Honey Kasutera カステラ (Honey Castella)

Honey Kasutera (Honey Castella)Kasutera カステラ or Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake. It is said to have been named after the Castilla Monarchy in Spain but brought into Japan by the Portuguese merchants through Nagasaki in the 16th century. Imagine the consternation of the first European traders arriving on those shores to realize that there was not a stick of butter to be found within 2,000 miles to bake with. Sugar was introduced at the same time when European trade arrived. Kasutera developed into a softer and sweeter taste. It had great staying power because it enabled the Japanese to enjoy the novelty of cakes without having to adjust to dairy products. The importance of the latter cannot be underestimated as East Asian cultures did not have dairy in their diet until the last century.

Fast forward to modern Japan. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Japan is to wander into a confectionery or the food section of large departmental store. In there you will find an amazing array of beautifully presented desserts behind glass shelves. I always have a such hard time deciding what to get as everything looks so delectable. Kasutera is usually sold in long rectangular boxes and they often beckon. They also make lovely gifts.

Honey Kasutera (Honey Castella)
Kasutera is not the cheapest confection available by far, but one can appreciate the difficulty in getting the texture just right. Store bought ones always have the right balance of lightness and taste to it. Like many things Japanese, simple things are turned into an art form. Kasutera is essentially a sponge cake raised solely by egg foam with no butter, oil, or leavening agent. The texture is even and delicate with hardly any crumbs. The top and bottom are flat and the taste is light and not overly sweet.

Traditionally, this cake is made using a wooden frame which helps the cake bake evenly. Some even make their own cardboard boxes lined with aluminum foil for that same purpose. However, it can be successfully made using a lined baking pan with a lower oven temperature. There are only 4 ingredients used in this Honey Kasutera – eggs, sugar, flour, and honey. The honey may be substituted with matcha, cocoa powder, or brown sugar for different flavors. No frosting is used on this cake. Unlike most cakes, this one is made using bread flour, giving it a slightly “bouncy” texture. Who would have thought!

This cake is not easy to make. Many have had to try it several times before succeeding. I went through many recipes myself and finally settled on this one from Yummy Workshop. She adapted and simplified the steps from a recipe found on a Youtube video here. There is also no hand beating involved. All the mixing is done with a stand mixer. The recipe calls for 5 egg yolks and 4 egg whites in a 7in x 7in pan. I halved the recipe and used just 2 egg yolks and 2 egg whites in a 7½in x 3½in (9cm x 19cm) loaf pan. I did do away with the turbinado sugar at the base of the pan. I will make the full size next time but may have to use 5 egg yolks and 5 egg whites for a regular 8in x 8in (20cm x 20cm) pan. Please note that I have not tested this out. If you choose to double my recipe and use an 8in x 8in pan, your cake may come out a little flatter. Baking time may also differ.

Honey Kasutera (Honey Castella)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 1 small loaf
Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 5 tbsp (70g) sugar
  • ⅓ cup (50g) bread flour, sifted
  • 1 tbsp (25g) honey diluted with 1 tbsp hot water
Instructions
  1. Line a 7½ in x 3½in (9cm x 19cm) loaf pan with aluminum foil followed by parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C).
  2. Place egg whites in mixing bowl and beat at high speed (speed 10*) for 30 seconds until slightly foamy. Add sugar in 2 to 3 increments until firm peaks form, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add yolks one at a time at medium low speed (speed 4*) until well combined, about 1 minute. Add sifted bread flour and beat until just combined.
  4. Pour in honey mixture and continue to beat for 1 minute.
  5. Pour batter through a sieve into cake pan. Press with a spatula to help batter go through sieve. Tap pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Using a spatula, smoothen the top of batter to remove any remaining bubbles.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until top is evenly browned. Toothpick inserted into cake should come out clean.
  7. Remove pan from oven and drop it from a one foot height onto the counter to prevent shrinkage.
  8. When cake is cool enough to handle, remove from pan. Peel off parchment paper and turn it upside down onto a fresh piece of parchment paper. Wrap with plastic wrap and leave overnight at room temperature** to preserve moisture in the cake and for flavor to develop.
  9. To serve, cut off edges on all sides except the top and bottom with a very sharp knife. Cut into thick slices using a sawing motion.
Notes
These are the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer speed numbers.

