Japanese Strawberry Cake (a.k.a. Chinese Birthday Cake)

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Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake, A.K.A. the Chinese or Japanese Birthday Cake

My favorite cake of all time is the Japanese Strawberry Cake.  I have wonderful memories of visiting Little Tokyo in Downtown LA as a child, and getting a slice of this insanely delicious, light, and delicate cake from the Japanese bakery.  The year I got my very first real job (2000), I decided to buy a whole cake for my Dad’s birthday as a special treat.  I drove all the way to downtown to get it (in traffic), and paid about $30 for a small 8″ cake.  It was a big splurge on my teacher’s salary, but really worth it!

Since then, I have noticed that this cake is very popular not just in Japanese bakeries, but in all Asian-style bakeries.  It is commonly sold in Chinese & Taiwanese bakeries as the “Chinese Strawberry Cake” or “Chinese Fruit Cake,” and is usually decorated with a combination of strawberries, kiwi, and sliced peaches.

Last week was my good friend Christina’s birthday, and we ended up celebrating her birthday at Sam Woo Seafood Restaurant.   When it was time to bring out the cake, I was delighted (and extremely excited) that her birthday cake was THIS cake.  (It really is THAT good!)  The funny thing was – there were so many people at the restaurant that night who brought the exact same cake (from the same bakery) for their celebrations – that we weren’t sure if we were served the actual cake that was given to the manager to keep cold in their refrigerator.  Christina’s husband James was pretty sure that “Happy Birthday” was written in English on the cake he purchased, but the cake the servers brought out was identical except that it had “Happy Birthday” written in Chinese???  No matter, the cake was delicious in English or Chinese…

That night, I decided that this cake would be my next project, and I’m ecstatic that I finally figured it out!  No more $30 cakes purchases for me!  If strawberries are in season (and on sale), and you factor in the cost of whipping cream, eggs, and all the other ingredients… I can make this cake at home for about $10.  I no longer have to drive to the Japanese bakery in downtown LA (or lately, the amazing Chinese bakeries in Orange County) to get my Strawberry Cake fix!

 

Japanese Strawberry Cake:

As an alternative to Strawberry, I also made a Raspberry Whipped Cream Cake.

  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 /2 c. sliced almonds
  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 18 T. sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4. tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. canola oil
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, being very careful not to let any egg yolk contaminate the egg whites.  Add 6 T. sugar, the salt, and the vanilla extract to the egg yolks.
2.  Beat the egg yolk mixture until pale yellow in color.
3.  Add the water and oil to the egg yolk mixture, and continue to beat together.
4.  Sift the cake flour with the baking powder over the egg yolk mixture, and stir in until just combined (do not overmix).
5.  Clean the metal beater attachments with soap and warm water to remove all traces of oil or fat.  Add the cream of tartar and 6 T. sugar to the egg whites.  Beat the egg whites until stiff.
6.  Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into egg yolk batter to lighten it.  Fold in the second 1/3 of egg whites, then fold in the remaining 1/3.  It is ok if a few streaks of white remain – you do not want to over-mix and end up deflating the egg foam.
7.  Pour the batter into an UNGREASED 8″ springform pan.  (**Do NOT grease or line the pan – you want the cake to stick to the sides and bottom).  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
8.  When done, immediately remove the cake from the oven, and invert the cake pan onto a metal rack to cool completely.  Allowing the cake to cool upside down will keep the delicate cake from collapsing on itself.
9.  Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 6 T. of sugar.  Save a few nice looking strawberries for decorating the top, and slice the rest.  Fill the cake with sliced strawberries and 1/4 of the whipped cream.  Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the top and sides, then decorate with the reserved strawberries and sliced almonds.
Here is the raspberry version of the cake again (you need about 12 oz. raspberries, and a few mint leaves for garnish):

Comments

  1. Thuy says:

    I tried this recipe twice and every time, it came out flat. It didn’t rise at all. I was extra careful not to over-mix it.

