DO YOU LIKE CAKE?! DO YOU LIKE HONEY?!
Then have I got a thing for you to try!
Castella is a Japanese sponge cake with a Portuguese origin. It is made with 4 simple ingredients: eggs, sugar, flour, honey! Add the magical element of patience, and BAM! Tasty! I like this cake so much because it is not difficult to make, it travels well and taste fantastic. The ONLY downside is that you have to do some minimal planning, like, make it a day or two ahead for maximum flavour.
Depending on the honey you are using you can add some interesting flavours with minimal effort.
I am using Fireweed honey this time. I was told at the time of purchase that fireweed grows after forest fires, and this honey I have here is from fireweed after last year’s forest fire here in BC. TASTY DELICIOUS AFTERMATH OF FOREST FIRE … *ahem* my personal favourite is Orange Blossom honey because it has a really unique fragrance that is sweet and fresh. So try whatever honey you want, since this is really the main flavour of the cake, I’d suggest you use a nice quality honey.
The other important about this recipe that sets it apart is that bread flour is what you use in this cake. It is the bread flour that gives the cake a sturdy structure and slightly bouncy texture that is so unique. You can’t swap it for other flour or the end product would not be the same!
The one more other thing to note… sorry, you thought this was simple? If you only have 4 ingredients on a recipe you know some magic is required to turn it into delicious cake! I promise this is the last thing, but it might as well be the most important thing. You know what usually make baked goods rise in the oven? Baking powder, baking soda, yeast for bread, or in this case: air! Like chiffon cakes, the sole rising agent for this recipe is air. If you do not incorporate enough air into your batter it will not rise properly. Do not stop mixing until it looks exactly like the photo I am going to show you!
So. Let’s get to it.
Recipe from Cookpad (link in Japanese)
Makes 1 Loaf in a standard bread tin
For the cake:
4 Eggs (~200g)
100g Granulated Sugar
100g Bread Flour**** (4 stars for super important)
2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) OR
1 Tbsp Warm Water
1 Tbsp Honey
1/2 Tbsp Warm Water
1. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper. Feel free to put a little bit of oil in to make sure the paper stays in place. Preheat the oven to 180°c/356°f.
2. In a metal or glass bowl. Combine egg and sugar. Set it over a bain-marie to warm up. You can gently whisk it whilst it is heating up. The ideal temperature is around 43°c/110°f, you can always touch it with your finger if you don’t feel like breaking out the thermometer. Once it is about body temperature, remove from heat. Mix honey and Mirin/water in another heat proof container.
3. Use an electric mixer, or your stand mixer and start whipping the egg and sugar mixture. Do not attempt by hand, it is not worth it. It is going to take at LEAST 10 minutes of mixing. The mixture will go from yellow to pale yellow to almost white and thickens up.
4. What you are looking for is called the “ribbon stage“. The mixture should have tripled in volume, almost white in colour. If you use a spoon to lift up some of the mixture, it should fall in ribbons and the ribbon should not disappear for at least 10 seconds. Do not stop beating until you have achieved this! Be patient!
5. Add honey mixture into the egg batter. Sift your flour twice, and gently stir the flour in, 1/3 of the flour at a time until all incorporated.
6. Pour the batter into your pan. Knock it on the counter a few times to burst some large air bubbles. Use a skewer to cut through the mixture a few times to eliminate any more tiny bubbles.
7. Once you put the cake into the oven, lower the temperature to 170°c/338°f and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature once more to 140°c/284°f after that and bake for another 45 minutes. Oven temperature might vary to just keep a close eye on the cake.
8. Take the cake out from the oven, if you can lift the cake out from the tin using the paper at this point, do so. Combine the honey and water into a glaze and brush it on top of the cake. Brush it all on, don’t worry about it being too much because it isn’t.
9. As soon as the cake is cool enough to handle, place some clingfilm on the counter. Flip the cake glaze side down. Tear off all the parchment paper and just wrap the whole thing up in plastic. Put it into the fridge glaze side down and chill for at least overnight, if you can wait, leave it for 2 days, even better.
10. The cake becomes denser and more moist after the wait. Now it is time to cut off the crust and thick slices to serve.
The crust are of course, all yours. They are a little bit dryer than the centre of the cake but still so good. Eat them up! You deserve it!