Monday, 31 October 2011

Katsutera (Japanese Honey Cake)

Adapted from several recipes written in Chinese I collected a while ago.

My Ingredients:

My Method:
  1. Preheat oven at 170C. Mix plain flour and bread flour, sift twice with a fine sieve.
  2. Warm 20ml of milk in microwave oven at high temperature for about 30 seconds then mix it well with another 15ml of cold milk. Add and mix honey until completely dissolves, set aside.
  3. Beat 6 eggs in a large stainless steel mixing bowl over a pot of hot water. Make sure the bottom does not touch the water. Leave it until the stainless steel bowl becomes slightly warm.

  4. Gently whisk at the slowest speed or by hand for about 1 minute. Add sugar in 3 batches while continue to beat at the slowest speed. Then beat at high speed until the mixture is slightly thicken to an extent that droplets dropped from the beater stay visible on the surface for at least few seconds. If the egg foam is not thick and stable enough, the addition and mixing of flour in later stage will kill all the form so the cake will sink during baking. Using a hand mixer, it took about 9-10 minutes.
  5. Add the honey/milk mixture in 3 batches. Beat at low speed for about 30 seconds after each batch. 
  6. Add flour in 3 batches. Gently mix by hand for 10 seconds after each batch. Then mix at slowest speed until the mixture is so thick that a figure "8" can be "written" on the surface. (Don't worry about over-mixing. Gluten is supposed to be developed in this stage to give the cake some texture.)

  7. Pour into a loaf tin (silicone one or metal one lined with parchment paper). The tin should be about 80% full. Insert a knife or chopstick into the batter and draw zig zags in different directions several times. It helps eliminate big bubbles and distribute small bubbles evenly.
  8. Bake at 170C for 10 minutes, then bake for another 50 minutes at 150C.
  9. After baking, cover the top with foil* and flip over (so that the bumpy top side is facing down while the smoother bottom now becomes the top). Put the cake (still with the tin) into a sealed plastic bag or freezer. Put it in fridge for at least 4 hours before taking the cake out of tin to serve. The sides of the cake can be sliced away by a wet bread knife.

One-line Verdict:
Geez. Even though the cake resembles a simple pound cake, it's difficult to make! Not for baking newbies.

    • Last time I had Katsutera was probably back in 2005 or 2006. Honestly I can hardly remember the taste and texture. Hence I am not sure how well or bad I did in baking this katsutera.
    • The cake is sweeter than most other cakes I made before but it is not bad. After all, katsutera is meant to be sweet. I also love the subtle hint of honey in the cake.
    • An electric mixer (whether it's a hand mixer or stand mixer), in my opinion, is definitely essential in making this cake. I quite can't imagine how long it'd take to hand beat 6 whole eggs into stable foam. Probably over an hour even you have very very strong arms?
    • Unlike egg whites, whole eggs are less prompt to over-beating -- I read from a website that 6 whole eggs would take 45 minutes to over-beat. Hence it is okay to beat a bit longer if we are not sure if the egg foam is thick enough. For stand mixer or any hand mixer with a really strong motor, high speed should be avoided for beating whole eggs. High speed beating results in bigger bubbles which affect the stability of egg foam.
    • Since there is no baking powder nor soda used in this recipe,  the entire raising is done solely by egg foam. It is advised not to change the amount of sugar in an attempt to change the sweetness of cake. The egg foam may not be able to form if there is not enough sugar in the mixture.
    • Traditionally Katsutera is baked in wooden boxes which is virtually impossible to get outside of Japan or Taiwan. Some bloggers made their own Katsutera tin with carton paper or even newspaper. I can't be bothered so I just used a silicone loaf pan. I think silicone pan is better than metal bakeware as silicone is less heat-conductive so probably the sides of the cake won't burn that easily.
    • Possible improvement next time: (1) The cake should be left in fridge for longer, preferably overnight. (2) A baking paper should be placed on the top of the cake before wrapping it with foil to avoid sticking out the skin. (3) I usually don't use any lining for silicone pans but maybe I should line it next time so the cake can be taken out from tin more easily.

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