SIBU: Sarawak’s signature Kek Lapis has evolved over the years to suit customers who are increasingly health conscious.
Kek Lapis Sarawak maker Siti Nazirah Bolhi said in the past, the cake had a higher fat and sugar content.
“Over time, kek lapis has gone through developments and changes to suit the people of today, who are more health conscious,” she said.
The trend now, she said, is for various natural flavours blended with original heritage recipes to suit modern tastes.
“The main ingredients are still there, but I believe all kek lapis makers have their own secret ingredients. I like to call them ‘passwords’, that give a special quality to my cakes.”
Siti makes 100 varieties with the most popular being Awan Nano, Madu Tiga, Snow White, Chocolate Chips, Darul Qayyum and Mahawangsa.
She believes the trend for this Aidilfitri will be cakes with a fan pattern.
Siti may only have a simple stall at the Sibu Central Market, but her cakes are delivered overseas to countries such as Korea and China.
The winner of three Kek Lapis competitions actually began her business by chance, when her friend bought a kek lapis for her to try.
“I placed it on the table with the salted fish and vegetables (at my stall), and suddenly there was this customer who asked me about the kek lapis that was on the table, but I told her that it was not for sale,” she said.
This prompted Siti and her husband Mohd Zeanal to make 10 simple kek lapis and the cakes were all quickly sold.
“My first intention was to earn extra money from my cakes, that was all, but now it seems that my kek lapis business is booming and it has now become my main business at the Central Market,” she added.
She is proud to have baked a kek lapis for Head of State Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng during a recent celebration.
“My cakes have a different taste and the layers are very thin. The essence of kek lapis is the thinner the layer, the better, and also its unique patterns,” said Siti.
She added that all her cakes are baked instead of steamed as this makes them drier for a longer shelf life.
Her bakery at Indah Road currently employs four workers.
“Six years ago, I did not expect to have this success, but now I begin to see bigger opportunities and it is my dream to have a factory one day. I want to be the first to have a kek lapis factory in Sibu.”
Meanwhile, Nazatusyima Bujang @ Syima from Kek Lapis Station agreed that the Kek Lapis Sarawak available today is quite different from that of the past.
She explained that the sugar content of traditional kek lapis was very high because it was a necessary natural preservative.
“People did not have refrigerators, so they needed more sugar to ensure the cakes would last longer. Now we have refrigerators, so we can reduce the sugar level,” said Syima, who has been in the business for about 10 years.
Syima added that she does not use preservatives in her cakes, which are made mostly from recipes handed down by her grandmother.
“I share the recipes with others. I think recipes are not secrets, it is just the skills that people need to master,” she said adding that the key ingredients are butter, flour and milk.
“The flavours depend on your creativity, and it is a must if you want to evolve in the kek lapis business, you must constantly have more flavours,” she said.
“We’re not just talking about the locals, but those outside the state. So because of that, we cannot just keep to the traditional, we need to improvise our kek lapis from time to time.”
Her most popular kek lapis is Masam Manis, which keeps customers coming back for more because of its unique flavour.