Monday, November 21, 2016

Cocoa Cotton Soufflé Sponge Cake 可可棉花蛋糕

Testing testing...

Have you encounter problems baking soufflé or cottony cakes before? I know... The feeling of admiring THE pretty cake that is so attractive with its fluffy and cottony texture. Even though the recipe seems to be kind of straightforward to follow, you have never succeed baking THE cake! I know!!! I have been sucked into this frustration a lot of time!

I have to admit that baking soufflé or cottony cakes is not exactly easy! Sometimes like here, I may be plain lucky to bake this soft sponge cake but most of time, I have managed to bake soufflé sort of cakes at here, here, here and here with many trial and errors.

From what I have baked and learned, I can't help to notice that the usual culprits of my failure and they are:

1. The Fan Forced Oven!
Do NOT bake soufflé or cottony cakes with fan forced function. The constant movement of heating can cause soufflé cakes to rise too quickly and form extremely large cracks. Then, all you bake is volcano-looking cakes! What to do if you have an oven that operates all with fan forced functions? To counter the strong heat distribution, I have tried using lower oven temperature as low as 125°C fan forced to bake some of my soufflé cakes and sad to say that this strategy works only for some recipes but not all!

2. Not knowing my oven!
It took me a while to know my most basic Blanco ex-oven. Although it has no bottom heating and requires fan forced baking all the time, it had been good enough to produce many delicious bakes that had been appearing in my blog. Finally, after six years of intensive baking, my Blanco oven died at March last year... YAY!!!???

"Dear Blanco oven,
Sorry that I sounded so happy to get rid of you but I really need an oven with top and bottom heating. All because I can't wait to say sayonara (meaning farewell in Japanese) to all the erupting Mount Fuji Japanese cheesecakes and soufflé cakes with dense and uncooked bottom that I had baked with you! Sayonara!!!"

I'm currently using an Ariston oven now. It is very different from the previous Blanco one in term of its heat distributing pattern and temperature setting and I'm so loving it.

3. Steam Bake
Like I said before at here, I hate steam baking... but I'm learning to love it now!!!

What is steam baking? Steam baking means baking a cake or bread in an oven together with a tray of water. Why do I hate steam baking? I can't help to notice that it is always the recipes that require steam baking that are giving me baking nightmares and failures. Why? The different amount of water used for steam baking can create a lot of differences in the overall oven temperature and can cause inconsistent result in baking. If steam baking is a lousy idea, why am I still steam baking my cakes and bread? Bo Pien??? ... which means no choice in Hokkien. LOL! Huh???

After trying and enjoying some steam baking recipes such as this double baked London cheesecake and some crusty or non-crusty breads*, I have discovered that this baking technique is awesome... producing outstanding bakes with velvety soft and ultra moist texture.

*steam baked bread recipes that I have tried and not been published at my blog yet. Sorry!

Hence, I tell myself that I'm not running away from steam baking anymore and vouch to work out a baking strategy to incorporate steam baking technique into my bakes with my current Ariston oven. So here we go... I'm using this challenging Cocoa Cotton Sponge Cake recipe from Victoria Bakes to do my steam baking testing testing...

Finally! I have adapted and derived a few essential pointers and have managed to bake this very soft, moist and bouncy chocolate sponge soufflé cake... Happy to share all that I have learnt with you :)

cocoa cotton sponge souffle cake
Cocoa Cotton Sponge Cake 可可棉花蛋糕

This is the first cocoa sponge cake that I baked with the baking settings that Victoria suggested in her recipe and had fine-tune the settings subsequently for my second bake.

My first time baking this recipe.

1. NO Fan Forced Oven!
According to Victoria, I was baking my cake in preheated 165°C oven with NO fan forced with top and bottom heating.

2. Knowing my oven
According to Victoria, this cake is supposed to bake at 165°C for 58 mins but after 15 mins, I see that it started to "erupt" and so I reduced the temperature to 140°C. Despite the lower temperature setting used, the cake is well baked within 50 minutes. This means that my oven is typically warmer than Victoria's!

3. Steam Baking
As instructed by Victoria, I have also baked this cake at the second lowest position in my oven and used steam baking. I'm happy that I have baked a delicious and spongy cocoa cake but can't help to be critical with its uneven rising and slightly cracked surface!

Can you see that the cake is denser at its bottom and fluffier at its top?

Lesson learnt! So this is how I baked my second cake.

Do not grease the cake pan.
Line only the bottom of the cake pan with baking paper and cover its outside with foil.

Knowing my oven now, I'm baking my soufflé sponge cake with ...

1. Still NO Fan Forced Oven!
I'm baking my cake in preheated 150°C oven with NO fan forced with top and bottom heating.

2. Knowing my oven
Knowing that my oven is typically warmer, I'm baking my cake in slightly lower temperature which is 150°C for the first 10 minutes and 140°C for the next 40 minutes.

