Earlier this year, there was a rush among the Malaysian Chinese bloggers to make a copycat of a very popular signature cotton-soft cake from Malaysia. This particular cake comes from a bakery chain named Family Bakery 芳鄰西點蛋糕 in the town of Batu Pahat in Johor, a southern Malaysian state just north of Singapore. The cake is called Ogura Cake in English/Japanese but in Chinese it is known as 相思蛋糕 which literally translates as Pining4U or Lovesickness Cake. For whatever reasons they chose that name for the cake, it is indeed a very catchy name in Chinese for sure, but I expect it also cleverly carries the assumption that the customers would pine for this cake again and again after they tasted it…
Now it is a different story when it comes to its English/Japanese names. Ogura is a common Japanese surname, and it is also the name of the Japanese red bean paste/filling (小倉餡 / おぐらあん) but what has that got to do with lovesickness or pining for a distanced loved one, you may ask? If you are a Chinese reader, you can probably make the connection but will definitely not have a clue if you don’t know Chinese!
Red bean carries the symbol of pining or lovesickness (as in 紅豆相思) especially in Chinese literatures and the red bean is also known as 相思豆 (translated as pining bean if you will). From what I have read, this cake was named in Chinese first, and the English/Japanese names were tagged on later for the benefits of the non-Chinese speaking customers. My guess is that since the current trend of making modern western-style cakes in East Asian countries comes primarily from Japan, and this is another version of Japanese-style cotton-soft cake, so 相思 (pining) relates to 紅豆 (red bean), and the Japanese red bean paste filling is known as 小倉 (Ogura), and voilà, we have got Ogura Cake! How’s that for my joining-the-dots reasoning? Not bad, eh, LOL. So don’t be fooled by the name Ogura in this modern Malaysian cake as there is not a speck of red bean inside this cake! To make things even more confusing, there are real Ogura Cakes (小倉ケーキ / 小倉蛋糕) in Japan which are red bean angel-food cakes! Therefore to avoid more confusion, I have adjusted the English name here to Ogura Love Cake, by adding the word love rather than lovesick which sounds more endearing, don’t you think?
Now on to the cake itself, after reading through the copycat recipe that has been floating around online, it is very similar to Alex Goh’s Japanese Cotton Sponge Cake recipe except the butter has been replaced by a neutral flavoured cooking oil. I did a little adjustment by adapting both Alex’s recipe and the copycat recipe because I thought that copycat recipe has so little sugar in it that I was sure I would find it a bit too bland for my tastebuds and also added some custard powder to give the cake a bit more structure so it would not shrink as much. The result is really good, very spongy and cottony in texture. As I have never tasted the real thing, so I cannot do a comparison, and I suspect that copycat recipe would be even softer but structurally would be more unstable due to its low flour content, but I am really happy with my version and it does not need to be cooled upside down so you don’t need a loose-base square tin to bake it in.
Makes one 20cm cake
Cotton Sponge Cake:
85g cake flour
15g custard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
55g canola oil
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
30g icing mixture (confectioners’ sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
5 egg whites
70g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 quantity mock cream
1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease and line a tall 20cm (at least 6cm tall) square cake tin. Get another tin that is slightly larger than the cake tin and fill it with hot water (be very careful when doing this, don’t burn yourself!) – place the cake tin inside the larger tin, and carefully fill the larger tin with hot water to come up about halfway up the sides of the cake tin; you need to press the cake tin down to measure the water level as it will float. Remove cake tin and set aside; place the larger tin with hot water into the preheating oven.
2. Sift cake flour, custard powder and salt 3 times and set aside. Mix oil, milk, egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla and icing sugar, and whisk well to combine. Sift the flour mixture, in about 3 to 4 batches, into the egg mixture and lightly whisk in well after each batch. Set aside.
3. With an electric beater, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks formed. Gradually add in caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until stiff peaks formed.
4. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the flour mixture first, then repeat two more times with the remaining beaten egg whites.
5. Pour batter into the prepared cake tin. Tap the tin once on the bench top to get rid of any large air bubbles and place the cake tin inside the larger tin with hot water in the oven. Bake in this water-bath for about 1 hour, or until cooked when tested.
6. Remove cake tin from the oven, give it another tap on the bench top then leave it for 5 minutes to cool down slightly. Carefully turn out onto a tray (or rack) lined with tea towel, discard lining paper then flip cake over to a cooling rack so it is right-side up and let cool completely.
7. Cut the cake horizontally into two halves, and sandwich with a thin layer of mock cream. Serve in slices.
Taste: Soft, moist, cottony sponge cake
Consume: Best within 2-3 days
Storage: Store in airtight container in the refrigerator
Recipe Reference(s): 相思蛋糕