My knitted bakers. I even knitted the cooker!
I asked my son which cake he wanted for his birthday and he said, “Castella”.
Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs. Its origins are found in Castilla (Spain).
Now a specialty of Nagasaki, the cake was brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. The name is derived from Portuguese Pão de Castela, meaning “bread from Castile”. Castella cake is usually sold in long boxes, with the cake inside being approximately 27 cm long.
Castella is widely available in Japan. You can buy a long cake in a box or slices almost anywhere; department stores, super markets or even at convenience stores. It is somewhat similar to Madeira cake, but it is much much lighter and very little oil is added. It does not have raising agents.
I didn’t even think of baking Castella at home when I lived in Japan. But my boys love it, so I started experimenting a few years ago.
It is a simple sponge cake. It cannot be too difficult, can it?
But I found a few obstacles. First, most recipes tell you to use many eggs, 12-13 eggs. I am not a very experienced baker and when the quantity of eggs exceed 5, I get nervous.
And where am I going to cook such a big cake mixture?
Traditionally, it is baked in a large wooden mold, but surely, I do not have one. Some suggest to make your own newspaper origami mold and line it with a tin foil, but I wasn’t convinced.
So, I tried my own version, reducing the quantity of eggs and rest of the ingredients.
You can bake in a cake tin. I recycled a cardboard box to achieve the traditional square shape.
6 egg yolks (size L; could do with 5 yolks)
5 egg white
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 Tbsp Mirin Japanese sweet wine
2 1/2 Tbsp Hot water
1 Tbsp cooking oil
150 Strong bread flour, shifted
160 C (gas mark 4) for 30 min.
1. Beat egg white until soft peaks, add sugar little by little and beat until stiff peak forms.
2. Add egg yolk to the mixture, one at a time and beat well.
3. Mix hot water and honey and Minin sweet wine in a separate bowl to melt honey. Add it to the egg mixture. Add oil.
4. Add bread flour and mix until combined.
5. Bake at 160 C (320 F) for 30 mins.
6.Take it out of the oven. Wrap with the cling film when it is cooled. Leave it over night. (This may be the most difficult part of the recipe. We want to eat it right away!)
There are many different recipes and I have tried a lot of them, but I like this one. You could beat the eggs without separating yolks and whites, but it takes ages to make the eggs fluff that way. Some recipes say to bake at much higher temperature, but that makes the cake cook too soon and make the centre collapse after taking it out of the oven.
And here is what I made.
It is moist and soft with touch of honey flavour. You have to try this.