  2. Mika Mika says:

    Thuy,
    A few things could be causing your cake to fall:
    #1: Make sure that your egg whites have absolutely NO yolk in them. Just the slightest bit of egg yolk, or any kind of oil in the bowl (or on the beaters) will result in a flat foam. When you whip the egg whites, make sure you reach stiff peaks. If you don’t beat the egg whites enough, then they won’t hold enough air bubbles to make the cake rise. (But once you reach stiff peaks – stop.)
    #2. When you mix the egg whites into the batter, make sure you FOLD it in. (Meaning, don’t mix it in… just gently fold it in with a spatula, as little as possible. It’s ok if there are some egg white streaks.) If you mix it too much, you will deflate the foam.
    #3. Make sure your cake pan is UNgreased. If you grease the pan at all, you will lose the support that the cake needs when baking and rising. You actually want the cake to stick to the pan. If you are having a lot of trouble with a round cake pan, you might make this recipe in an angel food cake pan with removable bottom first, as that type of pan will provide more support.
    #4. Do NOT open the oven door at all while baking. Any drafts while baking, or reduction in heat, will cause the cake to fall. Make sure that your oven is properly calibrated, and not running too hot or too cold.
    # 5. When the cake is done, make sure you hang it upside down until it is completely cool to the touch. (This allows the structure of the cake to set).

    Hope this helps!

  3. Lindsay says:

    Love this recipe! Thank you so much this is my third time making it. Turns out great everytime!

  4. Joanna says:

    Stupid question… you slice the cake in half horizontally to fill it, right? Would it be good to get one of those cake slicers? or is it something that can be done with a steady hand and a sharp knife?

  5. Mika Mika says:

    Yes, slice the cake horizontally to fill. I’ve used both a cake slicer and I’ve done it freehand before… The cake slicer makes more even layers – but it’s not essential. Use a serrated knife and use gentle sawing motions if cutting freehand. Good luck! ;)

  6. Jo says:

    Hi what about the cream. The ones used in the chinese shops do not have that rich creamy/dairy taste
    Thanks

    • Mika Mika says:

      The frosting on these cakes is typically whipped cream in Asian bakeries (not American style butter cream). Try my recipe above using 2 cups of heavy cream with 6 T. of sugar. You don’t need a lot – a little goes a long way. ;)

  7. Carissa says:

    Stupid question, but when you say 6T. of sugar do you mean teaspoon or tablespoon? Also for the Asian bakeries I that I have been to has a very (extremely) light salty flavor in the cream, I was wondering if added a pinch of salt would help make your whipping cream recipe taste like that or would it ruin the overall product instead?

  8. Mika Mika says:

    Hi Carissa!

    The standard abbreviation for “tablespoon” is “T.” (The standard abbreviation for “teaspoon” is “tsp.”) So in this recipe, I mean “tablespoons” for the sugar measurements.

    As far as I know, most Asian bakeries don’t add salt to the whipped cream. But if you want a little tiny bit of salty flavor, I would start with maybe just 1/4 tsp. and go from there. The important thing is to make the cake how you like, and it never hurts to experiment and give it a try – let me know how it turns out with the salt! :) Good luck!

  9. funnibee says:

    Yay!
    I’ve actually been trying to find a recipe for the Chinese birthday cake for a while now and haven’t had any luck :(
    But your recipe seems really good so I’m definitely going to try it out.
    Do I have to use cake flour though? Can I use normal flour instead? I know cake flour is finer than normal flour, but I’m just wondering whether there will be a huuge difference if I just used normal flour?

    • Mika Mika says:

      You can substitute all purpose flour for cake flour – I would do about 3/4 c. + 2 T. all purpose flour + 2 T. cornstarch as a substitute for 1 c. cake flour. Cake flour gives a finer texture, so I use it for this cake when I can… but it should be fine with the substitution. Good luck!

  10. Emily says:

    Your recipe looks so good!~^^
    I’m going to try it out soon!!!
    But can i ask, instead of cake flour, can i just use plain flour or self raising flour?~

  11. Mika Mika says:

    Emily,
    Yes, you can substitute with all purpose flour + cornstarch. Do not use self-raising flour as this contains leavening ingredients which can throw off the balance of the recipe.

    In general, you can substitute 1 c. cake flour with:
    3/4 c. + 2 T. regular all purpose flour + 2 T. cornstarch.

  12. stephanie says:

    what bakeries in orange county do you recommend? i have been looking all over for a strawberry cake for my husband for his birthday this weekend and our kitchen in in the middle of a re-model right now so i have no oven! thanks!

  13. Mika Mika says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    “JJ Bakery” and “85 Degree C Bakery” in Irvine are both pretty good. Hope this helps!

  14. Ria says:

    Hi,

    About slicing the cake horizontally and evenly. Use a length of clean fishing line. Place it around the cake, making sure it is exactly in the centre, then cross the two ends of the line and pull them away from each other, carefully. This will cut the cake cleanly in half. Happy baking!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Ria – That’s a great tip! I’ll have to try your method with fishing line one of these days. :) Thanks!

