Needless to say, I was very surprised when I received a phone call from my mum the other day asking me if I would like to make a cake for my grandpa's upcoming birthday. Me? Trusted with a grandparent's birthday cake? My pastry skills must be rising in my family's estimation. Of course I agreed, eagerly rising to the challenge of creating something that would appeal to my family member's picky palates.
It was clear from the outset that a Chinese-style sponge cake was the only way to go. I'm talking about the ones found at Chinese/Asian bakeries here in Sydney (and all around the world, I suppose). The one known as 鸡蛋糕 (ji dan gao); literally, 'chicken egg cake'. Quite aptly so, considering that eight eggs went into making this particular one. You hear correctly; I almost single-handedly cleared out the whole egg carton with this cake. But that's really the only thing this cake is heavy on. The only fats came from 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of milk. The amount of sugar was such that it was barely sweet - a mere hint only.
I have a love/hate relationship with sponge cakes. I hate how shitty they make me feel when they come out of the oven all deflated and pancake-like, but when I do get that ultimate fluffy texture, it's as good as getting full marks on an exam. This particular one was a mixed bag. One cake, made from half the batter, was decently spongy and aerated, while the other one turned out all dense and chewy. I presume it's to do with both my method and the bakingware I used. Sponge cake, I will conquer you one day!
Note the fairly dense middle layer. Hmmph.
Drawing from my vast experience in eating Chinese Birthday Cakes, I chose the conventional whipped cream and fresh fruits combo to fill the layers. Again, the cream was only slightly sweetened with confectioner's sugar, and flavoured with vanilla essence. Despite the copious amount of whipped cream used (I used the whole of the 600ml carton), it didn't taste gluggy. Even with excessive consumption, as I can personally attest to :D
I had initial thoughts of covering the cake with a layer of swiss meringue buttercream (my go-to frosting when it comes to decorative piping), but knew it would just be scraped off by everyone prior to eating. So, in the interest of minimizing waste, and keeping it as similar as possible to the real article, I simply covered it with some fresh fruit, and crumbles of honey-roasted macadamia nuts around the side.
So, how was my family's reception of the cake? I think they loved it! I certainly had no trouble with polishing off the huge slice I got. I heard murmurs of "mmm, it's good" and "tastes better than the ones from the bakeries" as everyone tucked in. Good work, Lucy, a nice job indeed :D
Recipe for Chinese Birthday Cake
Adapted from Tastydesu
For the cake (makes two 9" rounds)
1 cup cake flour
1 cup caster sugar
8 large eggs, at room temperature and separated into whites and yolks
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the whipped cream filling and frosting
600ml cream, suitable for whipping
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons confectioner's/icing sugar (but can add more/less according to personal preference)
Canned peaches in syrup
Fresh fruits of choice
Honey-roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
To make the cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line two 9" round baking pans with non-stick baking/parchment paper.
2. Mix 3/4 cup caster sugar with egg yolks and beat until pale yellow and thick. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate.
3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with electric beater until soft peaks form. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of caster sugar gradually, in two or three separate additions, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
4. Combine half of the meringue from step 3 with the egg yolk mixture, and fold gently to incorporate (don't worry if they're not mixed thoroughly; there will be more mixing in the following steps).
5. Add oil and milk to the batter from step 4. Fold in the remaining half of the meringue from step 3.
6. Divide the batter between the two pans, and tap pans to release any air bubbles. Bake for abount 20-25 minutes, until the tops are lightly-browned, or a cake-tester stuck into the center comes out clean.
7. Turn oven off, open oven door slightly ajar and allow the cakes to cool inside the oven, as sudden exposure to cold air encourages rapid deflation.
To make the whipped cream filling:
1. Place cream, vanilla essence and confectioner's/icing sugar in a cold bowl and beat whip with electric beater on high speed until the beaters leave a trail in the cream. Be careful to not overbeat the cream! Overbeaten cream resembles a yellowish, lumpy soup - also known as butter primordium :D
1. Once cooled completely, divide each cake into two layers by slicing horizontally with a serrated knife or cake leveler. Brush each layer with syrup from the canned peaces.
2. Chop up the canned peaches (use as much as you want) and combine with three-quarters of the whipped cream. Fill the cake layers with this mixure.
3. With the remaining whipped cream, coat the sides and top of this cake, filling any cracks or indentations.
4. Slice fruits, chop the macadamia nuts, and have some fun decorating!