Castella (Japanese Honey Cake)

Perfect for spring and Easter, this light, honey-scented cake is perfect for an afternoon treat. With a springy, elastic texture and pale golden hue, this is lighter and easier to enjoy than heavier Madeira or pound cakes. Made only with eggs, honey, sugar and bread flour it still has a wonderful depth of flavour to it – you can try making it with any honey you like, to enjoy different flavoured variations.

Be warned though – this cake requires patience and persistence. While it only consists of four everyday ingredients, handling each step requires delicate precision. While a baking time of 40 minute has been suggested, it will depend a little on the individual proclivities of your oven. Using an oven thermometer for accurate temperature readings will ensure a much more successful result.

Even after baking, you won’t get to enjoy a straight from the oven, warm slice of cake! Leave it as directed, for at least 12 hours, or longer if possible.

Ingredients

  • 6 large whole eggs (at room temperature)
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 200g granulated sugar
  •  200g brown bread flour (sifted twice)

Method

1.     Preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade.

2.     Combine 5 tbsp honey with 2 tbsp warm water to make a runny syrup.

3.     Crack eggs into a large bowl. Beat them with a mixer until light and frothy.

4.     Add sugar to eggs. Place bowl over an additional bowl half filled with warm water, and beat for one minute. Remove bowl from water, and contine to beat (approximately 5 minutes) on a higher speed. If beating manually or on a fixed speed, continue to beat until the mixture has increased in volume significantly, with a thick, custardy texture and colour.

5.     Pour in honey and mix for an additional 30 seconds on a low setting.

6.     Add the flour in slowly. Whisk briefly for 10-15 seconds for the initial additions, then whisk for one minute until combined after the last lot of flour.

It is crucially important to the texture of the cake, to prevent over-mixing. There should be enough air in the batter to get the right texture.

7.     Prepare a large loaf tin. Line with parchment paper, with the edges hanging over the sides.

8.     Pour in batter, and run a knife blade through the top to remove any bubbles. Tap the pan lightly to get an even surface.

9.     Bake for approximate 40 minutes. The addition of honey will cause it to brown faster, so if your oven’s temperature is unreliable, it may be better to keep the temperature slightly lower to prevent burning.

10. Once baked, remove from oven.

11. Add one tbsp. water to remaining honey. Spread mixture over the top of the cake.

12. Turn the cake upside down and remove from pan, while still hot. Quickly wrap with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator, for at least 12 hours or overnight if possible.

13. To serve, cut into ¼” slices, and cover remaining cake with plastic wrap, returning to the refrigerator again.