Cake pot corner

Here is a recipe for cake (kasutera, natch) from 19th-century Japanese recipe book Teisa hiroku 鼎左秘録 ("Left-of-the-kettle secret record"):

  • One egg
  • Sugar, ten monme (about 35 g)
  • Flour, ten monme (about 35 g)
Mix the preceding three items well in a bowl, then spread thick paper inside a pot, and pour the mixture in ["どろりと"]. Put the lid on, and on it place an extremely strong flame. Below the pot place an extremely weak flame, so weak that it is barely even there, and bake. To determine whether baked or not, insert a single rice stalk into the pot. If the cake is evenly baked, the stalk will come out clean, with nothing sticking to it; if not, the cake mixture will stick to the stalk.

If you don't have a "cake pot" (kasutera nabe), a square copper pot available in a wide variety of sizes, don't worry: you can use a regular copper pot, and borrow the candle dish from a lantern to use as a lid. You're welcome, and please let me know how it turns out. (If you don't have the candle dish from a lantern, you're out of luck.)

I read this recipe in SUZUKI Shin'ichi and MATSUMOTO Nakako's Kinsei kashi seihō sho shūsei 近世菓子製法書集成 ("Collection of early modern dessert recipe books"), volume II. Suzuki and Matsumoto note that "flame above and below, with the flame above stronger, is well and good, but having the lower flame 'so weak that it is barely even there' is going too far." Quite.

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Leonardo Boiko:

What’s the idea for having the two flames, with the one above stronger?


presumably so that it gets a more even distribution of heat? if you only had a flame below i guess it might only cook on the underside: with a strong flame above, though most of the heat will dissipate upwards some should convect down&around.


Dutch oven?


What's with the hiroku 秘録? I've seen that in a lot of old Japanese recipe books.


Yeah, I think the above/below thing is a replacement for the all-around (in theory) heat of an oven as xee suggests.

Charles: Portuguese. Like a Dutch oven, but with confession afterwards.

Colin: I assume it's just sales copy. You probably wouldn't sell many books using a title like "Non-secrets that everyone knows about cooking." There could've been a recipe-book-specific tradition, though, since it seems that everyone was copying everyone else back then (to paraphrase Suzuki and Matsumoto).


xee is correct. You do the same thing when you cook with a Dutch oven, generally you put 2x the number of coals on the top as you do the bottom, because the majority of the heat from the coals on the top rises up, so you need twice as much to get an even distribution of heat.

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