My youngest just had a birthday and the baby in our family has turned a whopping 3 years old! It’s hard to believe that this spunky little “baby” is already a little human-in-training: walking, running, eating like there’s no tomorrow, talking, and asking the most annoying question in the cutest little voice, “why?” on repeat, constantly, like a broken record. I love this little person so much and enjoyed a little moment of nostalgia this morning as I held her asleep in my arms; her warm, snuggle-y little body resting against my chest in a deep, sweet slumber. I didn’t want to move until I finally accepted the reality that it was time to pick up my #2 from preschool and hoped that I might be successful in transferring my sleeping “baby” to her carseat without waking her so it could count for her nap for the day. She has always been pretty good at transferring and continued to sleep until we got to big sis’s school, so thankfully, we didn’t have a cranky 3 yr old throwing tantrums left and right due to an inadequate nap tonight.
Months before my little C’s birthday, her two older siblings had already started planning her birthday party, including the theme, colors, cake, and friends to invite, when I hadn’t the tiniest inkling of throwing a big party for my 3 year old. Perhaps it’s her fateful lineup as the youngest of the three children in the family, because I do recall throwing a big party for my first on his 3rd birthday, and a smaller party for my second on her 3rd as well… This time with my third child, I thought, I’ll invite a few of her friends over for a little playdate and make a special day for her, which I hope to accomplish this week…I hope. But rest assured, we did have a family birthday party for my little pup with a special dinner, cake, presents, and even invited grandma, her favorite person!
Now on to the cake! Korean bakery cakes with their light, sponge cake layers frosted with fresh whipped cream and decorated with a variety of colorful fruit nestled into more mounds of cream all covered with a little shaving of chocolate, are one of my favorite cakes. It might top a deep dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting on certain days. When I got into baking, one of my first recipe quests was to find that right sponge cake to make one of those Asian bakery copycat cakes. I’ve tried a variety of sponge cakes, with and without soaking cake layers in sugar syrup, and none of them made the cut… until I figured out I could use this Castella recipe to make my fresh cream cake. And it is perfect! You don’t need any sugar syrup to soak the cake layers and you don’t get dry cake when you don’t use the sugar syrup. What you do get is a beautiful, soft, moist, yet well structured sponge cake that tastes just right with the fresh whipped cream I like to slather on to turn it into a cake. Castella is normally a popular Japanese cake (with Portuguese roots); it’s not frosted but is baked in a square or rectangle, chilled, sliced, and eaten with a cup of tea or milk. You can use this recipe to do just that by baking it in a square pan OR you can bake it in two 8″ round cake pans to make a layered cake even better than the ones at the Korean bakeries!
- 2½ TB milk
- 2 TB mirin
- 1½ TB unsalted butter
- 1 cup + 1 TB cake flour, sifted 2-3 times
- 8 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar, separated (see directions)
- 2 TB honey
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cake pans by greasing and lining all sides with parchment paper. (I just line the bottom and use a sharp knife to run around the sides for the cake since I’ll be covering it with frosting)
- Combine milk, mirin, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave for 40 secs (until melted) then set aside to cool. Sift the cake flour 2-3 times onto a piece of wax paper and set aside.
- In a clean mixing bowl, place all 8 egg yolks, 1/3-1/2 cup sugar (more or less depending on your sweetness preference), honey, and a pinch of salt and mix on medium to high speed until it turns a very pale yellow and starts to show peaks. If you don’t have another mixing bowl, then transfer the yolk mixture to a large bowl and wash this mixing bowl and dry it very well (also the whisk attachment).
- Place only 1/2 cup of egg whites into clean and dry mixer bowl (save the rest of the whites for another use), and beat with whisk attachment until it starts to foam. Then slowly add 1/3 cup of sugar and beat only until SOFT peaks form. The peak should fall over when you lift the whisk upright and not stand stiff and straight, so watch your whites carefully.
- Add a third of the egg whites meringue to the yolk mixture and quickly but gently, fold it in. Then add half of the sifted cake flour and also quickly but gently fold in. Repeat with another third of the meringue and the rest of the cake flour then end with the remaining meringue.
- Add a large dollop of the cake batter to the melted milk, mirin, butter mixture and mix it together. Then add the milk mixture back to the cake batter and gently fold it in.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans then drop the pans down onto the counter a few times.
- Bake the cake at 350°F for 10 mins then lower the heat to 335°F and bake for another 15 mins. The cake should be done when it’s golden brown and springs back up when gently pressed.
- Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 mins then gently remove from pan to finish cooling on a cooling rack.
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup lemon curd (optional for filling)
- Whip the cream until it foams then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and whip until soft peaks form. Don’t overwhip or it’ll curdle.
- To make the Lemon curd cream, add 1½ cups of the above whipped cream to a bowl and fold in ½ cup lemon curd. Use this cream to fill your layered cake.
- Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the outside of your cake.
- Decorate ! Conjure up your creative side~
Oh, and did I mention that refrigeration does wonders for this cake? No more hard cake straight out of the fridge! I used to have a strawberry flavor oil? and when I added it to the whipped cream after whipping it, it tasted SO good when I made this cake with strawberries instead of raspberries and no lemon curd, just whipped cream filling.