(Food styling by Lisa Schumacher) (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune)

Recipe of the Day: Japanese Cake

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It will melt in your mouth
(Food styling by Lisa Schumacher) (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune)

If your favorite part of cake is the sponge instead of the icing (yes, those people exist) then castella cake is the dessert for you. A popular confection in Japan, castella is a honey sponge cake that's made by pouring batter into rectangular or square molds and baking it to perfection before cutting it into long rectangles. 

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The light, fluffy cake originated in Portugal but it made its way to Japan because of its long shelf life. It became a common food for sailors who were out at sea for months at a time. Traditionally, the cake is made with common pantry items like milk, eggs, sugar, flour and honey. Today, many versions of the dessert exist; castella can be flavored with chocolate, powdered green tea and brown sugar. 

Here, Japanese cake stays true to its roots with honey as the dominant flavor. Start the baking process by preheating your oven to 350F and preparing a square cake pan with parment paper. Before making the batter, place your eggs in a bowl of warm water. This is a baking hack that will give your eggs more volume and make them easier to beat into batter. 

Once the cake is done, top it with a glaze by mixing honey with hot water. Allow the cake to cool then place it in a resealable bag and store it in the fridge for several hours to ensure optimal moistness. Serve the cake after a filling meal of ramen, miso soup, shabu-shabu and more incredible Japanese and Japanese-inspired recipes

Japanese Cake

This recipe was originially published in The Chicago Tribune.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose or bread flour, double sifted

Directions

Step 1: Heat oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square cake pan with parchment paper. (Smearing a little butter or shortening in the pan first will help the paper stick.) Top paper with a sprinkling of sugar.

Step 2: Place the eggs in a bowl of warm water (about 100 degrees) until warm, about 10 minutes; drain. Heat a large pot of water to a boil; turn off the heat. Mix 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup honey in a small bowl; set aside.

Step 3: Break 8 eggs into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Place over the steaming pot of water; mix with a hand mixer, adding 1 1/2 cups sugar slowly, 5 minutes. Move the bowl to the stand mixer; beat with the whisk attachment at medium speed, or level 3, 5 minutes. Reduce speed one level; beat, 5 minutes. Reduce speed to lowest setting, beat, 5 minutes. (You want to end beating at the lowest speed so that the batter has small bubbles. The batter is ready when it is thick enough to form soft peaks.) Slowly add the milk and honey mixture. Whisking by hand, add 1 2/3 cups flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Step 4: Pour the batter into the pan up to the top. (Any leftover batter may be baked alongside in lined cupcake or muffin tins; bake these for 20 to 25 minutes.) Bake until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon honey and a little hot water, to make a glaze. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, brush the top with the glaze.

Step 5: Let the cake sit in the pan until cool enough to handle but still warm. Lift out of the pan, paper and all; place in a zip-close bag. Seal; refrigerate several hours. (This step will help keep the cake moist.)

Step 6: Cut off the sides of the cake with a very sharp knife to expose the yellow interior. Cut the cake into small, neat slices. Count on one or two slices of cake per person.

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