My baking journey began because I wanted to eat the soft sponge cakes you can get at Asian bakeries. Even before birthday cakes could easily cost $90, bakery cakes weren’t cheap for immigrant families like ours. The only way was to make our own, through recipes passed through the auntie network. Decorated with overwhipped cream and canned fruit, you can spot the cake in every birthday photo. And we didn’t skip a single birthday without celebrating it in style.
As I got older, I experimented with all kinds of recipes, and lots of dismal dense cakes were produced. Some barely salvageable because it was stuck to the pan!
Throughout the journey I discovered some secrets for the perfect cotton soft sponge cake recipe. It’s a base that you can use for any sort of cake – and best filled with whipped cream and fruit.
Are you ready to learn? Here we go!
- Cake flour
All purpose flour is not the same as cake flour. The protein content is the difference. All purpose flour has about 10-11% protein content compared to 8% in cake flour. When you use cake flour, less gluten forms when mixed into a batter, which gives a delightfully soft and tender cake. If cake flour isn’t available, you can easily make your own.
2. Tang mian 燙面 (cooked dough)
The tang mian (cooked dough) method coats the flour with fat before adding anything else. By coating the flour with fats, it inhibits the formation of gluten. Gluten won’t start to form until the flour comes in contact with liquid (like milk and egg whites). Coating the flour with butter or oil creates a barrier which slows down the formation of gluten. Gelatinised dough is also able to absorb much more liquid, resulting in a much more moist cake than any traditional chiffon cake.
Slow and steady is the way to go. The steam from the hot water bath adds moisture to the oven. It gives a more even and slower heat source than the direct heat of your oven. The water distributes heat around the cake pan, protecting delicate foods by maintaining an even low-moisture heat. More about the waterbath here
With these secrets in mind, it’s time to make the best sponge you’ve ever made!
Try the classic tang mian sponge or the chocolate tang mian cake. You’ll find that it’ll soon become the staple base recipe in your baking repertoire.
Tag your tang mian creations with @ultimateomnoms on Instagram so I can share the baking love!