      • Elise says:

        I have heard that dental floss gives the same results, though I would hesitate to use the flavored stuff.

  15. Maggie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and including such helpful photos! I baked this last night using the regular flour + cornstarch substitution, and it came out great! I didn’t have springform pan, so I divided the batter into two regular cake pans and baked for only 25 minutes.

    Pic, because it did happen!
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/538083_10151150545784815_740659814_13440130_1851002529_n.jpg

    • Mika Mika says:

      Dear Maggie,
      Thanks so much for the feedback… your cake looks wonderful! I’m so glad it worked out! :)

  16. amy says:

    is there a way to turn this recipe into a chocolate cake? if so how?
    also, made this cake and all of my friends loved it! thanks!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Amy,
      I’ve never made this as a chocolate cake… so take this advice with a grain of salt (since I don’t know how it will turn out)…. ;)
      But you could try substituting 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the cake flour. You can also try to flavor the whipped cream with a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder for the frosting. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

  17. Ann says:

    Mika! This is the best recipe ever!! I have made this cake twice and it always impresses people. Thank you for posting the recipe and being so thorough and detailed with your pics and descriptions. Love your website!!

  18. Izabel says:

    Hi mika! This recipe isso great! Thank you so much for sharing! I made this for a really good friend of mine last night and i think it turned out pretty good! But i just realized that i forgot to put in the oil!! D youthi k the cake will not be good because of that?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Izabel,
      Without the oil, your cake will be a little bit more dry – like an angel food cake. I hope it was still ok!

  19. czhelle says:

    hi, just wanna clarify before trying your mouth watering recipe.. for the frosting, what kind of sugar do i have to use? is it just an ordinary table sugar or the powdered sugar? thank you so much =)

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there! I always use regular granulated sugar for this recipe. Powdered sugar is not necessary for the whipped cream – although there’s no reason why you couldn’t use it if you wanted to. Good luck! :)

  20. Anouschka says:

    Hiya I was reading the baking part it says 350 degrees my oven can’t go above 220 degree is there another temperature that I can bake at? & how long would it take?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there! This recipe calls for baking at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven is calibrated for Celsius, then it should be around 176 degrees C.

  21. Sarah says:

    We had a strawberry cake from a Japanese bakery for our wedding cake…made your recipe tonight for our one year anniversary. My husband was so excited (ate half the cake) and said it tasted just like in Japan :)
    Thanks for your post!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Sarah! Happy Anniversary!!!! I’m glad that my cake recipe helped you celebrate…congrats! :) Thanks for the feedback.

  22. Maithao says:

    I’ve tried this recipe for making cupcakes instead of the birthday cake. The cupcakes turned out good except that they got deflated right in the middle asap I took them out. Any ideas? Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there! I don’t think this recipe will work for cupcakes – the batter is very delicate and just not well suited for changing the pan size from a round cake to cupcakes. Sorry!

  23. Winnie says:

    Hello, I am a Chinese 13-year old girl who has a few questions about this recipe that I find mouth-watering~

    1) Am I old enough to do this? I want to make this for my mother’s birthday.
    2) I don’t have a springform pan…what can I do with those regular cake pans? I have those spray canola oil and I can get wax paper. The cake pan I have is about 9 inches I think.
    3) Any cute decorations I may add? :3

    Thank you very much! I tried out your other recipes and they were amazing I must say ^^

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Winnie,
      Your mother is very lucky to have such a wonderful daughter looking to make her a birthday cake!
      As far as your questions go:

      1. Are you old enough to make this cake? In my opinion, yes. (But you are asking someone who used to cook unsupervised in the kitchen as a 6 or 7 year old kid.) You do need to use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the egg whites until stiff, and you do need to handle hot baking pans. As long as you can do that carefully, I don’t see why not. :)

      2. The thing about a springform pan is that it helps to remove the cake when it is done. This cake needs the walls of the cake pan to stick to as it is baking, for structural support. When it’s done, you need to cool it upside down (so it sticks to the bottom of the pan) – so that the cake structure sets and doesn’t collapse on itself. With the springform pan, you can cut the cake from the sides, then remove the sides – and then cut the cake from the bottom. You don’t want to grease the pan in any way because it will not allow the cake to stick – and you NEED it to stick in order for the texture to turn out ok. The other problem with a regular cake pan is that it is probably not tall enough (your cake will overflow), and it will be difficult to remove. Do you have a removable bottom angel food cake pan? That would be a better cake pan substitute for a springform pan. If you feel like experimenting, you could try dividing the batter between two 9 inch cake pans (ungreased!), and just do your best to “cut” the cake out of the pan after cooling – you will want to cut back on the baking time though – maybe 25-30 minutes max.

