If you still can’t get enough of castella cakes — the gloriously jiggly, eggy sponge cakes that have inspired countless #foodporn Instagram Stories — here is one more to add to your list.
Original Cake from Tamsui Old Street, Taipei, touts itself as the OG of castella cakes — it sparked the trend for the fluffier, lighter Taiwanese version of the traditional castella cake. And it started offering the addictive bakes back in 2011, before Le Castella opened in 2016.
The queuing time for its Tamsui branch is up to three hours. But now, you don’t have to fly to Taiwan to get a taste of it (though we are pretty sure you'd still have to queue).
It is opening its first Singapore outlet on the second floor of Westgate mall end August, beside Lady M (but nope, it’s not brought in by the same folks).
The outlet here is co-owned by 30-something Malaysian accountant Vivyn Lim, who partners with Original Cake’s Taiwanese company to open outlets in Singapore and Malaysia.
It has four outlets in its native Taiwan, and six in Malaysia. Its latest outlet in Johor Bahru’s City Square Mall opened last month.
Now, we don’t just hit up City Square Mall for our nostalgic Gong Cha fix. So we also checked out what the fuss over Original Cake is about.
On a weekend, the queue for OC is up to an hour, while on a weekday like Monday, it is a more manageable 20 minutes.
And you gotta queue the old-fashioned way; the shop does not have a collection time slot system like Le Castella in Singapore.
We spotted quite a few Muslim customers in the queue. While OC does not use any pork or lard in its cakes, it is not halal-certified.
Located in between Ilao Ilao and Sakae Sushi, there is sizeable empty space in front of the OC shop that is conducive for queuing (meaning you don’t have to jostle with hot, cake-desperate bodies in a small space).
The cake-making process
The fresh castella cakes, baked in sheet pans, are hauled out of the ovens and cut right in front of the customers. Everyone gets excited when the cakes come out; it’s pretty good entertainment while you’re waiting in the queue.
Each slab roughly measures 23cm by 16cm, about the size of a Le Castella sponge cake. But it is taller than Le Castella’s version — OC’s cakes look almost comically towering and pillowy.
While OC in Taipei boasts seven flavours for its cakes, including an Asian-inspired Dried Longan as well as Almond & Nuts, the JB City Square outlet offers only three flavours: Original, Cheese and Frozen Chocolate. Each customer is limited to buying two cakes per flavour.
Original Flavour, RM15 (S$4.70)
Good news for those who love cheap thrills: the cakes here cost almost half the price of what you get from the various castella cake brands in Singapore.
It’s hard not to be excited when the OC staff hands us a pillowy slab of warm castella cake with steam still billowing out of its cardboard box.
The texture of OC’s original castella cake is fabulous — airy and fluffy with a pleasingly soft bite. It is rather similar to Le Castella’s, and better than Ah Mah’s, which isn’t as refined.
Out of the three similar castella brands, we say we like OC’s texture the best. It is so wonderfully fluffy and light enough for us to crave a second slice.
But the cake has nary a trace of eggy flavour, and it is not sweet (it tastes more like the plainer traditional Chinese steamed sponge cake). If you like eggy castella cakes, fellow Malaysian brand Ah Mah Homemade Cake is plenty eggy.
Cheese Flavour, RM20 ($6.40)
The cheese-loaded castella cake here fares better. The same light sponge cake is layered with slices of bright orange processed cheddar cheese that melts into the cake during the baking process.
The salty cheddar slices give the cake a savoury kick and more flavour, which we like.
Frozen Chocolate, RM25 ($8) - 8 DAYS PICK!
These brown beauties are not sliced in front of customers. Once baked, the staff whisks the sheets of cake to the kitchen (hidden from customers’ sight) for cutting. The cakes are kept in the refrigerator to chill and taken out upon order.
This is our favourite of the lot. Instead of a frozen block like its name suggests, the cake tastes more like a cold, slightly dense rich dark chocolate sponge cake. It is not as airy as its original counterpart, but we enjoy its firmer texture.
The bittersweet cake is studded with large dark chocolate chips, which melt into a fudge-like consistency at room temperature. It makes each bite of the cake even more full-bodied.
This is much sweeter than the original and cheese flavours, but infinitely more shiok. Worth the calories, we say.
Original Cake, Lot MF-18, Level 3, City Square Mall, Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Darul Ta'zim, 80000 Johor Bahru, Malaysia. www.facebook.com/originalcakemalaysia
VIDEO & PHOTOS: YIP JIEYING