KitchenTigress: Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

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.

There're a few ways to make a sponge cake. Some people make a dry cake, then spray/brush/drizzle it with a syrup. Others try to make a moist cake by using oil or butter, and water or milk.

I find the syrup option a bit tricky because it's a fine line between moist and soggy. Adding a non-fat liquid isn't ideal either because water, and milk, dilutes the fragrance of the eggs and oil/butter. It also makes the cake shrink more after cooling down.

My sponge cake has lots of oil, more than most other recipes. And there's liquid glucose, my "secret ingredient", to make it really fluffy, moist and fragrant.

Liquid glucose helps make sponge cake moist because it's hygroscopic, i.e. it absorbs and holds water. How does it make the cake soft and fluffy? By helping the cake rise. The higher the cake rises, the softer and fluffier it is. How does glucose help make the cake fragrant? By doing away with the need for any water or milk. Glucose itself is quite tasteless.

If I had a recipe for boiling water, some readers would say, "I don't have water. Can I use something else?" So someone is bound to ask if glucose may be replaced with sugar, or golden syrup, or something, or other. Here's the answer:

Glucose vs golden syrup and sugar

Why glucose makes cakes fluffy

How to make Japanese strawberry shortcake

Step-by-step guide

Glucose is my secret ingredient for the fluffiest possible sponge cake. It helps the cake rise and brown well. Combine the fluffy sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries, and you have one of life's greatest pleasures.

japanese strawberry shortcake
(For one 8 x 5" cake)
  • 10 g glucose
  • 150 g eggs
  • 60 g castor sugar
  • 60 g cake flour
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 45 g corn oil

  • 200 g fresh dairy cream, 35% fat, cold
  • 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1/3 tsp vanilla extract

  • 100 g large strawberries – hull, rinse, dry with paper towels, slice 3 mm thick
  • 4 small strawberries with green leaves – rinse and dry with paper towels; cut into 2 halves

  1. Place bowl for whipping cream in fridge. Preheat oven to 185°C. Line bottom of 20 x 12 x 5 cm cake pan with parchment paper.

  2. To make sponge cake, beat glucose, eggs and sugar till ribbon stage. Sift flour into mixture in 3-4 batches, adding salt along with the last batch. Mix gently with whisk after each addition, stirring just top half of batter, till smooth. Drizzle with vanilla extract and oil. Mix with whisk, again stirring just top half of batter, till you don't see streaks of vanilla extract or oil. Fold with spatula till just evenly mixed, banging mixing bowl against worktop a few times.

  3. Pour batter into cake pan, slowly and from about 30 cm high. Tap pan against worktop a few times. Place pan in bottom of oven. Place baking tray in top of oven. Bake till batter doesn't move when gently jiggled, 15-20 minutes. Remove baking tray. Continue baking till cake is nicely browned and springs back slightly when pressed gently, another 10-15 minutes.

  4. Remove cake to wire rack. Leave till pan is just cool enough to handle, 10 minutes or so. Run knife along sides of cake. Flip cake onto wood surface. Remove pan. Place cake on wire rack, right way up. Leave till completely cool.

  5. To make whipped cream, place cold cream in thoroughly chilled bowl along with sugar. Whisk till cream is stiff. Add vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
  6. To assemble, remove parchment paper from cake. Slice cake horizontally with serrated knife or cake slicer into 2 equal halves. Spread 1/3 of cream on bottom half, evenly. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of cream. Spread with half of remaining cream. Place remaining cake on cream, cut side up. Spread with remaining cream.

  7. Place cake in freezer till cream is very firm, 10-15 minutes. Level and smooth top cream layer. Trim edges with serrated knife, wiping knife after each cut. Arrange strawberry halves on cake. Chill till ready to serve, covered if keeping overnight or longer. Meanwhile, enjoy trimmings.