      3. For decorations – it depends what you are looking for. If you want to put a cute drawing on the cake, you can try my technique for making a frosting transfer – use canned frosting, or make your own butter based frosting:

      http://www.the350degreeoven.com/2012/11/cake/hello-kitty-cake-how-to-make-frosting-transfers-for-easy-cake-decoration/

      If you want something a bit more sophisticated, you can try using a frosting tip to pipe stars or swirls of whipped cream in a clock dial pattern around the top of the cake, and put sliced fruit or berries into the center.

      Let me know how your cake turns out! :)

      • Winnie says:

        Thank you so much for replying, and thank you for the compliment! >.< I will try my best to make this with your recipe and advice :3 and try out the experiment. Because I cannot get another springform pan, this is the cake pan I have: http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Classic-Bakeware-9-Inch-Nonstick/dp/B0009EYIRI

        I would divide into two as you said which I believe may work considering the reviews about this pan.

        Anyways, for the decorations…the way you did that was so awesome! I might do mamegoma (the baby seal), because you know, it's cute and all lol. Once again, thank you so much and I appreciate your reply. I will also let you know how my cake turned out :D

  24. Melody says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It turned out amazing and was super easy to make. It tastes just like the cake my friend bought me for my birthday years ago!

  25. I just made this cake today for mother’s day. I ended up halving the recipe and making it in a nonstick 9 inch round (ungreased), but it still came out fine! My mom hates “overly sweet” western cakes, so this was perfect! Thanks for the recipe!

  26. Abby says:

    I am looking at making this for my upcoming birthday. Do you have to fill the cake? I had to read over the comments to actually understand what this was as it is missing from your steps. This is my first time attempting such a cake (which is why I’m testing this and another recipe out before my birthday) and I want to make sure I do it right. Thanks for your help!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there. No, you don’t have to fill the cake… but pretty much all versions of this cake are filled. It’s a little bit weird to bite into an Asian sponge cake, only to find no fruit & whipped cream filling! You cake will be really lacking something (and will also be really flat) if you decide to skip the filling. So… you could, but I don’t recommend it.

      You may have missed it, but if you read STEP NUMBER 9, there actually ARE instructions for the filling: “Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 6 T. of sugar. Save a few nice looking strawberries for decorating the top, and slice the rest. Fill the cake with sliced strawberries and 1/4 of the whipped cream. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the top and sides, then decorate with the reserved strawberries and sliced almonds.”

      If you have never made chiffon or sponge cake before, it is somewhat finicky, so make sure you follow the instructions EXACTLY – especially the cooling part (upside down), otherwise your cake will collapse. Also, be REALLY careful when whipping your egg whites – even a trace of yolk or fat in the bowl will ruin your egg white foam! Good luck! :)

  27. Carol says:

    Hi Mika!
    I have to THANK YOU for generously sharing this wonderful recipe!
    I am obsessed with making my own strawberry cake that none actually paired with yours!
    So, thank you very much. I am so excited. My family loved it and it came out super great!
    More power to you!

    Carol

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Carol! I’m so glad it worked out for you! This is my #1 favorite cake, so once I figured out how to make it… I was thrilled. I’m glad I could share. :) You can also use other fruit (mandarin oranges, raspberries, peaches/kiwi, etc.)… but I think strawberry tastes the best.

  28. Leslie Tsai says:

    Hi, Mika

    Thank you for the recipe, I love your blog! I made mochi brownie, everyone loves it! about this cake receipe, can I use baking powder to replace cream to tartar?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Leslie! In this recipe, the cream of tartar acts as an acid to stabilize the egg white foam… not to provide lift. So no, you can’t really substitute the cream of tartar for baking powder in this recipe. You can try just leaving it out if you don’t have any. If you have problems with your egg white foam deflating, then you can try using 1/2 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar in your egg white foam instead, and see if that works.

