Japanese Sponge Cakes Recipe

Inspired by the patterned cake rolls popular in Japan, these individual sponge roulades by Wendy Kromer-Schell can show off any personalized design or monogram—it gets baked right into the batter. Each is filled with luscious lemon-ginger mousse to suit the Asian-inspired cakes.

Photography by: Stephen Kent Johnson

We created radiating dots and striped designs by hand with a permanent marker on 8 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch strips of paper. Monograms were printed on the templates in reverse.


If you prefer simpler patterns and need just a few cakes, you can draw bands and patterns on the back of the parchment that will line your baking sheet.


Decorating Batter

  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Gel-paste food coloring
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Sponge-Cake Batter

  • 1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Gel-paste food coloring

Lemon-Ginger Mousse

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

These cakes are delicious served chilled—a good thing, as ideally, they should be refrigerated until 30 minutes to 2 hours before presenting. (Note: If you'll be serving the cakes in an environment where the temperature is over 75 degrees, display time should be on the short end of that range.)


To help shape each mini cake, we used a 2 3/4-inch-diameter-by-3-inch-high stainless steel cake ring and 3-inch-wide acetate cake wrap, cut into 10-inch lengths. You can shape the cakes without the ring, but they will be neater and prettier if you use it.


Photography by: Stephen Kent Johnson
Decorating Batter, step 3

We made one recipe for each color pattern. (One recipe should generally be enough for about 10 cakes, depending on the intricacy of your design.) You can double the recipe, then divide and tint it as desired.

  1. In a small bowl, stir together egg white, sugar, and flour, then stir in butter. Tint batter to desired color; spoon into a 10- or 12-inch pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a 1/16-inch round tip (such as Ateco #2).
  2. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; wipe away excess. Lay 5 templates onto pan, leaving 1 inch of space between them. Cover templates with a sheet of parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray; wipe away excess.
  3. Using templates underneath as a guide, pipe patterns onto parchment. Refrigerate to allow patterns to set, at least 30 minutes.


Photography by: Stephen Kent Johnson
Sponge-Cake Batter, step 4

Normally, when making sponge cake, it is important to carefully fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture so as not to deflate the batter too much. But because we wanted these sponge layers to be a little thinner, we folded the egg whites in a bit more thoroughly. One recipe will fill one rimmed baking sheet, yielding enough "strips" to make 5 cake rolls and five 1 1/2-inch rounds to act as the bottom of each cake roll; for 10 cakes, make 2 recipes' worth and fill 2 baking sheets. Sponge layers may be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for 1 month, if wrapped well.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°, with rack in center. In a small bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat on low just until butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla; cover and set aside.
  2. Separate 3 eggs; place whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Lightly whisk yolks and remaining 2 whole eggs in a small bowl. Whisk egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high and sprinkle in half of sugar. Continue whisking until soft peaks form, 5 to 6 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Pour yolk mixture into mixer. Add remaining sugar; whisk on medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow (about 6 minutes). Change speed to low and add enough food coloring to provide desired color. Stir tinted yolk mixture into beaten whites, then fold in flour mixture until fully incorporated. Pour butter mixture down side of bowl in a slow stream, folding just to combine.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet with piped patterns, gently but quickly spreading it evenly to edges of sheet with an offset spatula. Tap sheet firmly on work surface a few times to release bubbles.
  5. Bake until center springs back when lightly touched, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert cake onto a cooling rack; gently remove parchment while still warm. Invert cake onto another cooling rack; let cool completely. (Note: It is not a problem if cake cools completely before parchment is removed—you will just need to pull parchment away more carefully.)


This recipe yields 3 cups, enough to fill 10 sponge-cake rolls (about 1/4 cup per cake).

  1. Whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and ginger in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low until smooth, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7 to 9 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface of mixture; refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  2. Whisk cream until soft peaks form; fold into lemon mixture. Mousse may be used immediately or refrigerated, covered, up to 3 days.


Photography by: Stephen Kent Johnson
Cake Assembly, step 2

Cut down on the number of cake rings you'll need: This technique lets you use one ring as a guide for measuring your cake wraps to the required size.

  1. Cut as many 3-by-10-inch lengths of acetate cake wrap as you'll need. Set a length into a cake ring, allowing ends of wrap to overlap. Holding overlapping ends firmly, remove wrap from cake ring and secure using a small piece of tape. Repeat for each length of cake wrap.
  2. Cut cooled sponge cake into strips, using template as a guide. From remaining scraps of sponge cake, cut rounds using a 1 1/2-inch cutter; set aside.
  3. Roll one cake strip into a cylinder shape, then fit it into a cake wrap so ends of cake meet perfectly, leaving no gap. Fit one of sponge-cake rounds into bottom of rolled cake, making sure fit is somewhat snug; set aside. Repeat with remaining strips and cake-wrap molds. (This step may take place up to 2 days in advance, as long as prepared cakes are well wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.)
  4. Fit an 18-inch pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip (such as Ateco #8); fill bag with chilled mousse. Squeeze about 1/4 cup into each cake, lightening up with pressure on bag as mousse reaches top. Continue until all cakes have been filled. Refrigerate cakes at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. (Keep filled cakes in refrigerator in their cake wraps, with tops covered with plastic, until dessert service.)
  5. Remove cakes from refrigerator and set each on a dessert plate; remove cake wraps. Serve.

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