Monday, October 7, 2013

Recipe: Japanese Castella (Kasutera カステラ) Cake

Castella (カステラ Kasutera) is a popular Japanese sponge cake made from 4 basic ingredients - sugar, eggs, bread flour and honey. A speciality of Nagasaki, Portuguese merchants introduced this cake to Japan in the 16th century. The name is derived from Portuguese Pão de Castela, meaning "bread from Castile". It looks similar to a Madeira cake (also associated with Portugal) - the same dark brown crust and pale golden cake but Castella contains no butter at all.

Castella (カステラ Kasutera)

I had my first taste of Castella, all the way from Japan, many years ago when a friend gifted it to us. I always remember the cake because it had a distinctive honey taste on the upper top layer. When I saw Nami's recipe for Castella cake, I  was very excited and quickly bookmarked it on Pinterest. Last week, I finally made it at home.

This is very easy to make - the key is to beat the eggs until it is thick and pale golden and falls in ribbons when the whisk attachment is lifted. For Castella, bread flour is used to achieve the right texture. I baked the cake in a 180°C oven for 30-35 minutes without the fan setting. The top is a glorious dark brown when it is ready and slightly spongy to the touch.

Castella is a cake which you need to have patience with. Despite it smelling very good right out of the oven, you need to wrap it up with cling film and place it in the fridge overnight for it to develop a fine, moist texture. Try it right out of the oven, and I promise you it's not very nice. Leave it in the fridge for 12 hours and the texture has transformed and it will be moist and delicious. When I took the first bite, I knew this was the taste I remembered from many years ago, so thank you Nami for this amazing recipe! Delighted that this recipe worked on my first attempt.

Look at the beautiful cake!

As mentioned earlier in the post, Castella has a distinctive honey taste, especially on the upper layer where honey is applied after it is taken out of the oven. My kids call this "honey cake", and my boy especially loved it very much.We enjoyed having this during our tea time break. 

Awww... Baby C says "I heart mummy's Castella" too;)

Japanese Castella Cake
Recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes
Makes 2 loaves

For the cake:
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (218 g) sugar
1 cup + 2 1/2 Tbsp (200 g) bread flour
5 tbsp honey
2 ½ tbsp warm water

To glaze:
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp warm water

You will require:
2 1-lb loaf pans (8.50 x 4.50 x 2.75 inch / 22 x 11 x 7 cm)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (no fan). Base-line the loaf pans and grease the sides well.

2. Sift the bread flour twice. Set aside.

3. Mix the honey and warm water together. Set aside.

4. In an electric mixer, add the eggs and whisk until combined and frothy (Speed 2). Then, add the sugar and beat the eggs on medium speed (Speed 6) for about 6-8 minutes, until the volume of the eggs have increased by 4 times and when the whisk is lifted, the mixture should fall in thick ribbons. The egg mixture will be a pale yellow in colour.

5. Add the honey mixture (from Step 3) and then whisk on low speed (Speed 2) until combined.

6. Add 1/3 of the bread flour, then whisk on low speed (Speed 2) for 15 seconds, until just blended. Then, add another third and whisk for a further 15 seconds. Add the remaining portion and whisk for about 1 minute, until well combined. Do not overmix.

7. Divide the batter between the two pans, filling to about 80% full.

8. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the cake will feel spongy when pressed with finger.

9. Mix the honey and warm water for the glaze in a bowl and apply the honey mixture on top of the cake with a pastry brush.

10. Important Step: Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter top and invert the loaf pan onto the plastic wrap. Gently peel off parchment paper on the bottom. Immediately wrap the cake to keep the moisture in and place in the fridge while it's hot for at least 12 hours; this will help the cake's flavour develop and also improve the texture. I kept it in the fridge for 24 hours, before slicing.  Store in the fridge with the top side facing down. 

11. To serve, slice off the sides of the cake with a sharp bread knife and cut into 3/4 to 1 inch thick
slices (you get 8-10 slices in total). Bring the cake to room temperature before serving. The cake can be frozen for up to a month or keep in the fridge for 5 days.

*Speed indicated is from KitchenAid mixer.

A short video I posted on Instagram

*I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #1 Oct 2013 : Japan hosted by Alan from travelling-foodies.

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  1. Looks so good and excellent plating n deco... *drools* :D

    1. Thanks KC! I knew you would like this recipe as you mentioned it before in the past. Hope u get to try it soon too.

  2. this cake looks quite perfectly prepared! i'd want a fresh and very thickly cut slice :D

  3. Hi Yen! Nice cake and I really admire your effort to set up the "props" for the photo shoot! Well done!

    1. Thanks Alvin :) I have all my "props" in one cupboard so not so difficult lah :) And just had to pop into my garden for 2 mins to pluck the flowers.

  4. Hi Yen
    Your cake look so well baked. No wonder you get a heart from it but I guess not just once, right? Bet this cake must be yummy.

    1. Thanks Mel. Always a great feeling when things I cook/bake get approval from my kids.

  5. Ooh now you're taking me back! These castella cakes were everywhere when I lived in Japan. Not that I'm complaining at all :) Your castella cake looks fab!

  6. Hi Yen, nice cake! The texture look so soft.

    Have a nice day,

  7. So long did not make castella cake, one piece please first..

  8. I borrowed this Japanese dessert book from the library last week and there's this Castellas recipe but with butter :P Nami's recipe sounds way better than from this book :D You baked that cake beautifully !

  9. I'm so happy you posted this! Thank you so much for having faith in my castella recipe and giving it a try! Even though it took me a while to finalize this recipe, it's so worth it when someone tries it and the cake comes out so perfectly like this! You made me so happy Yen! It's my kids' favorite snack these days and I need to make them again... good to have 2 castellas because I think we can finish one way too quickly! Thank you again for your kind mention, Yen! xoxo

    1. Hi Nami, I can't thank you enough for always sharing your wonderful Japanese recipes with us all. Just wish I can try them all :)

  10. Very soft and delicate texture. Like!

  11. Hi Yen,

    You have baked your Castella very well. I have to try Nami's recipe too :D


  12. LOL, lovely shot of your girl! :D I can almost smell the cake from here! :D

  13. This is nice! Light and simple, love it! :D

  14. So soft cakes. Really wanna to have this soft, cute, yummy, healthy food guide.

  15. Such an amazing texture on the cake...loved it

  16. Yen, your castella cake looks so delectable!! It looks so soft and yummy. Indeed, you have made Nami proud with your rendition of it :) Awesome!

  17. Beautifully baked castella cake with nice texture! Looks so Yummy! ;)

  18. perfect! I heard its quite a difficult cake to bake because of its texture...

  19. I had made a few of this cake before during the craze period among the was awesome! Yours looks perfectly browned on the top!

  20. Yen, I thought this cake is labour intensive. I saw a Japanese video and there was a lot of beating going on. So tiring!

  21. Hi Yen,
    I baked this. Nice cake. But sweet. I reduced the sugar when I did my 2nd bake.
    I've posted the pic and recipe on my blog.

  22. Didn't you use cake flour? It seems odd that you used bread flour.

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  24. Does this cake has too much egg smell?

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