't help but sing the praises of.
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“We use about 28 eggs or more in a 20x20cm pan,” the staffer at Barby’s Bakery tells me.
There are many names for what I know as kek lapis – essentially a layer cake – and many versions of it, one quite famous in Sarawak (which is very colourful) and other parts of Malaysia, and Indonesia (where they call it lapis legit) in particular. I remember one trip to Penang, my mum insisted on travelling out to some warehouse in the middle of nowhere in order to get a tin of the stuff; it was incredibly hot, probably mid-thirties, and we sat with the doors to our vans open, legs dangling, refusing to move anywhere before eating our fair share of it. It was the first time I ever had it, and it made my adolescent flavour palate incredibly confused: it’s initially weird but once you adjust to it, delicious.
It is incredibly rare to find it in Auckland. The only place I know for sure has it – please message Metro if you know of any others – is the Indonesian bakery Barby’s on Victoria Street West, which also stocks other Asian buns, pies, cream puffs and treats like kaya toast.
With more than 20 eggs, the cake itself is incredibly rich and moist, almost to the point of oily; it certainly will often leave a residue on your fingertips. The layers are essentially a spice-flavoured butter cake, as there only a few ingredients: margarine or butter, sugar, flour, condensed milk, eggs, and usually a spice powder. The spices vary, but generally include “mixed spices” (cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon).
Although it’s not necessarily difficult, baking this cake can be an incredibly tedious task, as you have to bake each layer individually before building them up upon each other until all the batter is used up. (Barby's Bakery's has 15 layers - I counted.) The flavours always come through better after a couple of days, and you should eat it in tiny slices (sometimes I’ll eat one as big as my pinky finger) because it’s incredibly indulgent and something that should be slowly savoured in your mouth during afternoon tea.
The spices and straight, satisfying layers are what makes this cake really special, and Barby’s Bakery’s version is – though I’m hesitant to use this word – authentic, and delicious. Even if upon first bite it’s not your thing, I’d recommend trying again after your taste buds have time to readjust.
If anything, it’s always good practice to eat something new.
Correction: Metro was originally told this cake requires 20 or more eggs to make. Barby's Bakery has since got in touch to clarify they in fact use 28 eggs to make the lapis legit. Metro apologises for the error.
77B Victoria Street West