Spice & butter cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

A colonial Dutch contrivance, still enormously popular in Netherlands restaurants, is the rijsttafel or ‘rice table’. The rice in question is served with a parade of dozens of small plates of Indonesian food, a take on a nasi padang feast. It is typically rounded off by slices of richly spiced spekuk. This Indo-Dutch cake is made by layering and grilling twenty or more alternating dark and light layers. Beautiful as it looks, I don’t have the patience for such matters. Here is my speedy version, which has all the intoxicating spice flavour and almost custardy texture, but none of the hours of sitting in front of a hot oven.


  • 70 g (½ cup) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 140 g (generous ½ cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 120 g (½ cup) caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated


Grease and line a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F).

Whisk together the flour, a pinch of salt and the spices and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy - this will take about 3 minutes with an electric whisk. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time, adding a spoonful of the spiced flour if it starts to split. Beat in the remaining spiced flour until just combined.

With a clean whisk, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Stir about a third briskly into the batter to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape into the cake tin and shake to level.

Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden and springs back to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.