If you are using these pan sizes
• 8in x 8 in (20cm x 20cm) square pan
• 9in x 5in x 2.5in (23cm x 13cmx6.5cm) loaf pan
• 9in x 4in x 3in rectangle pan

Please use the following amount of ingredients
• 5 egg whites at room temperature
• 5 egg yolks at room temperature
• ½ cup + 1 tbsp (125g) sugar
• 7/8th cup (130g) bread flour, sifted
• 2½ tbsp (62g) honey diluted with 2½ tbsp hot water
• 2 tbsp mirin (optional)

* Cake may also be kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Please refer to Neapolitan Kasutera post for the updated list of ingredients.

More recipes for you to try

Neapolitan Kasutera (Neapolitan Castella)  Matcha Kasutera ?????? (Green Tea Castella) Sacher Torte









I am so delighted with this Honey Kasutera recipe. The texture was very fine and smooth and the cake was light and fluffy. It went fast and I regretted not having made the full 8in x 8in size. There was a wee bit of shrinkage and I am not sure if that was caused by lining the pan with the second layer of parchment paper. It did release the cake very easily though. However, I still think it was a great success! I have been bitten by the kasutera bug. Do stay tuned for the matcha and chocolate versions. :)

Honey Kasutera (Honey Castella)
NOTE: Video was added to this post on June 10th, 2014.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh my ! Biren,I’m smitten by the pics ! I so want to make this. Will definitely try it out and let you know :-) I am always in search for good sponge cakes, and this seems perfect

  2. says

    This looks like absolute perfection! What a beautiful sponge cake, I’m sure it tastes amazing! It definitely looks like it would be a challenge to make, I mean it just looks sooo perfect :) Haha, I’m a little intimidated!

    • Biren says

      I don’t know what the texture would be like if cake flour is used instead. Maybe you can give it a try. I always have bread flour in my pantry and so it was no problem for me to use it.

  3. says

    I remember a few years back…there is a craze baking this cake among a circle of Asian food bloggers. And, so I tried baking this cake a few time and failed as many time as you can think…*sign* After seeing your post, maybe I should re-visit making this cake and most likely will use your recipe. Thanks Biren for all your precise tutorials making this cake.

    • Biren says

      Thanks Alan for visiting! :) I too was surprised that bread flour was used instead of cake flour but it does make sense. It gave it that slight bounce that is so characteristic of kasutera.

  4. says

    Hi biren (: the cake look fabulous! And the texture, THUMBS UP! your recipe came just in time! I just bought the wooden mold specially to make this cake but have yet to try it. A bit tame by it. Doesn’t look difficult but I heard of many failures by the others. Hopefully mine would be good like yours (: I read that is good to keep it fridged overnight?

  5. says

    Hi Biren, yeah, I know I’ve been slow recently. Btw, I saw Sonia making this too and saying that the last trick was to help the cake texture to stand nicely in shape. Sure, I want to try this one out soon.
    Hope you’re having great day.
    Kristy

  6. says

    I have had other kinds of honey cake before, but none of them as intriguing as this one. This would be wonderful for anybody w/ a lactose intolerance issue! I love dairy, but I’m sure this cake doesn’t need any butter. I’ll have to try this out soon.

  7. says

    I am glad you post up this recipe. I tried four times with a TWN recipe and with wooden box , still can’t get a perfect cake. Can I use this recipe but bake with wooden box?

    • Biren says

      I am sure you can try baking with this recipe using a wooden box. You may have to change the proportions of ingredients and baking time as the size of the box may differ. I will be trying again soon with an 8in x 8in baking pan. Happy baking!

  8. says

    Oh Biren, you’ve grabbed my attention with this post! This looks absolutely picture perfect! I would LOVE a slice of this right now! I wonder when I’ll be brave enough to attempt this! Looks fabulous! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Biren says

      Thanks Betty for the recipe! I like that it has so few ingredients. I will definitely be making it again soon. :)

  9. Jeannie says

    That looks really delicious! You made it so simple to follow yet I know it isn’t as easy as it looks!

  10. says

    Biren, knowing how detail and precise you are, this kasutera must be PERFECT! I’m going to try this recipe this year. I also have my friend’s recipe that I have been wanting to try too. You really should come to Japan when I am there. We can have fun in Depa Chika!! 😉 Thanks for the gorgeous & delicious kasutera recipe!

    • Biren says

      Yes, I think it will be fun if our visits should coincide. Love going down to the Depa Chika as there is always so much going on there. Everything always look so good. :)

  11. says

    How very interesting! And I’m talking about everything in your post! Coming from the southern US, I can’t imagine a diet without butter and I certainly can’t image a cake without butter! :) This cake looks delicious and after reading the recipe and instructions I’m amazed and impressed! I can only imagine how hard it is to have this turn out right. Well, you did a beautiful job! With my baking skills I think I’ll have to enjoy this cake through your pictures.

