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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Matcha Castella - Japanese Sponge Cake

Matcha Castella 4

Castella Collage

Matcha Castella 7

Matcha Castella

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the Castella Cake but I have been really inspired by Ju's (Little Teochew) pictures that I decided to give this a try.

I had eaten the Castella a few times more than 10 years ago. I can no longer remember the taste nor the texture of the cake possibly because I was not really partial towards it. I vaguely remember that it was too sweet for my liking. In fact, when I was in Tokyo in Feb last year, I had contemplated whether to buy some home ( they do look really elegant) but decided against it for I was afraid of the sweetness. I am very mindful about the level of sweetness in the cakes and cookies I bake because my family generally do not take well to sweets. My mum is diabetic and my vegetarian sister, who would talk to me about biodynamic food, continues to pester me to use wholemeal flour and eliminate sugar altogether.   Duh (She just does not understand that cooking is Science, you just can't eliminate certain ingredients without affecting the stability, texture and taste of the final product!)

I made 2 attempts at baking the castella with Makiko San's recipe posted in Just Hungry. My first attempt used her exact recipe with Honey, which is the traditional Castella flavour. I took the cake out of the oven 20 mins too early. The positive part about this was, it yielded a very soft and moist texture but the surface layer was somewhat soggy especially after I had brushed the honey water syrup over it. And... it was too sweet for my taste.

In my second attempt, I decided to modify Makiko's recipe by cutting the sugar by 30% and adding matcha powder to it. Hence, by doing this, I was actually eliminating 30% of the sweetness from the sugar and the sweetness from the honey as well. This time, I also made sure that I baked the cake for 50mins as recommended by Maki.

The end result is a fragrant sponge cake which is not too sweet but I think if I were to repeat this again, I would bake the cake for 40mins to get a more tender texture. My matcha castella tastes suspiciously like steamed egg sponge. (鸡蛋糕) I wonder if the texture will become finer if I were to use a mixture of bread flour and plain four. I feel there is too much 'gluteny' feel to the cake. Also as I scrutinised Castella maker, Fukusaya's website (link kindly provided by Ju), I noted that their process called for beating the egg white and egg yolk separately.

A note of appreciation - both Ju and Maki's emphasis on being patient and diligent cannot be overstressed. I never liked to work with whole egg sponge because when I tried to do these in the past, the texture would invariably end up coarse and dry. For the Castella, I had deliberately willed myself to be patient (no credit to being diligent. My stand alone mixer did all the whisking for me) and whisked the egg and sugar at low speed until a firm foam is achieved. I am really pleased with the texture of the cake. I am already contemplating about baking my next swiss roll using the same method.

I guess, what remains now is for me to get a block of Castella during my next trip to Japan in order to understand how it should really taste like.

I am posting my modified recipe here. But I would strongly recommend anyone interested in giving this a go to refer to Maki's detailed instructions. Of course, Ju's lovely pictures will provide the extra motivation should you choose to dither...:-)

Recipe :
(I halved the recipe featured in Maki's blog)

4        eggs
100g  brown sugar ( original recipe featured 150g of cane sugar)
50ml  milk

100g  bread flour
10g    green tea powder

For detailed baking instructions, please refer to Just Hungry's blog.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh I've eaten so much Castella cake when I lived in Japan and this post really brought up lovely memories! Thankyou! :)

Allie said...

Your Castella looks beautiful and delicious! The preparation process does sound pretty tricky though...but I'm tempted to try this!

wendyywy said...

Gosh, u halved the recipe and yet still had to bake the full amount of time???
Hmm.. did u brush the honey on while the cake was still hot or after it has cooled down?

I'm not into matcha, so I might try the original version. I failed 2 attempts making castella, the recipe I tried used maltose and honey and it caused the cake to be sticky, sticks to my teeth when I chew it. Yucks! Thanks for providing a nice site to learn abt the Castella.

Trissa said...

Thanks for the recipe Shirley and the link too! I've been intrigued about this recipe for some time - especially after seeing it in other beautiful blogs and now in yours with that delightful matcha powder!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Wendy,I brushed the syrup while the cake was still hot. Yes, you will need to bake almost full time because 1/2 portion is still quite alot.But like I said, probably I will do it for 40mins the next time... having said that, different ovens have been known to behave differently. Do try it, the honey version is nice too - I just had to cut down sugar the next time I do it.

