Friday, 15 April 2011

Japanese style sponge cake- defeated!

A month ago, I got weirdly obsessed with making a Japanese sponge cake. I don't know why. Maybe I was just sick of making my run of the mill throw it all together sponge cake and wanted more of a challenge. A Japanese sponge cake is eaten with strawberries and cream and sometimes known as Japanese Strawberry Shortcake or even Christmas cake.

Well, the one I tried to make in my shitty student halls kitchen back in London was a disaster. I ended up bashing all the air out of it, probably undercooked it in my godawful oven (the door is opaque so you can't watch food, which isn't great for cakes) and ended up with something that resembled a piece of toast and tasted like a very thick pancake.

This was the night before someone's birthday, which I promised I'd be making cake for. The next day, I rushed out at 9 in the morning to buy eggs, and put together a normal sponge cake, decorated with whipped cream and strawberries.

It looked and tasted delicious, but it wasn't the Japanese style sponge.

I like finding and defeating challenges. It makes me happy to know that there are problems in life that you can conquer. Cake is a very good problem to work out too! Tonight, noticing my mum had way too many eggs sitting on the side, I brought up Cooking With Dog and had a cook along. I followed everything to the letter with one exception- I swapped out 15g of the flour for 15g of cocoa powder.

Oh, and I swapped strawberries for raspberries. The strawberries at my local were rank, each pack seemed to be half rotting and half unripe. Bleh. I can't wait for Berkshire strawberry season (only a few more weeks, I reckon!)

I also skipped the Kirsch but added a little vanilla essence to the syrup mix.

...and I added a tablespoon each of Nesquick powder and cocoa powder to the cream topping. So four changes rather than one. I can't help it, I'm a natural born meddler.

The sponge was unbelievably light and airy but completely avoided being dry or crumbling. I was surprised when I first took it out of the oven and didn't quite trust that it had cooked through because it felt so moist. The air gives it a wonderful springy quality.

It is messy and difficult to serve, definitely a fork cake. It also disappeared faster than I've seen any cake go in our household, the airy quality makes it so moreish because it's just so far away from being sickly.

I think this is a fantastic spring cake- the fresh cream makes it unsuitable for summer and the fact it's cooled makes it not the best for winter (I like hot puddings on cold nights). Around this time of year, berries are starting to get affordable again. I would love to try this cake in miniature or cupcake form with a sprinkling of blueberries on top.

Maybe there's more experimenting on the table...

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