Now that Bride and Groom 1.0's hot air balloon wedding has passed (they loved their cake by the way, so much so that Bride 1.0 kept one of the birds as a memento) and my son's 8th birthday party fast approaching, along with my Cupcake Hero entry, I decided that Sunday would be a great day to make a dessert just for my family and I. A dessert that had no ulterior motives, no weddings, no birthdays... Perhaps just to end the week on a sweet note. A week of immense heat, humidity, and second degree sugar burns. After Saturday night's Asian dinner success, I have been itching to try more Asian recipes. During Saturday night's dinner my father had mentioned that since I love baking so much, I should try and learn how to make Chinese Sponge Cake also known as Gai Don Go. Otherwise known as "Chinese Birthday Cake."
Chinese Sponge Cake is nothing more than a light, but slightly eggy, sponge cake with layers of whipped cream and fruit. It is light. It is sweet in the most understated manner. It is simple.
It apparently is also very difficult to find a recipe for. I cannot tell you how many searches, forums, and websites I had to go through even to find something that looked to be promising. One of the main problems is because most Chinese Sponge Cakes, or anything of the sponge or cake nature, in Chinese cooking tends to be steamed. This cake, however, is baked which made the search all the more difficult. Fear not though, for I have hope for all of you out there in search of the Holy Grail of Chinese cooking, for I have found one that is so close to the Chinese bakery style cake that my own Chinese father kept the half of the cake, and all the cupcakes, that I had brought over to end our meal. If that does not tell you it is great, I do not know what will. This recipe is Chinese father approved.
CHINESE "BIRTHDAY" SPONGE (CUP)CAKE (Gai Don Go)
Chocolate & Zucchini. Makes 36 cupcakes. Or 1-9x13 cake. Or like I did: 18 cupcakes and 1-9in cake. )
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp cake flour (if you do not have cake flour around, take a 1-cup measuring cup and put 2 tbsp of corn starch in the bottom, then fill the rest of the way with all purpose flour. It makes a good substitute)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 6 eggs, separated (room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (I added it to further stabilize the egg whites)
- 1/4 tsp salt (She asks for a pinch, what is a pinch really?)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup oil
- Prepare souffle cups, if making cupcakes, or ungreased aluminum cake pans. DO NOT use nonstick cake pans. However, if you only have nonstick cake pans, line the edges, just the edges, with aluminum foil. It will give the cake something to grip to which will help with the rising of the cakes. The rise of this cake is quite crucial.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together 3 times, or combine the flour and baking powder in a freezer bag, zip it shut with lots of air inside so it will form a balloon of sorts, and shake the bag vigorously to make the flour fluffy. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, and 6 tablespoons of the sugar (reserve the rest for later). Whisk for several minutes, until the mixture turns pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk.
- Stir in the water and the oil, and whisk well between each addition. Fold in the flour mixture and whisk until well blended, but don't overmix.
- In another large, clean bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and reserved sugar, and beat with a clean whisk until stiff. You may use an electric whisk or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment; make sure neither the bowl nor the whisk have any trace of fat, or the eggs will not rise and cake will be of flat variety and not of sponge decent.
- Fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the batter and mix gently until blended. Fold in the rest of the egg whites, gently lifting the batter up and over the egg whites with a rubber spatula until just blended.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cups, or pans, to about 3/5 of their capacity. Bake until set and golden brown (about 20 minutes for cupcakes and 35-40 minutes for cakes).
- Invert the cups onto a cooling rack so the cakes will not collapse, and let cool completely.
- To unmold, run the blade of a knife around the inside of the cup to loosen, and shake gently until the cake falls out.