Green Tea (Matcha) Cake

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Green tea powder, aka matcha and maccha, is the soul of green tea cake. If you want to make good green tea cake, you have to use good quality green tea powder.

GTP has three enemies: heat, light and oxygen. The colour and flavour deteriorate very quickly unless the tea is kept in the cold, in the dark, away from oxygen.

Orange Cupcakes

Thursday, 30 January 2014


Hark! Do you hear the sound of thundering hooves?

The Year of the Horse is coming!

Happy Chinese New Year! 祝大家大吉大利!

Cake Dos & Don'ts

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

This rather long post, for cake newbies, can be summarised in three words: Follow the recipe. Newbies are the ones who ask "Can I . . . ?". Old hands would know the saying: Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Experienced bakers may change anything in a recipe, because they know what works or probably works. Beginners, OTOH, may not know a tiny deviation from the recipe can have a big impact on the cake. If you're one of these, I hope this post shows you why you may want to do everything the recipe says, and not do everything the recipe doesn't say.

What to Do Before Your Cake Fails

a) Use an oven thermometer.  »
A lot of ovens aren't accurate. If the oven temperature is wrong, you have two problems. First, your cake may fail, or it may not as good as it could be. Second, if your cake fails, you have no idea what the problem is. It may be the oven temperature, or something else. If you know for a fact what the temperature is, you can at least eliminate the oven from your list of suspects.

Some recipes say "every oven is different". That may be true but one 180°C is the same as another 180°C. Whatever you're baking doesn't care what oven it's in. It only cares what the temperature (and humidity) is.

An oven thermometer measures the temperature in the oven; it can't tell where the heat is coming from. If the top heat is higher/lower than the bottom heat, your cake will fail. Fortunately, most ovens don't have this problem. If you think yours does, toast a slice of bread in the middle of the oven, on a rack at 220°C. If the top and bottom of the bread browns evenly, the oven is good.

b) Don't change the pan type.  »
Only round, square and rectangular "regular" pans made of the same material are interchangeable. The pan type goes with the recipe. It affects how quickly the batter heats up, how deep the batter is, and how much structural support the cake needs. These factors in turn affect how high the cake rises and whether it stays up there or comes back down after cooling down.

My recipes use aluminium pans. If you use dark coloured non-stick pans, your cakes will be different from mine.

c) Scale the recipe according to your pan size.  »
If your pan is bigger/smaller than the recipe's, you must scale the recipe proportionately. Of course, you could scale the recipe first, then find the proportionate pan size. How wide and long the pan is affects the depth of the batter. Deep batter rises more than shallow batter, all other things being equal.

If you don't know how to change the pan size or scale the recipe, please refer to question (i) and (j) in this post: Cake FAQ.

d) Don't replace any ingredient.  »
The only exception is flavourless oil, which may be swapped with any flavourless oil. Changing any other ingredient has an impact on the cake. Once you modify the recipe, it's yours. If you like the final product, congratulations. If you don't? It's your recipe, so you fix it.

Cake FAQ

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

a) Why didn't your cake rise?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were overwhisked and inextensible.
  2. Whisked egg whites, kept waiting too long, deteriorated and became inextensible.
  3. Eggs/yolks were underwhisked. Didn't have enough air bubbles.
  4. Whisked eggs deflated when mixed with oil/melted butter and dry ingredients.
  5. Not enough eggs/whites/yolks.
  6. Not enough non-fat liquids, so not enough steam to help the cake rise.
  7. Batter was too thick. Thick batter was too heavy to rise well.
  8. Batter was too thin. Thin batter allowed air bubbles to escape easily.
  9. Too little baking powder/soda.
  10. Baking powder was stale.
  11. Too little acid. Baking soda couldn't activate.
  12. Too much acid. Batter was set before it could rise.
  13. Wrong flour type.
  14. Batter was kept waiting too long before it was baked, allowing air bubbles to escape, and the baking powder and whisked egg whites to deteriorate.
  15. Oven wasn't hot enough. Without enough heat, air bubbles couldn't expand, water couldn't convert to steam, and double-acting baking powder couldn't activate.
  16. Oven was too hot. Batter was set before it could rise.
  17. Wrong pan type, which affected the heat transfer. 
  18. Pan was too wide. Shallow batter was set before it could rise.

b) Why did your cake crack?   »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and too extensible.
  2. Too much egg white. 
  3. Too little flour.
  4. Oven was too hot.
  5. Top of oven was too hot. The crust hardened too quickly, then ruptured when the batter underneath puffed up.
  6. Too much baking powder/soda.
  7. Too much non-fat liquid.
  8. Wrong pan type.
  9. Pan was too narrow.

c) Why did your cake collapse/sink/deflate?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and provided poor structural support.
  2. Oven was too hot. Cake rose higher than it should, so it came back down due to insufficient structural support.
  3. Too much baking soda/powder.
  4. Too much acid. Strictly speaking, the cake didn't sink. The sides rose but the centre didn't, so it looked like the centre sank.
  5. Uneven mixing.
  6. Too little flour.
  7. Underbaked.
  8. Cooling down method was wrong. Fragile cakes need to cool down inverted and stuck to the pan or they would sink.

d) Why was there a hard layer at the bottom of your cake?  »
Because the batter set too slowly, allowing starch to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan, where it hardened.

Why did the batter set too slowly?

Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Oven wasn't hot enough.
  2. "Bathtub", if there was a water-bath, wasn't metallic.
  3. "Bath water" wasn't hot enough.
  4. Not enough acid.
  5. Not enough eggs.
  6. Not enough flour.
  7. Not enough starch.
  8. Not enough cream cheese.
  9. Wrong type of cream cheese, that didn't have enough starch.
  10. Too much liquid.

e) Why did your cake shrink after cooling down?  »
Everything shrinks after cooling down.

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

Monday, 9 December 2013

Japanese strawberry shortcake is a layered sponge cake filled and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. It is what I call a ménage à trois made in heaven, because each party brings out the best in the other two.

The red and white cake is very popular in Japan, especially for Christmas. I guess having the same colour scheme as Santa Claus wins a lot of votes during the Yuletide season.