As promised, I’m back with more information on this birthday cake. Ramona’s birthday is on Tuesday and she said what she would really like to have is a steamed sponge cake such as could be found in a bakery in Taiwan, but sadly unavailable in central Illinois. Just knowing that there was a cake that couldn’t be found here, I was inspired to attempt it. What’s the worst that could happen? Dessert in the name of science. Off to the laboratory, Igor . . . er, the kitchen.
Coincidently, La Petite Boulangette selected ‘Asian Invasion’ as the theme for Sugar High Friday (the brilliant blog event created by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess. Although our hostess suggested using Asian ingredients in a typical dessert, I opted for the dessert requested by my Asian friend.
After reading several recipes, I tried this one at Cooks.com. When I got to the actual steaming step, I found that my new 9-inch cake pan was too tall to put the lid on my wok and I don’t have a steamer. What to do? I read a bit online and someone else made their steamed sponge cake in the oven with a water bath and a foil tent. It took over 1.5 hrs for it to finish cooking. The frosting is slightly sweetened whipping cream and there is a layer of strawberries and whipping cream in the center. The final cake was tasty, but the top was a bit chewy from steaming so long; it also wasn’t as tall as I had expected/hoped. After we analyzed that cake, I decided that I would attempt it at least once more, using almond extract as Ramona said that would be the best (the original calls for lemon but I had orange on hand and used it instead).
I also saw another description of making a steamed sponge cake in which the person beat the egg whites separately and I thought that would help achieve the light, airy, delicate texture Ramona described. So I took the recipe I used the first time and separated the eggs and went on from there. But after beating the egg yolks and sugar and folding in the flour, I was left with a thick paste that I couldn’t possibly incorporate egg whites into. So rather than beat the egg whites, I dumped them into the mixing bowl and beat the entire mixture until it was fluffy and looked like cake batter. I steamed it in Ramona’s bamboo steamer for about 45 minutes and ended up with the cake on the left below. Despite its Lilliputian size and obvious birthday cake failure it tasted wonderful, but it used the last 1/2 t. of almond extract I had and I was without a vehicle for the day, so I decided to try again with the orange flavor. I followed the original recipe and method again as I did the first time, but using the bamboo steamer (it took over 30 minutes to steam, rather than the 20 minutes in the recipe). That yielded the cake below on the right.
The third time was a charm, apparently. It still doesn’t have quite the ‘melt in your mouth’ texture Ramona was looking for, though. It definitely tasted better with the almond extract, however, and if I ever made it again I would certainly want to use the almond.
I don’t think this will become the new birthday standard in our house, but it was fun to experiment with a new method. It’s also fun to make special cakes for people, like I did for Crystal (twice, even) and Mrs. V. Happy Birthday, Ramona!
Now I wonder what Natalie, Ellie & Ruth will request . . .