Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Japanese-Style Strawberry Shortcake

When I was little, my parents bought me these lovely cakes called nai you dan gao for my birthday each year. They're lovely Asian-style chiffon cakes with fresh fruit layered in between and covered in stabilized whipped cream frosting. They are only found in Asian bakeries for about $30+ a pop and are a rare treat. My friend's birthday was coming up and she said that this was her favorite type of cake, so I thought I'd recreate this for her.

The recipe consists of a chiffon cake base and stabilized whipped cream, which are both fairly complicated but should be achievable if you're patient and follow the instructions consistently. The purpose of stabilized whipped cream with gelatin is so that the frosting will not deflate at room temperature (since whipped cream and sugar without gelatin will melt after a couple hours at room temperature) and will still look great the next day. Make sure that the gelatin is smoothly melted before or else you'll risk clumps, and make sure that the gelatin is cooled to room temperature before adding it to the whipped cream so that it'll hold together. For the cake, be careful to NOT over mix the egg whites into the batter or else you'll risk deflating the cake. 

Recipes adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini for the cake and La Fuji Mama for the frosting

Ingredients for Cake
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp cake flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 8 tsp cold water
  • 2 cup heavy whipping creme
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 lb strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven to 340F. To a large ziplock bag, add the flour and baking powder. Shut the bag with lots of air inside and shake vigorously to make the flour "fluffy" (whatever that means...).

To a large bowl, add 6 egg yolks, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 6 Tbsp sugar. Beat well using an electric hand or stand mixer for several minutes, until mixture is pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk. 

Add 1/2 cup water and 1/3 cup oil, whisking well between each addition.

Sift in the flour mixture and fold it into the liquid, then whisk until just blended (don't overdo it!)

Clean your mixer and a separate large bowl, making sure that they're both pristinely clean and dried. To the bowl, add 6 egg whites and 5 Tbsp of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Start at a low setting and work your way up; if you start high, you'll get egg whites all over yourself.

Gently fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the batter until well blended, then fold in the rest until just blended. Pour into two 9" round pans (lined with parchment paper circles) and bake for 30 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool completely before removing from the pans and peeling off the parchment paper.

Here's the light and spongy chiffon cake! It's ready to be frosted. 

To a bowl, add 2 tsp gelatin and 8 tsp water. Let the gelatin bloom for about 5 minutes, then microwave at 15 second intervals until the gelatin is completely melted. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of cold heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat at low speed until just thickened, then gradually pour in the (room temperature) gelatin mixture while continuing to beat slowly. Turn the beater to a higher speed setting and beat until stiff. 

Slice up your strawberries in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Cover the base layer of the cake with a generous helping of the whipped cream, then put some strawberries on top (use the uglier pieces here). Cover with more whipped cream, then add the second cake layer.

Cover the entire cake with whipped cream, then decorate the top with your remaining prettily cut strawberries :) It 'twas a lot of work but I'm quite pleased with my masterpiece. 


  1. This recipe was an ABSOLUTE nightmare!
    The directions are stupid to try and follow while juggling actually making the cake and cream- and, while we're on it, have you never heard of writing an ingredient list?
    I wasted not only my entire evening on this idiocy, but my money, too- and that, really is what's upset me. I work for a living, so to throw an entire cake- that refused to rise, FYI- and whipped cream- that failed because of the addition of the gelatin (seriously? It's not even needed for whipped cream)- has really upset me quite fiercely.

    If you're reading this, DON'T EVEN BOTHER. Find your recipe somewhere else and save not only your frustration- but your wallet, too.

    1. Hey Fox,

      I'm sorry this recipe didn't work for you. I compiled this a long time ago when this blog was more for personal purposes, which is why it wasn't written with an ingredients list. I've since changed the style of my blog and just updated this entry (now with an ingredients list). However, my previous version of this post included links to the recipes I followed so if you clicked to those, you would've found the exact recipes that I followed with the ingredients listed.

      In terms of the cake, it's definitely not something that's easy to make. I would compare this to making macarons: it requires careful technique and is difficult to succeed the first time. I would say the difficulty isn't because of the recipe, but rather is intrinsic to the style of this cake. It's very easy to overmix the batter and deflate your chiffon, and it's easy to get clumps with the gelatin (which btw is actually essential to prevent the whipped cream from collapsing after a couple hours). The first time I made this recipe, I wasn't very successful either but I've made this several times since and the results have been beautiful each time.

      Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. This recipe is similar to the chiffon cake recipe (in terms of technique and ingredients) that I use all the time and successfully at that. I find it absurd when people blame a recipe when it yields bad results for them without realizing that maybe they did something wrong somehow or missed a step somewhere.

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