Taiwanese Sponge Cake – A Portuguese Delicacy in Taiwanese Style!

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Nagasaki’s finest delight, Castella cake is here to make you go wow with its super fluffy and spongy texture. Popular in Japan and Taiwan, the cake has a centuries-old history- a tale of Portuguese delicacy ending up in the extremity of Asia.

Castella was originally derived from the Portuguese word Pao de Castela, meaning ‘bread from Castile.” But it is far more delicious than ordinary bread and it no less than a festive cake dessert.

In case you haven’t heard of castella yet, it is also known by many of its regional names like Taiwanese sponge cake, Taiwan cheesecake or Taiwan traditional cake. So next time you stop at the bakery in Japan, here are a few names you can look for in the menu. It is usually sold in long packages about 27cm in length, and resembles Madeira cake-another Portuguese delight, in appearance.

Flashback

Back in the 16th century, when Portuguese trader started trading in Japan, one thing which they brought to the land along with pumpkins, guns, and tobacco, is sugary castella dessert– a bliss for the taste buds. Since Castella was easy to store for months, usually the sailors had no food along but castella.

Initially, it was not commonly made due to the expensive ingredients it had required, but when the Emperor of Japan was presented this very cake by the envoys, it gained much popularity among the masses. Castella’s original flavor was later evolved into a taste familiar to the Japanese palate, but still today it is as cheesy and fluffy as ever before. And that is how Castella became Taiwanese sponge cake.

Amazing Varieties of the Castella Cake

The great thing about Castella is that you can enjoy it in amazing varieties. You are not tied to the ingredients and the methods, just keep up the basics while going creative with the recipe. This is the reason that around the world, Castella is enjoyed in its regional flavors.

For distinct taste, some people add honey or brown sugar or even powdered green tea in some cases. The shapes and sizes of the cake can also be molded as per your desire. Japanese celebrate its melting flavors by adding Baby Castella to their festivals, which is served as bite-sized muffins.

You can try the same for party snacks or desserts.

Bean jelly lovers will be surprised and super excited to know that Siberian variety of Castella is filled with special Sweet Bean Jelly Filling, called Youkan. It was most popular in the Meiji Era. It came back to the dinner tables in 2013.  In some countries, the castella batter is also used to make pancakes. Such pancakes are served with bean paste, jams or compotes. Here are some of the most commonly used delicious Castella varieties, which are best to make your dessert menu extra special:

  • Taiwanese Castella

In 1917, Castella was brought to Taiwan while it was under the Japanese rule. It later gained commercial scale popularity when a Japanese Bakery Nanbanto opened the first Taiwanese shop selling Castella. The brand changed the traditional castella recipe to better suit taste of the people living by. So, its Castella became Taiwan egg cake or Taiwan cheesecake.

  • Honey Castella

It is also popular in Taiwan and known by the name Honey Castella. As honey is not the basic castella ingredient in Japan, honey castella was never a hit in Japan. It is however and loved by Taiwanese due to the intense honey aroma it spreads after baking.

  • Rock-Baked Castella

Jump on the trail of extra flavors with the rock baked Castella. It is a two in one deal with double the taste and double the fluff. It is baked in two layers, having honey castella at the base and cheesecake layer on the top. This traditional castella sponge cake is full of cream cheese, honey, and a prominent egg flavor.

Anyone addicted to a cream cheese sponge cake flavor can switch to Castella for a unique blow of flavors and aroma. Its fluff and sponge can melt your heart away. Though Castella is more commonly available in the streets of Taiwan and Japan, now you can too bring the charms of it to your home by baking fresh Taiwan Castella cake at home.

Castella Cake Recipe

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cups cake flour/sponge flour
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Start making the cake by beating all the egg whites with sugar in an electric mixer until it forms firm peaks. Set the foamy egg white aside for a while. Now add oil to a microwave safe bowl and heat it for 90 seconds on high temperature in a microwave.

Meanwhile, mix the cake flour with salt in a mixing bowl. Beat the egg yolks with milk and mix it with the flour and salt mixture. Keep whisking the mixture until it is fully smooth. Now stir in the beaten egg white meringue gradually into the flour mixture. Continue stirring the batter gently until the egg whites are well incorporated.

Take a baking pan of suitable size and layer it with a parchment sheet or wax paper. Drizzle some vegetable oil into the pan and spread it gently to grease the pan. Now pour the cake batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Place this baking pan in a baking sheet containing hot water.

Place the baking pan with a baking sheet in a preheated oven and bake the cake at 150-degree C, for one hours approximately. Do check the texture of the cake after 45 to 50 minutes of baking. Do not let it overbake. As soon as the cake is done, switch off the oven and allow the cake to cool on a cooling rack. Remove the cake from its pan and slice with a sharp knife. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Conclusion

Perhaps having Castella cake on the menu is easier than we expected. The cake may sound fancier by name but it is extremely ‘can happen’ kind of recipe. Whether it is festive dinners or traditional celebrations at home, surprise your folks by baking this Taiwanese Sponge cake in no time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the other shared varieties of Castella. This dessert indeed worth the shot!

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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