Green tea castella - this is totally a love at first sight story! The first time I saw Eugenie's post Green Tea Castella (Kasutera) Marble or Zebra Japanese Sponge Cake on her blog, it literally took me no time to decide that this is it - hubby's birthday cake this year!
Eugenie's page comes complete with a video on its making - short and concise, fresh and charming. Which really is a plus! Especially considering the fact that I have never dreamed of making or baking anything this fancy but now finding myself in the kitchen with my very first attempt at making this. I have a very limited history with castella. Apart from it being my all three sisters-in-law's favorite cake, I know not much about this popular Japanese sponge cake. And other than those times that we would make sure that we got a couple loaves of these cakes in the Japan Narita airport when we had a layover there on our way back to Malaysia, I have only had a couple other really countable times that I had had this elsewhere.
So making this was something totally new to me. And when you are making it for someone special and for some momentous occasions, there goes the stress building up, naturally. But it rounded up with a pleasant surprise - with all the hassle over and the cake done at the end of the day, it has then officially made me a fan of castella lol.
Light and delicate, moist and fluffy - it makes such a pleasant dessert that goes perfectly with a cup of hot Japanese green tea. And for a change (and a break from the super buttery Butter Cake that we last had not too long ago), it's rich without having the need to have butter, margarine or oil; and it's soft (and a little crumbly) without having to call for any leavening agents in it. Sweet but not overly so, I believe that this will now be a regular for us at home...
With no intention to make any changes to Eugenie's recipe, I set out trying to get everything that was needed for the making but still found myself short of two - the acacia honey and the cake pan with the specified measurement. Instead of the recommended acacia honey (one with a mild and delicate floral taste best suit the castella), I settled for the most widely available honey in the market - clover. I wouldn't be able to tell how one is better than the other (yet!) but I have got to say that I'm more than happy with this clover-version of castella. But the hunt will continue! And someday I'll be back with some extra notes when I have finally secured some acacia honey in hand.
Not having the right pan (one of a real adorable size 6.3"x2.4"x3.1"), I resorted to making some castella mini cakes using the muffin pan instead, the alternative as suggested by Eugenie in her post. 9 green tea castella mini cakes (only 8 shown, the lucky #9 went down my tummy as soon as it was ready lol) and a little decoration and there it goes - all ready for the mini celebration!
And that started the love story - one with me and the castella...
Having done and tried that first batch of the castella mini cakes, I had since really looked forward to making another - I assumed as soon as the mini cakes get polished off. And the time is here! I haven't got the right size of pan still; this is done using what I have in hand - the 9.25"x5.25"x2.75" loaf pan. With that, I tripled the amount to each ingredients - more than enough for just a loaf of castella but waste them not! The rest can be made into more of those mini cupcakes... a bonus!
Spreading the layers nice and neat takes a little patience (and practice too), pretty much like an art itself. In fact, I think the same elements apply well to the whole making in general. Sadly, my block of castella didn't turn out to be perfect. It browned pretty well on the top, but it wasn't exactly a smooth one - not even close to perfection. So pardon me with this not-so-perfect castella of mine this time around. "It adds a little human touch to the blog", says hubby... lol.
Doing a little more reading post baking, I probably know (I think!) what and how I should have done differently back then. Instead of letting it rest upright coming out of the oven, turning it upside down would probably be wiser a move to make. I guess it's pretty much the same with how a chiffon cake should be handled once it's removed from the oven. I'll be glad to have someone to enlighten me on this! That said, there will definitely be a next time for me with this part done right (and hopefully it IS the right thing to do lol). And when that happens, I'll be sure to be back with more updates!
As for now... I shall just sit back and enjoy this heavenly dessert while they last.
Matcha Kasutera (Green Tea Castella)
Adapted from Eugenie Kitchen
Makes a 9.25"x5.25"x2.75" loaf pan and 4-6 cupcakes/muffins (depending on the size)
9 eggs, medium-sized, separated
180g caster sugar, sifted
150g bread flour, sifted
3 tbsps honey (preferably acacia)
1½ tbsps green tea powder
6 tbsps hot water
For a finishing touch
1 tbsp honey dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
1. Lightly oil the pan. Line the pan with parchment papers measured and cut to fit (use cupcake liners for the cupcakes/muffins). Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on a medium speed until a hard peak forms.
3. Add in the sugar in 5 small separate additions, mixing well with each addition. Beat until a soft peak is formed.
4. Add in one egg yolk at a time, again beating well with each addition.
5. Pour in the sifted bread flour next. Fold the flour into the batter using a spatula until well incorporated. Make sure that no flour is left unmixed especially at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
6. Dissolve 3 tbsps of honey with 3 tbsps of hot water. Add this into the mixing bowl and stir well to combine.
7. Pass the batter through a sieve. That will give a finer texture to the castella when baked later.
8. From this batter, separate out about 1/3 of the batter into another mixing bowl.
9. Dissolve the green tea powder in 3 tbsps of hot water. Add this into the separated 1/3 portion in (8). Stir and keep folding until the color gets homogeneously mixed.
10. In the prepared pan, add in the plain batter and smooth out using a spoon/spatula. Add in the green tea batter (about 2/3 the amount of the first layer of plain batter) and again spread them out. Repeat the layering until all the batter has been used up. Finish with tapping the pan on the counter to get rid of any trapped air bubbles within the batter.
11. With a skewer, make some simple line patterns by drawing the skewer through the batter.
12. Bake in the oven preheated at 320°F for 40 minutes. Cupcakes will need about 20-25 minutes to be done. If it browned too much and too soon, cover the top with a parchment paper. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted right in the center of the cake comes out clean. Give the cake a finishing touch by brushing the honey mixture over the top.
13. Carefully turn the cake upside down and let rest on a clean parchment paper. Once cooled down a little, peel off the parchment papers. Wrap the castella with the plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (I left mine overnight) to let the flavor develop over time.
14. When ready to be served, trim off the sides with a serrated knife. Slice into individual servings and serve.