Even if you've never been to Asia, you can be a culinary traveler with this Japanese cake recipe.
About Japanese cake
At first glance, there is nothing incredibly unique about this cake recipe: It contains a fairly standard ingredient list, including butter, sugar, flour and eggs. While the finished cake is undoubtedly delicious, with a lightly buttery and vanilla flavor, what makes the cake unique is its texture.
In a Japanese cake recipe, egg whites are whipped into a meringue, which is folded into the batter at the very last moment before baking, which gives the cake a light, airy texture that seems incongruous with its rich flavor. It makes for a very pleasing experience, with a full-bodied cake flavor but a lightness that rivals an angel food cake or chiffon cake.
As an interesting note, if you cruise around online and search for "Japanese cake recipes," you'll quickly notice a couple of trends. The first is that all kinds of Japanese cakes employ this meringue method, from sponge cakes to cheesecakes. The second is that these cakes are often labeled "cotton-soft." Once you experience this cake, you'll understand why: it truly does have a cotton-soft texture!
What makes it Japanese?
None of the ingredients in this cake are unique to Japan, so what is so Japanese about it? While I have personally not visited Japan, it is my understanding that this style of light cake is particularly popular in Japanese bakeries, hence the label.
Serving suggestions with a Japanese cake
This cake is not suited to extremely heavy or thick toppings, but it's nonetheless an incredibly versatile dessert element. Here are just a few serving suggestions for how to enjoy it:
- Spit the cake horizontally and fill it with whipped cream. Alternatively, serve the cake in slices with whipped cream and maybe some fresh fruit.
- Serve the cake simply, with a dusting of powdered sugar or a simple glaze.
- Make the cake a feast for the eyes by decorating it with candied citrus peel.
- Poke the surface of the cake with a toothpick or the tines of a fork, and drizzle with a syrup to infuse a flavor throughout the dessert.
- Toast slices of the cake and serve with ice cream.
- Top the cake with a thin layer of homemade ganache.
Cotton-soft Japanese sponge cake recipe
Adapted from Yin Bakes
Makes 1 cake
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
Note: International readers may enjoy our handy metric conversion guide.
Position a rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and grease the top of that, too.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, mix the butter and milk until combined. Stir in all five egg yolks and vanilla.
Whisk the flour and salt mixture into the wet ingredients, and stir until everything is combined and lump-free.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the five egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until firm peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in three separate additions, gently incorporating each addition until no streaks remain before adding the next.
Turn the batter out into your prepared cake pan, smoothing the top of the batter.
Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325 F. After 10 more minutes, rotate the pan. Bake for 20 more minutes or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the sides, then remove the springform sides. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Want to engage in some more international cake education? Check out Craftsy course Beyond Vanilla: Flavors From Around the World.