Baking Blog

Soft as Cotton: Try This Japanese Cake Recipe!

Even if you’ve never been to Asia, you can be a culinary traveler with this Japanese cake recipe.

Japanese cake recipe

This Japanese cake recipe will give you an unbelievably soft and tender dessert. Learn how to make the cake style favored in Japanese bakeries!

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!

Learn more cake-baking essentials with our free guide »

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

Japanese cake

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.

Step 1:

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.  

Step 2:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.

Step 3:

In a separate large bowl, mix the butter and milk until combined. Stir in all five egg yolks and vanilla. 

Egg yolk mixture

Step 4:

Whisk the flour and salt mixture into the wet ingredients, and stir until everything is combined and lump-free.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients

Step 5:

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. 

Meringue mixture

Step 6:

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. 

Fold in the meringue mixture

Step 7:

Turn the batter out into your prepared cake pan, smoothing the top of the batter.

Batter in pan

Step 8:

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.

Baked cake

Step 9:

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. 

Finished cake

Want to engage in some more international cake education? Check out Craftsy course Beyond Vanilla: Flavors From Around the World.

13 Comments

Hena Tayeb

oh wow.. this looks amazing.

Reply
Robert Shaw

not sure where to go, so sending this to you, please cancel my order looked at this and it turns out its not for me

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Martha May

Japanese Cotton Cake – I have tasted it and I can say Yummo…BUT yours is more simple to do but my recipe was as simple too. It was the preparation of the cake pan that got me. The cake is not to be so brown crusted. So the pan was to be modified. Also it is cooked in a square tin. To avoid too much browning the square tin was padded on the outside with core cardboard(not the plastic type) the cardboard was covered with alfoil. This can be tied or set up inside a one size larger pan than the cook in tin.
Don’t forget the bottom square of alfoil covered cardboard. This is a Japanese favourite but it is not a quick whip up cake. I will try your way and see how it compares. thanks. MM

Reply
Just Jules

This cake is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. Guests loved it toasted with coconut ice-cream!

Reply
Nadia

Can I cover it with thin layer of SMBC and sugarpaste????

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Cake Lover

Can you I leave out the cream of tar tar? The cake looks mouthwatering! Going to try making it with my friends!

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Sakie

Hi! I need to make this cake in an 8″ round pan. Could you tell me, exactly, the measurements according to that ? Please don’t say decrease by 1.5 etc. That can be hare, at times.

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David

What type of salt? Iodized Table Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt?

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Jessie Oleson Moore

David, honestly any of those types would work. I personally like fine sea salt.

Reply
CarlieRose

What are your thoughts on subbing honey for the sugar (I know to do this in most recipes, you use about 1/3 less honey than the amount of sugar called for. 1 cup sugar – 2/3 cup honey) Do you think this would effect to overall fluffy cake in a negative way? I’m probably still gonna try but I am not a seasoned baker at all so figured I’d ask someone with a bit more experience before I start 😛

Reply
Audrey

I tried but the base of cake ended slightly heavier than the top and the side of cake collasped inwards while being cooled. Can advise what are the possible errors I may have made, please?

Reply

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