Before bidding adieu to 2019, I wanted to pen a sweet post to send off the year and decade. From Boxing Day onward each and every year, time strangely seems to accelerate. It’s almost as if I’ve blinked and December has flown by! As we step into a new decade, I thought it’ll be fitting to feature the honey and cheese crater cake – a cake that’s passed through centuries, nations and cultures. It’s been through an incredible journey. As always, I love learning about history, hence wearing my foodie detective hat and stepping into my sleuthing boots yet again.
‘Castella‘ is a Portuguese cake that was introduced in Japan in the 16th century, when Portuguese merchants were present in Japan. Presently, this cake is very closely associated with the Japanese city of Nagasaki, which is well-known for the Japanese version of castella, as they made it their own with different touches. Having made a storm in East Asia (the Japanese version, that is), the castella had a ‘Cinderella’ moment – they rhyme, I couldn’t resist! – in Taiwan (yes, apparently there’s a Taiwanese version too), and cheese was added. Viola – the honey and cheese crater cake was born!
This cake isn’t any ordinary cheesecake – a handful of cheesecakes in Asia may vary from cheesecakes in the West. Some cheesecakes and cheese-related desserts actually consist of shredded/sliced cheese (as in, the ones you may find on pizza and in sandwiches) instead of cream cheese. I’ve seen these and had some of them. Although they sound quite funky, the flavors actually work – all thanks to a touch of saltiness to tame the sweetness. Thinking of a pile of grated cheese with a splash of chocolate levels beyond my comfort zone when it comes to desserts, but a little (I mean very little, it depends on individual preferences) goes a long way. They’re not bad in theory too!
The honey and cheese crater cake made its debut in Singapore a year ago in several bakeries around the island, and it looks like it’ll be comfortably sat on permanent display aisles for a while rather than being a limited-period special. With a wide circumference, these cakes aren’t tiny. They’re larger than the size of my palm!
I’ve had these cakes a handful of times this year, but this is the first time I’m tasting the one from Swee Heng (a local bakery chain in Singapore). It’s been a while since I last had the crater cake, so needless to say I was pretty elated to savor and document another cake moment.
The experience of biting into the cake begins with the cheese coat on top – a smooth, glossy and baked custard-looking layer on top with cheesy goodness. That layer, according to the list of ingredients, include sliced cheese – which explains a tangy edge with sweetness in that layer itself. I quite like that cheese concoction, and it’s a clever way to incorporate the cheese element.
The cake itself is baked to perfection. Honey cake, which is under the cheese layer, is sweet but not sickly sweet. It’s a fantastic castella-esque ‘crater’ cake – fluffy, dense, soft and moist all at the same time. It melted in my mouth with its sweet honey goodness.
Cheese and honey actually marry quite well, showing that ingredients you’ll consider as polar opposites can actually set their differences aside and create something wonderful for your taste buds. It’s a sweet ending to a decade indeed.
Happy New Year, dear friends. The best is yet to come! Have a joyful New Year’s celebration and see you soon in 2020!