Photo: Straits Times
While much of the recent food craze has swirled around the Japanese-inspired fluffy castella cake from Taiwan, another cake has been gaining plenty of traction since August.
The honey baked cheese sponge cake could well be a cousin of the castella cake. After all, bakeries in Taiwan are also churning it out and some liken it to the Japanese kasutera (castella cake), which uses honey in the batter too.
It is not as big or fluffy as the castella cake.
Instead, the round honey sponge cake - which is double the size of a cupcake - is slightly denser and has a glistening rim of caramelised cheese. The moist cake is not too sweet and has hints of honey and cheese flavours.
So far, at least three bakery chains here are selling the honey baked cheese sponge cake - with some referring to it as a crater cake, probably due to its slightly sunken centre.
Mr Ng Choon Yang, 38, executive director of the Swee Heng halal certified bakeries, says the cake was discovered on a trip to Taiwan in May and rolled out here at the end of August.
He says: "We started selling about 14,000 cakes in just the first week, in late August. Currently, we sell an average of 35,000 to 40,000 cakes in a month."
Its Spongey Baked Honey Cheese is priced at $3.80 and is available at all the Swee Heng outlets (except at the National University Hospital), as well as all outlets under sister chain Swee Heng 1989 Classic.
The BreadTalk bakery chain also launched its Crater Cheese Honey Cake ($3.80, usual price $5) in August. In the past three months, it has sold more than 125,000 cakes, says a BreadTalk spokesman.
Due to its popularity, the cake, which was formerly available at selected outlets, is now sold at 33 outlets. They are baked in small batches every afternoon to ensure freshness and quality, and is best eaten fresh from the oven.
The spokesman adds: "The cake can also be dressed for the Christmas festivities with a simple dusting of icing sugar or cocoa powder, to form a quick and fuss-free party treat or gift."
The Duke Bakery chain also recently launched its Crater Honey Cake ($4), which it says is baked with French butter and topped with American cheese.
But the cheese flavour is lighter than that of traditional cheese cakes.
Sales assistant Aaron Tan, 24, says: "I like all kinds of cheese cakes - preferably those with lighter flavours - and this honey baked cheese sponge cake is so easy to eat. I had one to myself at tea break and it went great with my coffee."
Housewife Belinda Lim, 52, says: "I used to buy castella cakes, but I really do not like queuing for them. So when I discovered the Crater Cheese Honey Cake at BreadTalk last month, I've been buying that instead weekly.
"It is smaller and easier for my daughter and me to finish quickly. I like the honey flavour, but I prefer a stronger cheese flavour."
This article was first published on Straits Times.