  12. says

    I have never really attempted baking (after 2 failures in making simple swiss rolls :-( but you have made it looked easy. I think I will have a shot at this one. Biren, can we use self raising flour instead of bread flour?

    • Biren says

      Self raising flour has baking powder in it and so I am not sure if the cake will collapse after being taken out of the oven.

  13. says

    This is absolutely not for beginner baker like me and I’ll leave the baking to experts like you. That cake looks so airy and soft, wow! Perfect with a cup of tea. Thank, Biren!

  14. says

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that dairy was not consumed in East Asian cultures until the last century. I know that it was consumed in Korea as far back as the Koryo Dynasty, which ended in 1392.

    • Biren says

      My exact wording is “did not have dairy in their diet” which is accurate to describe Chinese, Japanese & Korean cultures into the 19th century. While the use of milk in specific situations have been recorded in early northern Chinese dynasties, in Japan from the Heian period until the Muromachi period at the end of the 14th century and in royal circles during the Koryo and also Chosun dynasties in Korea, the dairy culture has never been widely found in common food. We need to contrast East Asian diet which can hardly be characterized by the presence of dairy as opposed to European where daily cooking is filled with butter, cheese and milk. In Chinese traditional medicine, milk from various animals have been listed but purely from a medicinal point of view, hardly culinary in nature. One specific Korean dish, tarakjuk was described as confined to the court since milk cows were rare and kept only in the royal ranch. This only helps to underscore the phenomenal change in East Asian dietary habits as all three countries are now the largest growing dairy consumers in the world.

  15. says

    This is spectacular Biren and I bow to your talent. This looks just like the amazing cakes at the Asian bakery and I have always wondered how to achieve that crazy spongy perfect texture. I am swooning over the texture in your perfect cake!!! FANTASTIC Biren :))

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  16. Dongxing says

    Biren, due to my pathetic baking ability, I am not going to attempt this but have earmarked it for you to make when you are next here, hee hee hee! I ate this once when I first worked in a Japanese company. It was absolutely delicious and was unusually light. The cake was a gift and I never ate it again since that one time. I agree with your readers, you are an amzing baker!

    • Biren says

      Haha DongXing…bookmarked for me? Will gladly make it for you all when I visit next. :) It really is not all that difficult. Patience is the key.

  17. says

    Hi Biren,

    I’m curious why you need to drop the cake from a foot high to the counter to prevent it from shrinking ? Wouldn’t it just compact the whole cake? It was not done in the youtube video.

  18. Margaret Woods says

    This is all very interesting. It’s another cake I must make. By the way do you know of anything I can make using white bun flour? I bought a 50 pound bag last year because, at the time, it was the only size available but I can’t get through it using it for buns. I was searching for information when I came across this site.

    • Biren says

      Hi Margaret! Thanks for visiting. I hope you will give this recipe a try. It is a light cake and quite different. As for the bun flour, please click on “breads” on the drop-down menu above. I have a few recipes there that you may interest you. :)

  19. says

    I just made this, IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I used golden syrup instead of honey as I didn’t have honey and it turned out fine:) I used a bigger pan too, and baked it for 25 mins. THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS RECIPE!

    • Biren says

      So glad to hear that your cake turned out well. Check out my other kasutera recipes and try another flavor. :)

  20. kitty says

    can you use all purpose flour? It’s all I have, but I’m attempting to make this for mother’s day this weekend.

    • Biren says

      I have not tried using all purpose flour. You can certainly give it a try but the texture may not be as bouncy.

  21. クリス says

    Hello i am making this cake for school tomorrow. we got given genres of foods and i got sponge cake and i chose this one because its japanese something i love and it looks and sounds delisious plus it sound very difficult. i hope i do well i will let you know tomorrow how it turns out.

  22. Raymond says

    Hi, I made the castella cake yesterday and tried it today. It was super soft and spongy but it was chewy, not like the ones I’ve tried from shops. Is it because of the over-mixing of the mixture?

    • Biren says

      I am not sure why your cake turned out chewy but over mixing could be one of the factors. After the flour is added, it should only be beaten until just combined. Hope this helps.

  23. Cupcake says

    I’m going to try making this cake for the first time ^^ you’ve inspired me to!
    How do you know if you’re not overmixing? I Can never tell 😮
    Anyway, does the loaf pan valve to be a specific size or can I use any loaf pan? :3
    Thank you!

