Taiwanese castella cake is a pillow-like soft sponge cake that is extremely jiggly when baked fresh out of the oven. This traditional cake from Taiwan is so fluffy that some call it a jiggly cake or bouncy cake. I admit the jiggliness was very satisfying to look at and so it became my favorite cake to bake.
One of the main reasons Taiwanese castella cake turns out super soft is the amount of beaten egg in it. It thus has a prominent egg flavor, which I really enjoy. But if you do not like an eggy taste, try adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to the batter or increase the vanilla essence.
There is also a Japanese castella cake that should not be mistaken for this cake. Japanese castella traditionally use bread flour and honey so it has different texture and flavor. Although both are delicate moist cake that is tasty in their own way. Previously, I have made Japanese castella using cake flour, as part of this castella caramel pudding recipe.
I actually failed far too many times trying to perfect a Taiwanese castella cake. It was tricky to get perfectly brown top without a crack or bump, like those being sold at the bakery.
In case you have the same issue, below is a list of my findings that hopefully can help. Please also share your thoughts if you know more.
- Use soft peak meringue (beaten egg white) instead of stiff-peak as stiff-peak causes crack more easily. Although soft meringue is easier to deflate than stiff meringue. So if we are not good at folding when mixing the batter, it will deflate, lose its airiness, and result in a dense cake. So I suggest soft-peak meringue that is not too soft (my recipe video shows this consistency).
- Make sure the oven is not too hot, or your cake is not too close to the heating source. Every oven is different in some ways, so adjust your oven temperature, baking rack, and baking time accordingly.
- Use hot water that is not boiling for the water-bath. I find that boiling water cooks the cake too fast and causes it to crack. During the bake, I also opened the oven-door for 3-seconds to release the steam and heat inside. I did this a couple of times after the cake has risen to a good size and started to brown.
- Put enough water into the water-bath (about 1-inch high). If you have a counter-top oven that is smaller in size, you can use less. The water-bath provides moisture, radiates the heat, and thus cooks the cake more slowly and evenly.
Taiwanese Castella Cake
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) milk
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 54 g cake flour or low protein flour
- 1/8 tsp table salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 54 g egg yolk from 3 medium-sized eggs
- 90 g egg white from 3 medium-sized eggs
- 40 g granulated sugar
- Prepare the pan by lining parchment paper to cover the whole inner sides. If your pan is not leak-proof, wrap the outside with aluminium foil. This cake will be baked with a hot water bath so ensure no water is going in.
- Heat milk and oil to approximately 158°F (70°C).
- With a hand whisk, quickly mix cake flour into the hot mixture. It will turn lumpy but this is fine.
- Add and mix the yolk one at a time. Add salt and vanilla. Mix thoroughly until the dough has a sticky smooth consistency.
- At this point, preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). I use top and bottom heat without fan, so adjust your oven accordingly if it uses a different setting. Also, start heating up hot water for the water bath.
- Using a hand mixer, beat egg white until foamy with even tiny bubbles. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually sprinkle sugar onto the sides as you mix. After entire sugar is mixed in, switch to high speed and beat until soft peak.
- Add 1/3 of beaten egg white (meringue) into the batter. With a hand whisk, mix them thoroughly.
- Add another 1/3 of meringue. From here on, we want to gently combine the mixture with a folding motion. Be careful not to deflate the batter. The air inside this fluffy meringue is the key component of a fluffy cake. Mix just until no white streaks are seen.
- Add the final meringue. Fold gently just until it is 90% mixed.
- Switching to a silicone spatula, check the sides and bottom of bowl for any unmixed batter. Fold just until combined. Do not overmix as the batter loses its air every time we mix.
- Pour batter into the pan. Shake the pan to spread it evenly. Tap the pan onto the counter twice to release any big unwanted bubbles.
- Place the pan onto a larger deep pan. Pour hot water (around 176°F / 80°C) into the bigger pan up to 1-inch high. Carefully transfer into the oven. I place it on the second bottom rack, so not on the middle rack. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until the top is brown, spongy, and dry.
- Once baked, remove immediately from its pan and peel-off the paper. This will prevent the cake from shrinking too much. Slice it and let cool on the cooling rack before storing or serve it warm.