Saturday, September 19, 2009

Castella (Honey Sponge Cake)

Castella is a very simple but delicious sponge cake made of sugar, flour, honey and eggs. It does not require any dairy products. Some in Japan say that this cake was brought from Portugal. Others say it is from Holland. Yet, it is certain that this cake was introduced in Nagasaki, Japan around the early 16th century and spread to all over Japan. Since then, it has been one of the most popular desserts in Japan.

Japan had a strict foreign policy, which isolated it from foreign countries, between 1616 and 1858. However, there were a few exceptions. Some limited places were allowed to have diplomatic relations and trades with confined foreign countries under the government of Edo. Dejima, which is a small man-made island in Nagasaki of about 3.7 acres, was one of them. Dejima was mainly open to Holland and Portugal. During the restricted foreign policy era, this tiny island became a very important site to introduce not only foreign commodities but also western medical and astronomy knowledge, and new ideas about equality and freedom. These new ideas influenced people, who eventually ended the government of Edo in 1867.

Even today, castella desert from Nagasaki is distinctive and famous for its rich honey flavor. If you ever go to Nagasaki in Japan, try castella and visit the Dejima island, which is preserved as one of the most historic sites in Japan. However, up till then, try my recipe to enjoy this simple honey sponge cake.

110g of sugar
100g of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2-3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
2. Place the honey in a small bowl and add the hot water. Mix them well.
3. Beat the egg s in a large bowl until they become foamy. Add the sugar and beat them well.
4. Add the honey mixture in the large bowl. Mix them well.
5. Add the all-purpose flour and fold them evenly.
6. Transfer the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly. In order to remove air inside of the mixture, drop the pan from a height of a few inches.
7. Bake it for 10 minutes and reduce the temperature to 300 F degree. Continuously bake it for about another 40 minutes. Do not open the oven during this process!
8. Take it out from the pan and let it cool. Wrap it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate it for one or two days so that it would be richer and more flavorsome like the one in Nagasaki.


  1. I don't have a kitchen scale, so if I make this later I'll have to use cups for measuring the ingredients. Is it all right to say the 110g of sugar is equal to a half cup, and the 100g flour is a half cup less a tablespoon?

  2. Hi Tamara,

    Please refer to the list on the site below:
    According to the list, 100g of all-purpose flour are ¾ cup plus 1½ teaspoon. 110g of packed brown sugar are ½ cup.
    Good luck!