Soft Japanese Cheese Cake – Mechanical Leavening Method (aka, foam cake) Trial

In the middle of last night, I got woke up to some crazy scary noise on the window. “What’s the noise?” “Hailing…” “What..?! …zz” “…zzz”

So, instead of pulling ourselves up really early for the Saturday hiking routine, we slept in this morning, and decide to tackle the tax. (Well, he is going to tackle it actually, I will be “observing” the increment of refund amount and probably asking stupid questions that won’t be of any help..)

We each had a cup of cappuccino and a piece of this Soft Japanese Cheese Cake. Although he had given good reviews for this cake on the day it was baked (Thursday), he reaffirmed me this morning. “Umm, this cake is very good.” I consider it a pretty good feedback from him, a guy who never exaggerate critics on things I made. That’s actually a good thing for me, but as my food ally, he could be more eloquent in his reviews. As a home chef (I mean only at my home), I listen to the customer (which is him) and I have come to realize that the comments usually come down to the following words: okay, fine, decent, and very good. He is a kind person for the reason that he never said anything like “yuck” or “not good” while he is also the toughest eater because he rarely utter the word “Excellent”.

Okay, people, it’s true that the cake tastes very good, but it’s time to face the truth and confess, I failed on my first attempt of employing the egg foam mixing method, aka one of the mechanical leavening method.

Here in the US, I often see home bakers making quick breads and even cakes by using baking powder and baking soda, and that’s called the chemical leavening method (thanks to my pursuit of self-learning and self-taught pastry lessons). However, back in Shanghai, or many parts of Asia, a lot of cakes have a lighter spongy texture. To me, at least before I came here, a cake is some sort of sponge filled with teeny tiny air pockets and it’s soft, moist, light, like a mouthful of cloud. When I was in North Carolina, I have not eaten any cakes like that from any bakery. In the Bay area, however, because of a significant Asian population, there are lots of good Asian bakery that bakes the kind of cake I grew up with. The truth is I really prefer sponge cakes than quick breads.

Before this cake, I have been baking with the muffin mixing method by using chemical leavening agents such as baking powders and baking soda. In this cake, there’s no chemical at all. The structure of the cake solely depends on the air bubbles incorporated during the whipping process and also a little bit of the acid stabilizer (I used lemon juice). Now, with the modern baking technology nowadays, (I mean a hand mixer and even a stand mixer), whipping eggs becomes less challenge than keeping the air bubbles from escaping. In this cake, I tried whipping eggs for the very first time, with a hand mixer. Indeed, as with all things for the first time, I did quite a few things wrong. From a professional point of view, I failed basically. The cake top split in the oven and the side of the cake collapsed while it was cooling. Additionally, the cake texture comes out heterogeneous because the batter was not homogeneous.

Lessons are learned: 1) I should always whip the eggs at the very last step right before folding everything together; Silly me, I whipped the eggs first and let it stand by while I finishing the rest of the batter.. 2) Because I was being very careful folding the egg foams, too careful that I did not fold them WELL… The middle of the cake was moist and sturdy because it has more of cheese and flour batter. The edge of the cake did not stand up (they collapsed!) because that part the batter are mostly egg foams. 3) While whipping the egg whites, I got so excited with the egg foams that I forgot adding sugars until the egg foams almost turned to soft peaks… So I might have whipped the eggs too long so the top of the cake cracked. There maybe other mistakes that I probably wouldn’t realize until my next attempt.

After all, this cake is not a basic learning piece using the egg foam mixing method. The basic one would probably be an Angel Food Cake, which is the next one I am going to try as soon as I got a tube pan. (Ding ding ding, to my Hero, hear me?)  I want to try this cake because it reminds me of the time when I went grocery shopping with my mon in Shanghai and every time we walked into a bakery, the mere look of this cake just lures me eating it. It’s somewhere between a chiffon cake and a cheesecake, really really yummy. Oh I have my 2nd next cake baking agenda lined up here and it would be a Chiffon cake!

Sorry, I think I am not ready to write my own adapted recipe until I am satisfied with the results, because it would be irresponsible to let you follow my mistakes! But feel free to check out the original recipe here.

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