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Hong Kong Sponge Cake--an Amazing Technique

Mar 18, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose

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Having fallen in love with Linh Trang's Milk Bread and her beautifully crafted video, I decided to explore some of her other videos and was intrigued by her unique method of making sponge cake without a tube pan. Normally a cake of this type will dip in the center without a center tube to support it. Linh Trang explained how she created this cake to prevent dipping:

In Vietnam, people think that is a terrible failure. So a large part of my time in the kitchen was used to find out how to have a soft, cottony sponge cake that has a dome in the end :-) A very helpful tip that I learnt recently is to drop the mold onto the counter from a level of about 7 inches) like what I did in this chiffon video, at 5.33). I am not sure 100% but I guess the shocks help to ventilate and release the steam better, and this trick works like magic to me. After dropping the mold 3 - 4 times, we can unmold the cake (if it's not baked in a tube pan) and let it cool on a rack.

The resulting sponge cake is extraordinarily tender, moist, and velvety and not at all overly sweet. I brought half the cake to my dentist, Dr. Kellen Mori, and learned coincidentally that her 6 year old daughter Olivia had just expressed a yearning for strawberry shortcake for breakfast. All that was needed was some lightly sweetened whipped cream and strawberries and apparently it was a great success! Olivia even made a video expressing what she thought a "famous baker" should be. Essentially she said that one should not be concerned about fame or money but rather about having fun, and feeding and making people happy. She certainly made me happy!

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Linh Trang's video demonstrates exactly how to make this cake and she has given me permission to offer the recipe to you.

Here is the recipe:

One 8 x 2-1/2 to 3 inch pan, bottom lined with parchment (do not grease the sides) (Note the baked cake was 2 inches at the sides and 2-1/4 inches domed so a 2 inch pan might work)

4 to 5 egg yolks: 76 grams
superfine sugar: 20 grams
milk: 40 ml (3 Tablespoons) fine to use orange juice or lemon juice instead
oil: 30 ml (2 Tablespoons)
vanilla: 1/2 teaspoon
all-purpose flour: 50 grams (I used bleached but she thinks her flour was unbleached)
cornstarch: 50 grams (for the best texture I recommend organic such as Rumford)
4 egg whites: 120 grams
cream of tartar: 1/4 teaspoon (I used 1/2 t but Linh Trang said it is not good quality in
Vietnam so more will be too tangy)
superfine sugar, sifted: 70 grams

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, milk, oil, and vanilla until very smooth. Add the flour/cornstarch through a strainer and whisk until evenly incorporated.

Beat meringue on low speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue on high speed until soft peaks. Then lower speed to medium for about 2 minutes until stiff peaks to give it more stability.

Whisk 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk mixture. Then use a spatula to fold in the meringue, adding it in two parts. Smooth the surface.

Tap the pan 3 times on the counter to release any large air bubbles.

Bake toward lower rack so not too close to top heat at 300°F 40 to 50 minutes (slow rise=less likelihood of falling) until it springs back.

Drop the pan 3 times to release steam and unmold right away. Remove parchment and cool top-side-up on a raised rack.

Comments

This drop method is describe in the The Science of Cooking by Peter Barham which he said he uses regularly in lectures. I always use it for the genoise.
The drop sends a shock wave through the cake creating an open cell structure. So yes ventilating steam. If the cells were closed the cooling gases would contract and pull the cake down with it.
He has many other great recipes and explanations about cooking different meats, soups, fermentation with yeast etc. A good read if you don't want to go all out with Harold McGee.
Thanks for letting more people know about the method Rose.

BTW Just cooked your White Gold Passion Genoise for my wife's birthday tonight with about 15 fresh passion fruit. Mmmm.

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from MB
04/11/2017 04:57 PM

MB, nothing works for everything (except for trial and error)!

REPLY

Would this "drop method" work for all cakes?

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What a wonderful recipe! Did you see her Rainbow rolled cake too?

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Got it! Thank a lot Rose. I will try this one first. :)

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Dear Rose,

Here's a lazy person's tip--I always whip the meringue first so I don't contaminate the whites after beating the yolks even though I am careful to wash the beaters. My cakes come out sky high except for the time when I forgot to add the sugar. ;-)

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Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Mitra
03/31/2017 10:14 AM

Mitra, first i have to say that the cake which i made and posted here is not Trang's chiffon, it is the hong kong sponge cake. i did not try her chiffon in a tube pan.

for my chiffon, i find that the flavor of cake flour is better but the texture with bleached all-purpose flour is almost the same. my chiffon cakes in a tube pan or in a springform pan without a center tube, are airier than the hong kong sponge cake which is more velvety.

Trang had two purposes in mind when she created these cakes with these unusual techniques: to create a sponge or chiffon without a tube pan that does not dip in the center, and to create a recipe that would ensure success for her bloggers for a cake that can be tricky. i was intrigued by the method and curious to see the results. i can't address which is superior because the cakes are both lovely. the balance of ingredients in her sponge and chiffon are quite different from mine. she said that the Vietnamese prefer a much less sweet cake so you could try adding more sugar if desired. i encourage you to try the cake in this posting first, as it is written, to see first hand what it is like.

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Dear Rose,
Thanks for your response. It's very interesting that this chiffon is works with no baking powder/baking soda. I like that a lot. I have two questions though. In your experience, is the chiffon texture better when only cake flour is used or combination of all-purpose and corn starch?
Soconly, I've always made chiffon by mixing dry ingredients in the stand mixer's bowl first, then making a well in the middle and adding yolks, orange juice and oil, mixing all for a minute. In this post and the video, the order is different. Which method is superior and why? Thank you so much for your time.

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Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Mitra
03/30/2017 04:50 PM

sorry for the confusion Mitra, i will change the posting. the first link is for her chiffon cake and i added the link not for the recipe but to show how she drops the pan onto the counter after baking. the second link is for the hong kong sponge cake and i see that the recipe is now on her site as well as the one i posted below.

i put the cream of tartar in with the egg whites before starting to beat. you can also wait until the whites start to foam. either way works fine.

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Dear Rose,
Thank you for the recipe. I can't wait to try it, but the link you have placed to Linh's video, is not for the same cake. Looks like hers is a sponge cake and yours is a chiffon. Also you forgot to mention in the instructions, when you added cream of tartar (although a baker would know that anyway) :))

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