3. Steam Baking
Yes that I'm still using steam baking to bake this cake. To standardise the volume and area of steam baking, I have placed my cake on a 35 cm x 25 cm (14 x 10 inches) baking tray and poured about 2 cup (500 ml) of boiling water into the tray.

To fix the uneven rising, I have placed the baking rack in the middle position of the oven. To minimise the top oven heat being too strong for my cake, I have placed a empty baking tray just above your cake so that the tray can act as a heat shield.

These are my strategy to bake soufflé cake.
Back to mixing the batter... Here I'm whisking the egg yolks and egg until frothy.
Then I mixed the butter, flour, cocoa and condensed milk to form this pasty mixture.
Mix both egg yolks mixture and cocoa mixture to form this smooth mixture. 
Meanwhile, beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
Combine both egg yolk and egg white mixtures. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake!
Notice that there is still some small cracks on the cake...
It looks a little bad at first but the cake will shrink slightly to look pretty good!
When I removed the cake from the pan, I was like YES!!! when I saw this.
You know the kind of YES with my arm flexing! LOL!
Testing testing...
Happy that baking soufflé cake with steam baking is much easier for me now!

After getting the hang of baking soufflé cakes like this, I'm now addicted to steam baking!

This simple cocoa cake is so soft, spongy and bouncy that my husband and son thought that I had added cake stabilizer like ovalette into it and of course I didn't... I told them that it is steam baking that makes it so good and they were like huh???!!! LOL!

Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted from Victoria Bakes
The oven setting that I have used in this recipe is based on how I know my oven. You might wish to take mine as your reference to optimize yours. Please use the exact weight and make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature.

Makes one 16 cm cake

45g egg yolks (about 2-3 large)
1 large egg (50g without shell)

35g unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
35g cake flour
15g cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed cocoa powder, Valrhona)
50g condensed milk

105g egg whites (about 3 large)
40g caster sugar

2 cups (500ml) boiling water for steam baking

Place a baking rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat oven at 150°C* with top and bottom heat with no fan. Line only the bottom of a 16 cm loose bottom pan with baking paper and cover its outside with foil. Do not grease the baking pan! Set aside.

Bring 2-3 cups of water to boil and have a deep baking tray ready to use later.

For A:
Use a hand whisk to beat egg yolks and egg until frothy. Set aside.

For B:
Melt butter and salt in a saucepan and stir in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Remove from the heat. Stir in the condensed milk.

Add a bit of mixture A gradually into mixture B and mix until combined and combine the rest of A into B thoroughly. Set aside.

For C:
Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at low speed for 5 mins or until frothy. Increase beating speed to medium - not too high to avoid large bubbles forming. While beating, add sugar gradually in 3-4 batches and beat until stiff peaks formed.

Fold C into AB mixture gently and gradually in 3-4 batches. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and tap the pan gently on table a few times to remove large bubbles.

Place the filled pan onto the deep baking tray. Pour about 2 cup (500ml) boiling water into the tray and place the tray into the oven immediately. If you are afraid that the oven heat from the top is to strong, you may wish to the cake very loosely with a foil (not touching the batter) or place an empty baking tray on a oven rack and place the rack in the position just above your cake as a heat shield. If you think that your oven temperature is well calibrated, you can choose to omit this step. Bake the cake for 10 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 140°C* and continue to bake for another 40 mins or until the cake is fully cooked. 

Remove cake from the oven and drop it from a 20-30 cm height immediately after baking. This step will minimise the shrinkage of the cake. Allow the cake to cool slightly and remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack .

Cut and serve. Store any uneaten cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Note: * Please note that the temperature setting that I used is generally lower than most ovens. You might have to adjust accordingly to yours.

Being extra extra extra critical, I have to say that this cake is actually not perfect enough yet! So, in the future... To avoid having the tiny cracks, I will preheat the oven at 140°C with top and bottom heat with no fan forced and bake the cake at 140°C for 60 mins in the middle position with the empty baking tray serving as a heat shield at its above with steam baking. If the top of the cake look pale, I will remove the "heat shield" and increase the temperature to 150°C and continue to bake for another 5-10 mins or until the top of cake is nicely coloured.

Happy Testing and Baking
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  1. Hi Zoe!

    If I only have fan forced oven and the top heating only oven, which is the better option to go for :(

    1. Hi Josze,

      I don't think you can bake with this recipe using your fan forced oven. You have bake with different recipes and this one, is pretty good and stable to bake using fan forced oven.


  2. what a texture.spongy airy souffle cake

  3. Thanks for sharing. When we need to grease the side of the pan and when no need?

    1. Hi,

      For this recipe, please do not grease the baking pan. Cheers!


  4. That cake has such an amazing texture... I love how you give so much details to make our experience the best one... :)

  5. Zoe, the cake texture looks absolutely gorgeous.
    Enjoy your week ahead dear.
    Blessings, Kristy

  6. Zoe, whatever it is, it's perfect to me!