Vanilla Castella Cake


After watching Cooking Tree obsessively on YouTube as my wind-me-downs after a day of socialising, I've become very fixated on creating the most light, pillowy sponge cake. Inspiration
here and here. The cloud like consistency with it's voluptuous bounce has me mesmerized. If uneaten (blasphemy), a very suitable substitute for a cushion or even a plush toy could easily be a by-products from dessert.

These gorgeous sponges fall into a whisked sponge method. Alas, this is another umbrella term used to describe other techniques. Chiffon, Genoise, angel, joconde, it's a bloody mindfield. To add to this level of confusion, the sponge that has hypnotised me is a Japanese sponge called a castella sponge. This method has been on a journey; originally inspired by the Japanese, castella cake was brought over by the Portuguese to Japan, based on pão-de-ló, a traditional Portuguese cake. Over the years, the western cake flavours and levels of sweetness was adapted to suit the newer Japanese consumers and now this type of cake is a favourite within Japan, especially in Nagasaki. This cake popular among south east and east asia with varying countries and territories such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Similar to other whisked cake methods, the castella relies on air incorporated into the batter as a raising agent rather than chemical agents. Therefore, a lot of light folding is involved to saviour this precious air whipped into the batter. Unlike other whisked sponge methods, there are two opportunities to incorporate as much air as possible into the batter. First of all, the egg yolks are whipped with half of the sugar to a thick ribbon stage, doubling if not tripling in volume. Secondly, the egg whites are whipped with the other half of the sugar into a glossy meringue which is fold in at the end of the batter-making process. Usually, whisked sponges have only one whipping operation (whole eggs and sugar whipped/ meringue folded in). Following on, whisked sponges are usually synonymous with dry, stale and flavourless results, this is due to the lack of fat added to the batter. Fat, in this case melted flora, adds moisture and an element of richness, allowing the cake to stay fresher for longer. Not only this, fat hinders gluten production therefore there is less risk of your cake turning out like your old granny's slipper. 

Alas this was my first attempt at the method but definitely not my last; there is a LARGE room for improvement, making this a great challenge!

Troubleshoot - egg, sugar and flour mixture needs to be better incorporated and take longer to stir in the meringue to make the batter more uniform.

Cooking tree, I'm coming for you are your castella cakes. You could say I'm a tad envious. 

Recipe

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 generous tsp vanilla extract
  • 25ml soy milk
  • 120g flour
  • 30g melted spread
Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c fan and line a 20cm round deep cake tin. Take your time doing this as the cake likes to climb the sides of the tin.
  2. Put the egg yolks and 60g of the sugar into a bowl and whip for a good 5 minutes until pale, glossy and when the whisk is removed, a trail of the mixture can stay "afloat" on the rest. 
  3. Whist this is going on, whip the egg whites in a spotless bowl until foamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar into thick stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. Sieve your flour 2 times and add to the egg yolk mixture and fold in gently. It'll be quite dry and very uncooperating. Pour in the soy milk and mix a little more. Remove about 1/6th of the mixture and beat into the melted spread. Pour this back into the egg yolk/flour mixture and fold in. 
  5. Fold in the meringue a third at a time. Take your time!!
  6. Once just combined, pour from a low height into the prepared tin and give it a sharp whack on the counter to release any big air bubbles.
  7. Bake for 27-33 minutes until a uniform deep straw colour. Cool in the tin for 10 or so minutes before removing to cool completely.



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