    • Biren says

      Glad to hear you are going to make this cake. The volume of the pan is important or you may have a very flat cake. All the best! :)

  24. Rebecca says

    Biren, Thanks for sharing this Japanese cake recipe. My friends just returned from Japan and all were had a great time there eating all sorts of Japanese Cakes. They are a piece of Art more than a piece of cake and the cakes were not too sweet and delicious !!
    Will bake it today and tell you the result later.

  25. Hazel says

    Hi Biren

    Your step by step instructions were great. I had my first attempt where I doubled the recipe. Do I have to
    Double the beating time too? The cake tastes great but the texture visually wasn’t as smooth as yours. I am not sure if its cos silly me didn’t double the beating time ?

    Thks!

    • Biren says

      I am glad to hear that you find the step-by-step instructions useful. I don’t think you need to double the beating time but you should beat the egg whites until soft peak forms. This usually takes 4 to 5 minutes. If you over beat, it will be too stiff and the batter will not be smooth and glossy. Do check my Neapolitan Kasutera for a summary of ingredients and pan sizes.

  26. amaineko says

    Hello,

    i tried to make this Castella but something didnt worked. I followed all steps but the Castella shrinked. Maybe you have a tip for me?

    • Biren says

      A little shrinkage is sometimes possible. Try lining your pan with just aluminum foil without the parchment paper. I did mention in my write up that the parchment paper may have caused some shrinkage because it pulled away from the pan. Please check my two other recipes, Matcha Kasutera and Neapolitan Kasutera for further explanations.

      • amaineko says

        Okay next time i try it without the parchment paper. But for some reasons in shrinked from yesterday to today even more and wasnt fluffy anymore. How do i have to store it that it wouldn’t shrink more?

        • Biren says

          I am not sure why your cake continues to shrink. I have not had that experience. Please read the two links I mentioned above.

  27. Hazel says

    Hi Biren

    I had my second attempt and it was a huge success. The texture was great.

    I used wildflower honey and slightly more in quantity so it was very fragrant. I tried with normal baking tin lined with parchment, it worked well too.

    The Japanese version has a layer of sugar on top of the cake. How and when do I put it on top of the cake and will it burnt whilst the cake is being baked ? Some recipes stated putting sugar at bottom of tin. Didn’t work for me as all sugar particles got stuck on the parchment and its not on top of the cake like the Japanese version.

    • Biren says

      I am glad to hear that your second attempt was a success. :) Baking conditions vary in different kitchens and so the best thing is to try to get it right. As for the sugar, you will probably have to put it right before the cake goes into the oven. Taking the cake out half way may cause it to collapse. Some sprinkling sugar do have a higher melting point. Do check out my Spiced Kumquat Nut Bread on my other blog, Tea Tattler, where the gold shimmer sugar was sprinkled on the top before going into the oven for an hour. The effect was very pretty as the shimmer sugar melted only very slightly. I have to caution you though that the batter for the bread is much heavy. Not sure if this castella cake batter which is much lighter can take the weight of the sugar sprinkled on the top.

  28. says

    Looks so good. Now did you any self rising flour or add anything to make it rise? Woul like to try it out. My daughter and I loves castella..

    • Biren says

      Thanks! Only 4 ingredients – eggs, sugar, bread flour, and honey. The cake is raised solely by the egg foam with no butter, oil, or leavening agent.

  29. Kim says

    Hello,
    Your castella is wonderful. I baked 2 times and it works very well even though it was little bit sweet for me.
    My younger daughter loves it.
    Now I want to try larger pan which is 13x9x2.5, what measurement would be good for it?
    I don’t have lots experiment about baking, so I am kind of afraid of doing it with my own decision.
    And if I bake with 2 large pan (same size I mentioned), can I place one at the bottom rack and the other on the top rack?

    Can you help me to do it?
    Thank you.

    • Biren says

      I am glad the recipe worked out well for you and your daughter enjoyed it. :)

      For the different pan sizes, please refer to my Neapolitan Kasutera post with the updated list of ingredients and flavorings for the different pan sizes. It is best to place both pans in the center on the same rack.

  30. Lucimery says

    Biren.ola!!!Sou do Brasil e fiz a sua receita,estou muito feliz,deu tudo certo,obrigada pela maravilhosa receita o meu bolo ficou lindo,igual ao seu,queria te mandar uma foto colo faço?

    • Linda says

      Cake flour is very soft flour and most come with self raising flour in it. I have not personally tried using cake flour and so I am not sure if it would work.

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