Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake with a history of more than 400 years. It is a specialty of Nagasaki. Portuguese missionaries were the ones who introduced the cake to Japan. It was made of flour, sugar and eggs without butter. In those days, Japanese people did not eat dairy products. These simple yet familiar ingredients were the key for Castella achieving popularity.
Ovens did not exist in those days, so the local people created a new equipment called “hiki gama” to bake the cake; pour the cake batter into a giant pan, close it with a lid and slowly cook on the stove, while placing charcoals on the lid to heat from the top as well as the bottom. Nagasaki people must have found the cake so delicious that they managed to replace the oven using only their inspiration and simple tools! The high calorie Castella cake is said to have been served to patients with tuberculosis who were losing weight.
Although Castella cakes were brought over from Portugal, the country did not have any desserts named Castella. When the missionaries first introduced the cake, they may have said, “This is a bread from Castile.” The Japanese locals must have confused this town’s name as that of the cake.
Today, Castella cake is very popular among both the young and old. It has a long pound cake style shape, and is usually sliced to about two centimeters thick. Pre-sliced cakes are sold for those who feel lazy, and some even have individually wrapped slices. There is a caramelized glaze on top of the cake, making it well suited for coffee, tea, milk and green tea.
Photo by Tomo.Yun
3-1 Daikokumachi Nagasaki-shi Nagasaki-ken
JR Nagasaki station Amu Plaza Nagasaki
1-1 Onouemachi Nagasaki-shi Nagasaki-ken