I have this fascination with a simple sponge cake I found in Japan. It is Castella or to the Japanese, Kasutera (カステラ). It is Portuguese in origin but the Japanese made it popular … or rather it originated from pão-de-ló, a portuguese cake. Most of the castella cake businesses started in Nagasaki, a port town in Kyushu, and which was naturally influenced by imports from foreign ships in its early days.
In my first few weeks at CIAML, I asked Chef Sebastien about this cake. I guess Castella is not popular outside Japan. The other country where Castella is popular is Taiwan, since the country was previously occupied by Japanese for years in her history. I wanted to know how the cake can be so evenly baked and cut. I passed Chef a cd containing a pix of the cake, and a summary of some information I found on the net, and I believed he has not viewed the file on the cd yet. Ha!
During my recent trip to Osaka, I bought one from Fukusaya for BK and myself, and another bigger one to bring to the hotel where I was last attached to. To many, it was just a 蛋糕，literally mean Egg cake. Oh well, it is. It is a sponge cake made of sugar, flour and eggs, and starch syrup(?). The original version is honey-flavoured. Now it comes with Matcha flavoured and Cocoa flavoured. Most of the pastry team at the hotel gobbled the cake before a second look, while a few appreciated the cake for the texture, taste, and simplicity. Do you have the recipe? The Pastry Chef asked. I believed it is widely available on the net, it was the precision in baking resulting in a evenly flat cake and the packaging that made this cake special, at least to me.
I simply love it ~ a simple, honest and perfectly baked moist piece of art.
It is a perfect cut!
BK and I shared half the cake over supper one night with hot milo, a local chocolate drink. Then I got to finish the rest for breakfast over the last 2 mornings, because I got to wake up later than him to have a leisurely breakfast. A light sugar crunch on the bottom, a subtle honey flavour, a light evenly fluffy texture, with a perfect flat brown top.
And the packaging ~ yes, you can trust the work of Japanese packaging. Meticulously wrapped and boxed to keep the cubiod cake intact.
I didn’t manage to take a picture of the full packaging, I was all ready to taste a huge mouthful. Then another. And another.
I searched in my digital pix collection and found a pix of the full packaging of a Matcha flavoured Castella I bought last year from Narita Airport, Japan. I was transiting at the airport enroute from California to Singapore, and found the matcha version from 文明堂, or Bunmeido. The Bunmeido version was pre-cut, also evenly.
It is definitely not going to be my last bite for this simple sponge cake. It was perfect-o! My fascination continues …