Japanese strawberry shortcake is an ethereally light and creamy dessert made of deliciously moist and fluffy sponge cake layers, filled with sliced strawberries in Chantilly cream. Decorate with luscious whole strawberries and cream – and – for that extra special yummm, sprinkle lavishly with white chocolate curls!
My, oh my! Has it been over three months since I’ve posted anything??? I’ve been super busy, life has been super hectic, but here’s the icing on the cake, I’ve been doing really great with stuff that stokes my passion! March saw me busy with culinary courses. April and May came, and whoosh… a lot of birthdays happened and quite unexpectedly, I found myself swept off my feet with festive baking, experimenting with wonderfully creative and decorative elements that went into making celebration cakes.
Then I was off to Japan for 15 glorious days for the better part of May! Now, I’ve returned feeling invigorated and so tremendously inspired by all the Japanese culinary creations of traditional and Western-inspired sweet treats, cakes and desserts. It was mind-blowing!
But I’m sticking to just cakes, because that’s all I’ve been thinking of since I arrived home. Not just any cake, but a Japanese strawberry shortcake.
I might be forgiven for thinking that the Japanese strawberry shortcake is probably the most popular cake in the country, because everywhere I turned or looked around in the city, these pretty red and white, strawberries and cream dessert can be found at almost every Japanese cafe, bakery and food market.
As a Western-inspired dessert, it could probably pass off as the country’s national dessert due to it’s immense appeal and popularity… that is, if I didn’t know any better!
And really, how much more simple and fuss-free can this cake be? Essentially, the Japanese strawberry shortcake is a vanilla sponge cake that’s layered and filled with Chantilly cream and sliced strawberries, and frosted all around and topped with more Chantilly cream and decorated with whole strawberries. It’s ethereally light and creamy, and none too sweet, perfect for tea, any occasion or no occasion at all.
But when I decided to make this cake, I did have a special occasion – it was my hub’s birthday – and let me just say, that for someone who’s never been keen on cream, this is the only cream cake I know that has my hub chowing down on plenty of cake and every streak of cream off his plate (I did use non-dairy whip topping cream instead of dairy whipping cream, more on that later…), after which came a final and fully-realised declaration that it was the best cake he’d ever tasted, and his absolute favourite.
Now, the Japanese version of strawberry shortcake is extraordinarily delicious because of the incredibly soft and tender sponge cake, and sweeter-than-sweet Japanese-grown strawberries. Luckily, for those of us in tropical Singapore, we have easy access to quality strawberries from Japan, as well as Korea and the USA, so try to buy the sweetest variety you can at the price you’re comfortable to fork out money for – it will make all the difference!
Okay, finding sweetish strawberries – I can handle and I’m sure you could too, easy peasy. Next, aaahhh…. the sponge cake! Not so easy at first for me…it’s not for lack of sponge cake recipes, but I wanted an extraordinarily delicious one for an extraordinarily delicious strawberry shortcake!
I’d always relied on my favourite vanilla chiffon cake, which turns out a wonderful cake by the way, but the perfectionist in me was always aspiring for something more, something better. And then, just like that, as if to answer my prayers, sister-in-law #3 (I have 6) gave me this recipe, way back from the 1980’s or 1990’s. I won’t lie, I seriously had my doubts as to how good could this old recipe really be.
But OMG, I couldn’t be more wrong, this is the best sponge cake I’ve ever made…and I mean it, the B-E-S-T! I’ve now made this many times over, and it’s absolutely a winner!
This sponge cake is incredibly soft, very moist and so, so velvety-smooth on the tongue. It has just the perfect level of sweetness, which is not too sweet, so if you have slightly sweeter fruit fillings like canned fruit or berry compote, it will work out beautifully and you won’t need to fiddle with the amount of sugar in the recipe.
The key to this sponge cake’s super soft and tender texture are the types of flour used. Most sponge cake recipes call for pastry flour or cake flour, but this recipe uses Optima flour (you can substitute with any brand of sponge cake mix) and Hong Kong flour.
If you can’t get these flours in your locale, you can use cake or pastry flour and still get a tender and moist sponge cake, though the texture will not be as smooth. However, as Optima flour has sugar added into the flour mix (try sifting this and you’ll have granulated sugar left on your sieve), you may need to increase sugar in the recipe if you’re substituting with these other flours.
Sponge cakes can be a little tricky, and more often than not, hit-and-miss, but they’re not tough nuts to crack. You just need to practise and hone your skills. I’d have to dedicate an entire post on this sponge cake recipe, which I promise is being put together as we speak.
But here’s the gist – the key to a perfect sponge cake are to ensure that you follow the instructions precisely, measure all the ingredients exactly, learn to recognise when the egg whites have whipped sufficiently to stiff peaks (without over-whipping), and fold with a gentle and quick hand, always in one direction, repetitively scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl and turning it over on top, like making the letter ‘J’, whilst turning the bowl so that you’re systematically mixing around the batter.
Finally, what’s a strawberry shortcake without the luscious, light and airy whipped cream, huh? I mean, strawberries and cream has got to be one of the most wonderful combos ever in the desserts universe!
Usually, I use dairy whipping cream (with at least 35% fat) but as of late, I’ve begun switching to non-dairy whipping cream for fillings, as well as for toppings and frostings. I love this type of cream as they aren’t as dense or heavy as dairy whipping creams, but are light and airy, which makes it the perfect type of cream to fill and dress up this light strawberry shortcake. Chantilly cream is essentially whipped cream, it’s just another name that sounds fancy!
Whip topping creams are usually sweetened a bit (I like to use RED MAN brand), so if you prefer to use dairy whipping cream (30-35% fat), you will need to add some sugar (I’ve suggested the amount of sugar in the recipe for this). So, feel free to use dairy whipping cream if you want a rich and super creamy taste in your cake. Avoid using heavy cream (36-38% fat) or heavy double cream (48% fat), as this type of cream is very heavy and dense on your palette, and hence, not ideal for Japanese strawberry shortcake.
I hope you’ll try this and share with me your thoughts and impressions of this ever popular Japanese-inspired cake! As always, I’d love to see your bakes, so do share your pics if you’re on Instagram by tagging @foodelicacy.