Monday, September 26, 2011

Paper Wrapped Cake

Ever walk into your neighborhood Asian bakery and catch a whiff of that mildly sweet, eggy sponge cake that's often wrapped in paper like pretty little bouquets? There are only 2 locations (to my knowledge) that make these cakes in the Triangle area, one of which is a far drive and another of which is not my favorite place to shop.

The Husband always asks, "Oh, can we get one of these?" every time we're at one of these 2 locations. The look on his face when he eats these cakes with whipped cream and strawberries just tugs at my heart strings every time. So, I thought, "What's made in a bakery, surely can be made at home. Right?"

The key to these cakes is the light, fluffy texture and slightly sweet, eggy flavor. Anything that involves baking and detailed instructions tends to freak me out. But, what the heck... life's too short to live in fear of flat, soggy sponge cake. So, I gave it my best shot. The original recipe can be found here and while the measurements are not US friendly, they are easily decoded with any measurement converter.

Paper Wrapped Cake
Makes 5 medium or 6 small cakes

5 eggs, whites and yolks separated
50 grams (1.76 oz) butter, melted
60 ml milk
100 grams cake flour
80 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 355 F. (I actually had the oven at 180 F for the first 4 minutes of baking until I realized that the original recipe was 180 C. This conversion actually matters!)

2. Combine melted butter with milk. Sift cake flour into butter and milk and mix well. (It might look kind of like a white glob. This is normal.).

3. Whisk egg yolks. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract to cake flour, butter, and milk mixture. Whisk until smooth.

4. Use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer to whisk egg whites for 3 minutes on high. Add cream of tartar and mix 1 minute more. Add sugar and whisk until egg whites form stiff peaks.

5. Fold egg white mixture in thirds into cake flour mixture with a rubber spatula just until all ingredients are combined. Do not stir or mix otherwise you will deflate the batter.

6. Line oven-safe mugs or tall cake cups (like these) with baking paper (not waxed paper). You want the paper to be higher than the edge of the mug in case the batter rises.

7. Pour batter into the lined mugs. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check centers with a toothpick and if clean, remove from heat.

8. Allow the cakes to cool in the mugs for 1-2 minutes. Then remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Don't let the number of steps fool you. This is not hard to make and in fact it is super easy as long as you follow the directions. While we were waiting the (excruciating) long 25 minutes for the cakes to bake, we kept wondering whether they would be flat, dense cakey messes at the bottom of our mugs. But we were pleasantly surprised and devoured 3 of them before they completely cooled.

Hope you try these and prove to yourself that you (too) can bake delicious Asian pastries at home.

Have a fabulous Monday!

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