Kasutera cake (カステラ, Japanese honey-sponge cake) is one of my favorite cakes ever – filled with many fond memories of weekends spent at my grandmother’s house where she would always have some on hand for us kids. I’ve never been a huge fan of American-style cakes, which I typically find too heavy and sweet. Growing up, it was always the lightly sweetened and airy Asian-style sponge cakes that I craved. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that it was one of the hardest cakes to make though, that I thought of trying to make it myself at home. I’m generally very hit or miss when it comes to baking attempts – but hey, there’s no yeast involved and very few ingredients, so I figured I had a chance!
Needless to say, the first attempt was a complete failure (though it smelled absolutely delicious and LOOKED perfect when I initially took it out of the oven). The inside of the cake came out heavy, fudgey, and just…totally wrong as you can see from the pic below. It seems like from all the recipes/blog posts I read online that it was practically required you fail at least on your first attempt.
There seems to be two general methods of making kasutera – one involving beating the entire egg together over a hot water bath for a really long time, and the other is to separate the eggs and beating the whites into a meringue before adding the egg yolks a little at a time. The first time I used the recipe from Just Hungry which followed the first method of using the hot water bath and had pretty clear instructions. This seems to me the more difficult method – but most of the recipes I came across did use this way of making it so I would still like to try my hand at it again someday.
For the second attempt I used the meringue method following the steps and video linked in Yummy Workshop’s post. I did the last few steps after the meringue part like the video and combined things by hand rather than doing it all in the mixer but I’m sure either is fine. I do highly recommend watching the Youtube video just so that you can get a good sense of all the steps and consistency of the batter (it’s in Japanese but still helpful even if you don’t know the language). This method is MUCH faster than the hot water bath, and I think more fool-proof. Definitely recommend using bread flour rather than all-purpose.
A few adjustments:
- Using the amount of ingredients mentioned on Yummy Workshop’s post (which is half of the amount in the video I think), I got exactly enough batter for one 9″ loaf pan, lined with parchment paper, and shortened the baking time to just 50 minutes for my oven.
- After taking it out of the oven, I brushed the top of the cake with a tablespoon of honey mixed with a tablespoon or so of hot water and then turned it out of the pan onto parchment paper (leaving the parchment paper it was baked in on as well), and wrapped the whole thing while hot in saran wrap, and then sealed it into a big plastic baggie and stuck it in the fridge overnight. It’s super important do this before the cake cools down in order for it to retain its moist sponginess. I brought the cake to work and sliced it up to be enjoyed while viewing the miniature Japanese zen rock gardens created by the students in a class our department offered – it was quite the scene with one of the professors making matcha while the other played a Japanese flute.