  29. Bonnie says:

    Hi! I would love to try this recipe but I am having a lot of trouble converting the ingredients into ml and g – I live in australia and the cups and measurements are all different. Not to mention that we don’t use pints (unless you are talking about beer lol). Can you help me? thank you :)

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there! For the metric conversion:
      1 pint = 473.176 mL
      1 cup = 236.588 mL
      1/2 cup = 118.294 mL
      1/3 cup = 78.8627 mL

      1 quart of strawberries (typically 1 1/2 pounds) = 680.389 grams

      • Bonnie says:

        thank you so much for the help :) I have successfully made the cake! Will definitely make it again! I made it for my cousin’s birthday since he loves strawberries!!!! Everyone loved it!!!!! the only problem I have with it is that it really sticks to the baking pan, even the spring loaded pan was sooo sticky I had trouble getting the cake clean off the ring and base… some of the outside came off with the tin…any ideas?

        • Bonnie says:

          PS: and for ppl outside the US, I used thickened cream as there is no heavy cream here in Aus…. thickened cream has 35% fat whilst double cream has 48% (too high?) the only thing I have problem with the cream is that it melts fairly quickly. I had the cream in a piping bag and it turned into liquid in about 30 mins…. is it cos it’s not enough fat to whip?

          • Mika Mika says:

            Heavy whipping cream is typically 36-40% fat content. I looked up the fat percentage of “thickened cream” – basically, it 35-36.5% fat, with some added stablizer (like gelatin) to make it somewhat thicker and less watery. I think that the thickened cream you used is probably too low in fat to “hold” the shape. You probably need something with a higher fat content, so I would probably go with the double cream – I’m thinking the double cream is probably similar to what we call in the US “Manufacturing Cream” (which is a 40% and higher fat content cream, mainly used by bakeries and restaurants). I would prefer to use something like manufacturing cream if I could find it – but grocery stores around here don’t sell it – it’s pretty hard for a regular home baker to find it! So you should be fine using the double cream next time! :)

        • Mika Mika says:

          Hi Bonnie! Yeah… that’s the only drawback to making this cake. You kind of want the cake to stick to the pan while baking and cooling – the pan helps give the cake structural support before it is fully set. What I usually do is use a sharp knife to “cut” the cake away from the sides of the cake… run the knife along the edge of the cake pan. Then remove the sides of the springform pan. Last, I slide the sharp knife along the cake bottom to separate the cake bottom from the springform pan bottom.

  30. Michelle says:

    I finally stumbled upon your website to find the recipe that I’ve been searching for! This was my first time making a layered cake and it turned out wonderfully delicious (I used honeydew, green and yellow kiwi for the filling). I made it for my mom and she thought I was joking when I said I made it, she thought I bought it from a bakery. Thanks so much for the recipe and all the tips and tricks – my cake was a success!

    I wish I can send you a picture!

    Cheers!

    Michelle

  31. tay says:

    can i replace canola oil to vegetable oil or sunflower oil instead

  32. amy says:

    Hi Mika ,
    How far ahead can you make the cake ( before frosting it)? Also can the frosting be make ahead also?
    Also , just a suggestion , on your step 9 , you might want to add slice the cake horizontal in half then fill with 1/4 frosting and strawberry. Do you put the frosting on the first layer then strawberry slice and then the second layer of the cake ( or more frosting before you put on the second layer?). Does the layers stick together when you slice the cake? I tried to make this cake today as a practice for the real thing in 2 weeks. So far so good. Except the decoration doesn’t look as nice as your. Have you ever tried to put unflavored gelatin in the whipped cream to help it more stablize?

    • Mika Mika says:

      I think you can make the cake a day ahead of time before frosting it. You don’t want to make it too far in advance because it’s a sponge cake, and it could lose moisture. When I cut the cake in half, I spread the whipped cream over the first layer, then top with strawberries, then place the top cake layer right over the strawberries. You can put a little extra whipped cream on top of the strawberries if you want… but I haven’t found the need to do that (the cake holds together pretty well when slicing).

      I don’t usually need to put unflavored gelatin in the cream to make it stiffer – but this is always an option if you are worried your whipped cream will be too soft. I haven’t had that issue… but if your cake sits out at room temperature at all, it could be helpful.

      For decoration – don’t worry too much! As long as you do the same thing all the way around the cake – it’s going to look fine. Even if you are piping blobs of whipped cream… just make all the blobs evenly spaced and about the same size, and it will look good! A few strategically placed mint leaves help too. I’m sure your cake will be wonderful! :)

  33. Carol says:

    I wonder if this will work on a rectangular cake pan? 9×13, maybe?

  34. Bobbi says:

    Do you need cream of tarter? Can I just put it out?

    • Mika Mika says:

      The acid in the cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg white foam. If you don’t have it, the next best thing would be to substitute with an equal volume of lemon juice or vinegar.

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