Allie, please do try it. If you have a stand alone mixer, it is really not as tedious.

Trissa,I was equally intrigued- that's I had decided to do this but in the process, I discovered that there are still many parameters that can be played with. I will just need to be adventurous and perhaps find more mouths who do not mind finishing up my experiments!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Oh Shirley, your matcha version sure screams elegance ;) The most beautiful presentation of Castella I have seen so far. I have a love-hate relationship with this cake. I love to eat it, but I hate to bake it. LOL. Beautiful, beautiful photos! And thanks for the shout-out! :)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Ju, thank you for your generous compliments - I still need to improve on my Castella - yours are really inspirational.

Elizabeth said...

You know, your sister is right about eliminating processed sugars from your diet. You can still create delicious cuisine with alternative sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar. I'm also sure she's aware of the chemistry involved in cooking since she is aware of the toxicity processed sweeteners introduce to the body on a molecular level. Don't get me wrong, I greatly admire you're ability to conquer new ground in baking but instead of fearing and not understanding Alkaline Cooking perhaps you should embrace it as a new challenge that you are obviously capable of conquering.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hello Elizabeth, thanks for your comments. I am all opened to experimentation. In fact, I have experimented with Brown Rice Syrup and Molasses. The main issue I have with eliminating sugar all together comes when you need to e.g. make a meringue or some egg foam. The best substitute I can find for this would be brown sugar. If you have great tips, I shall look forward to learning from you...:)

tracieMoo said...

I'm inspired by you now. I've never eaten this but it looks great and sounds interesting cause it does not need a single drop of oil! Since you halved the recipe, may I know the temparature and time to cook this cake?

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Tracie. I baked a 150C using convection oven and I baked it for 50mins in this case. However, as I had mentioned, I would reduce it to 40mins when I try it again. The dimension of my tray is 22.5 by 11.5.
I hope you will try it and let me know how it turns out! :-)

Irene's Footprints said...

wow your castella is nicely presented. Wonder if you are using those aluminium square tins from Phoon Huat or the more x versions from USA/Japan?

Real tempting to try one day!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Irene, I use the cheap one from Phoon Huat lah.

zurin said...

What a beautiful colour! Simply Gorgeous.

yes cake making /baking is a science. I had a friend who so loved my carrot cake and then asked me to reduce the sugar..I understand her concern bout the sugar (wh wasnt too sweet at all really) but I told her~then it will be a different cake.:)

Sugar adds moistness but I dont like oversweet cakes either...

I dont really like making sponge cakes simply because it requires more bowls to be used for egg white n yolk wh means more washing up....but urs n Ju's look worth it.

mike said...

This is a wonderful recipe! Thank you for sharing this with us. I was actually really curious about the recipe for japanese spongecake. I would really go well with a cup of hot coffee made from one of my commercial coffee makers Please continue to share more recipes. Kudos!

kurokupoliz said...

hey kokken! Isetan is currently selling the nagasaki castella cakes. I recommend the green plum and green tea version and one wrapped in crepe too! they go really well with sea salt ice cream O.O (you can get that at taste matters) but anyway they are really lovely and if you are still curious about the texture and taste of castella, you can get them at scotts isetan kyushu fair ;]

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Kurokupoliz, thanks for the heads up! I just got back from India- Will definitely want to check out the fair this weekend!

Neo Johns said...

Many folks wonder what Matcha Green Tea tastes like. It is an often misunderstood, highly complex, alluring flavor. Chlorophyll together with amino acids supply Matcha with its distinctive rich taste. It has an initial astringent, vegetal taste which then gives way to a lingering sweetness. When Matcha is whisked with water in the traditional style of Japan, it is actually a very full-bodied green tea. The high intensity of your first Matcha experience can be compared to the first time you red wine or dark chocolate. When Matcha is used as in ingredient in baking, cooking, or beverages, the taste will become more subtle. It can add the unique flavor, (and generally the color), of green tea to a variety of creations such as ice cream, cupcakes, smoothies, a latte, or various different sauces.


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