Life Getting Bland? Make An Indonesian Spice Cake


James Oseland (new editor-in-chief of Saveur) has a spicy new cookbook called “Cradle of Flavor” that’s full of vibrant, exotic recipes from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. When it first arrived, I could’ve made Gado-Gado (a Javanese “potpourri” of raw and cooked vegetables) or The Soto King’s Chicken Soup (Soto Ayam Lamongan) but instead I made cake. I like cake very much, more than most things, and making an Indonesian Spice Cake (Spekkuk) was the thing I wanted to do.

To make this cake you need a tube pan. I bought one a few years ago when I was on a health kick–a health kick that involved Angel Food Cake. The health kick faded and so did the tube pan but it was great to drag it out for this dessert.

This dessert was a big success: the ingredients are simple and easy to find and the ratio of butter, egg, flour and sugar makes for a wonderful texture: crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. A famous Parisian food blogger came over for a bite and gave it a thumbs up. She wrote later, in an e-mail: “That is one buttery, flavorful cake!”

Lately I’ve been typing up recipes I love with the belief that this is good advertising for the cookbook author. As long as I don’t type up the whole cookbook, it creates an incentive–assuming you try this recipe and love it–for you to go out and buy it. If I hear from James Oseland’s people and they want me to take down this recipe, I will. But assuming they don’t write, you can find the recipe after the jump!

Indonesian Spice Cake (Spekkuk)

from James Oseland’s “Cradle of Flavor”


2 cups (8 1/4 ounces/235 grams) sifted cake flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) unsalted butter (3 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing

1 2/3 cups (13 ounces / 370 grams) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C). Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch (23-centimeter) tube pan with 3 1/2 inch (9 centimeter) sides (or, my preference, use a nonstick pan of the same size but don’t grease and flour it.)

2. Resift the sifted flour along with the baking powder, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl. Now, resift the flour mixture and then set it aside.

3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the butter until it’s soft and very pliant, about 1 minute (or 4 to 6 minutes by hand with a wooden spoon). Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes (or 6 to 8 minutes by hand).

4. One at a time, add the 4 whole eggs and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (or 5 minutes by hand).

5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 equal parts, beating on low speed or stirring with the wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and the flour is well combined with the butter mixture. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and continue to beat or stir until they’re well mixed into the batter.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Place on the middle oven rack and bake until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour (though I’d recommend checking it after 45 minutes).

7. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. If necessary, carefully run a thin knife around the perimeter and the inner rim of the cake to help loosen it from the pan. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift it off of the cake. Turn the cake right side up and let it cool on the rack.

8. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with the powdered sugar, if desired.

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