When I was a child, my favourite treat from the bakery in the centre of our village was a Jap cake. They were a kind of cylinder shape, made of a chewy meringue, with nuts stuck around the sides, a chocolate button and something green - which I think was a tiny piece of pistachio - on the top. I haven't seen them for years, and have found that most people have never even heard of them, to the extent that I was almost wondering if I had imagined it! But when the letter for this month's Alphabakes turned out to be J, I knew I had to try to recreate the Jap cakes I loved as a child.
This website gives a good description: it says '"Jap cakes' are made from egg whites, corn flour and ground almonds and may also be known as 'jap biscuits'. Though once more widely eaten their popularity seems now to be confined to Scotland." Any Scots out there who can confirm that?
I have no idea why they are called Jap cakes and whether it is a reference to something Japanese (in which case if it is, I hope the abbreviation isn't offensive)... most people seem equally in the dark, as when I was searching on Google I mainly found websites where people had posted a question along the lines of "Does anyone remember Jap cakes, and know where I can find a recipe?" It does seem that they have fallen out of favour somewhat and I wonder why, as they are delicious!
Eventually I found this recipe and set about making them.
This quantity only made me two cakes so scale up the quantities if you need to.
2 egg whites
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz ground almonds
a few drops of almond essence
a small quantity of buttercream (made the usual way from butter and icing sugar), which the recipe suggests to flavour with coffee but you can do this according to taste, plain vanilla works fine as well.
I began by whisking the egg whites until stiff then whisking in half the sugar.
Fold in the ground almonds, almond essence and rest of the sugar.
The resulting mixture will look quite grainy
Spread in a layer about 1-2cm thick on a greased and lined baking tray. Bake at about 180C for around 10-15 minutes - the recipe just says "bake until almost set" without saying how long that should take, so do keep an eye on them.
Not sure if it is meant to look like this or if mine is overcooked! Tasted nice anyway...
Use a circle cutter to cut out rounds. I only got four out of this. The recipe I used said to return the cakes and the trimmings to the oven until firm but I felt mine were already cooked enough.
The recipe I used also tells you to crush up the trimmings, pass them through a sieve and use them to coat the cakes. I'm sure I remember the ones I ate as a child were coated in nuts though, so I wanted to try this instead.
I sandwiched two of the cakes together with buttercream and spread buttercream around the sides.
I coated the cakes in chopped mixed nuts. They do look a bit messy, don't they!
The recipe I was using suggests decorating the top of the cake with pink glace icing, but I definitely remember the ones I ate from Reeves the Baker having a chocolate button and something green on top. I didn't have any chocolate buttons in the cupboard so used a blog of chocolate fudge icing, with a pistachio nut on top. These definitely look like the ones I remember, and they tasted pretty similar too!
I'd love to know if other people remember eating this and have ever tried making them!
I am sending this to Alphabakes, which I am hosting this month (it's Ros's turn next month) as the letter we have chosen is J.
As I've discovered from the comments below this type of cake appears to be based on a Japanese meringue, I am sending it to Bloggers Around The World, as the theme this month is Japan.