Chocolate Castella Cake

By 7 m read

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chocolate castella cake is the dessert of your dreams. This fluffy cake has a fun jiggly aspect thanks to its light, airy texture. The chocolate flavor is delicate and the cake is super moist. In other words, it has everything!

 

The history of castella cake is a bit complicated and confusing. As I understand it, in the 16th century, the Portugese brought it to Japan, who then brought it to Taiwan. The name castella originates from the Portuguese Pão de Castela, which translates to “bread from Castile.” In the meantime, it has become a very popular treat in Japan, with many varieties, including chocolate.

 

Once I’d read all about this delicate and moist chocolate castella cake, I knew I had to try it for myself! It turns out that it’s quite easy to make yourself at home, although it must be made in a certain way. But don’t worry, I’m here to guide you every step of the way.

 

This sponge cake rises due to whisking egg whites into a meringue and thus uses no other leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder. It’s also baked in a bain-marie, or hot water bath, which steams the cake. This steam baking is what lends to the cake’s light and airy, yet moist, texture.

 

One note: When I took my chocolate castella cake out of the oven, it was beautiful. Just beautiful, with not a crack in sight! And then I moved it to take the photos. Crack! So please don’t judge. It tastes delicious, I guarantee it! 🙂

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Ingredients

3/4 c cake flour, sifted

1/4 c cocoa powder

2/3 c whole milk

2 oz dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 c neutral oil

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c granulated sugar

Dark chocolate chips

Cooking spray (like Pam)

Boiling water

 

Special Equipment

9 x 9 square cake pan

Large roasting pan that will fit the cake pan inside

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Chocolate Castella Cake Recipe

Preheat oven to 325°F and start a pot of boiling water on the stove.

 

In a small bowl, mix flour and cocoa.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

In another bowl, mix together the milk, dark chocolate, vanilla extract, and oil. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each time, until smooth (the mixture will still be runny…this is normal).

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Whisk 6 egg yolks into the chocolate mixture. Then, add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir well.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Next, using either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk together egg whites and salt at medium speed until it becomes foamy. At that point, add the sugar, turn up the speed to high, and whisk until soft peaks to make a meringue.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Add the meringue it to the chocolate batter, one-third at a time, gently folding it in until the color is uniform and there are no white streaks.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Steam Baking The Chocolate Castella Cake

Prepare a 9 x 9 baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, then lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper, then spraying the parchment paper with the cooking spray again. Make sure to leave “handles” of parchment sticking up the sides, as you’ll use these handles to lift the cake out of the pan after baking.

 

Pour the cake batter into the lined and greased 9 x 9 pan, using a spatula to level the top. With the pan sitting on the counter, lightly drop it three times. This will break up any air bubbles.

 

At this point, prepare the bain-marie: Place the 9 x 9 baking dish into the roasting pan, then carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about 1″ up the sides of the baking dish. If you prefer, you can also place the baking dish in the roasting pan, then place everything in the oven, then add the boiling water.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Immediately lift the cake out of the pan using the “handles” of parchment paper. Then, while the cake is still hot, drop some dark chocolate chips on top.

 

Let the cake cool for only a few minutes. Remove the parchment and wrap the hot cake tightly in plastic wrap (to seal in the moisture) and place in the refrigerator for several hours until cool.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

To serve, cut into 1″ slices and enjoy with tea or coffee.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Castella Cake Tips & Tricks

Why did my castella cake collapse?

After pouring the batter into the baking pan, make sure to drop it on the counter a few times. This will break the large air bubbles. If any small bubbles remain on top, you can gently break those up using a wooden skewer.

 

The other possibility is under-whisked meringue. If the meringue is not whisked to soft peaks, it won’t be stable enough to support the cake.

 

Why is my castella cake dense?

Again, there are two possibilities. The first is if the meringue was over-whisked to firm or stiff peaks, which can cause denseness. The other is cooking the cake too long. At about 50 minutes of baking, start checking the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center; if it comes out clean, it’s done.

 

Why is my castella cake not moist?

It’s important to wrap the baked cake in plastic wrap while it’s still hot (or in a ziplok bag, pressed tightly around the sides of the cake), in order to trap the moisture inside.

Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Love desserts? Check out a few more of our delicious recipes now!

 

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Chocolate Castella Cake (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chocolate Castella Cake

Chocolate castella cake is the dessert of your dreams. This fluffy cake has a fun jiggly aspect thanks to its light, airy texture. The chocolate flavor is delicate and it's super moist. In other words, it has everything!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Servings 12

Equipment

  • 9" x 9" square cake pan
  • Large roasting pan that will fit the cake pan inside

Ingredients
  

  • 3/4 c cake flour, sifted
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 2/3 c whole milk
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c neutral oil
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray (like Pam)
  • Boiling water

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325°F and start a pot of boiling water on the stove.
  • In a small bowl, mix flour and cocoa.
  • In another bowl, mix together the milk, dark chocolate, vanilla extract, and oil. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each time, until smooth (the mixture will still be runny...this is normal).
  • Whisk 6 egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.
  • Then, add flour mixture to the chocolate and stir well.
  • Next, using either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk together egg whites and salt at medium speed until it becomes foamy.
  • At that point, add the sugar, turn up the speed to high, and whisk until soft peaks to make a meringue.
  • Add the meringue it to the chocolate batter, one-third at a time, gently folding it in until the color is uniform and there are no white streaks.
  • Prepare a 9 x 9 baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, then lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper, then spraying the parchment paper with the cooking spray again. Make sure to leave “handles” of parchment sticking up the sides, as you’ll use these handles to lift the cake out of the pan after baking.
  • Pour the cake batter into the lined and greased 9 x 9 pan, using a spatula to level the top.
  • With the pan sitting on the counter, lightly drop it three times. This will break up any air bubbles.
  • At this point, prepare the bain-marie: Place the 9 x 9 baking dish into the roasting pan, then carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about 1″ up the sides of the baking dish. If you prefer, you can also place the baking dish in the roasting pan, then place everything in the oven, then add the boiling water.
  • Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Immediately lift the cake out of the pan using the “handles” of parchment paper.
  • Then, while the cake is still hot, drop some dark chocolate chips on top.
  • Let the cake cool for only a few minutes. Remove the parchment and wrap the hot cake tightly in plastic wrap (to seal in the moisture) and place in the refrigerator for several hours until cool.
  • To serve, cut into 1″ slices and enjoy with tea or coffee.
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