Kokuto Butter Cake

Kokuto Butter Cake

Pillowy, soft, huggable. Ok, maybe not the last one. But, that’s how it came out fresh from the oven.

Somedays, you just want a basic classic butter cake to finish off the evening. The kind with tea, plenty of plush cushions on a couch with a blanket while netflixing in the mid-bleak winter. And if you are like me, you wouldn’t settle for just a basic butter cake recipe, even if all you wanted was just that. Adapt, subtract, substitute. What could go wrong? Or incredibly fabulous.

I recently came back from my maiden trip to Japan. Okinawa is in the deep south with very different styles of cooking, as you would gather. Some even go as far to say it isn’t really Japan. Like Hawaii is to America.

Being only 4 short days, I wanted to get a quick sniff and pick up some local ingredients. Among them was Kokuto, Okinawa Black Sugar. Turns out, you can now get them easily in supermarkets in Hong Kong and I suspect, Singapore as well. Apparently black sugar only comes from Okinawa and another Japanese region, Kagoshima. This fascinating ingredient is not only uniquely locally produced, it’s also known for being a healthy alternative to white sugar. Even, apparently so, being able to reduce diabetes and prevent tooth decay!


A part of me was excited to hear this. Because, don’t all of us have a sweet tooth? Also, part of me is skeptical. A pinch of salt with everything you read online. Anyway 30 minutes later, researching online, not one bad word on said black sugar (totally different from brown sugar, by the way, which is basically ‘browned’ by adding molasses to white sugar, apparently). In fact, Okinawa has the highest concentration of living centenarians - people who live beyond 100. What is in the sugar? Well, I’m no health expert. Don’t take my word for it. Apparently higher mineral content and super super natural. Like production is basically squeeze the damn juice out of the wonderful typhoon proof, sun damage-proof sugarcane, boil it down 8 hours, cool to harden and voila, that’s your black sugar right there. Can’t say I am not sold when I put that in comparison to how refined white sugar is made, stripping out good minerals, also from a source not made from sugarcane. Is sugarcane therefore, good?

There is a saying that goes, ‘anything from Japan is top shelf’. I think I drank the Kool aid and swallowed… the bottle.

When it comes to baking, pure white sugar is actually the main staple. Home bakers would agree when I say that white sugars are the most stable to use in baking, giving your cakes and pastry structure and rise. For example, when I used white sugar in baking brownies, there was that crunchy exterior, something that brown sugar would mess with. I did try using just pure kokuto in a custard cream puff recipe and it was so mild that I wonder if my black sugar was fake! I did buy it from a japanese supermarket in Japan. Turns out, the taste profile is very different from say even brown sugar. It’s way milder with a salty kick to it.

Anyway, I based my Kokuto Butter Cake, or the Okinawa Black Sugar Butter Cake on a classic butter cake recipe I found on Taste.com.au.

All I did was swap out half the white sugar with Okinawa Black Sugar and made my own self rising flour with a combination of Katakuriko (Potato Flour), Plain/All-Purpose Flour, Corn Flour and Baking powder (to create the equivalent of 2 ½ cups self raising flour). The trick is also to make sure the butter is properly softened to room temperature and creamed with sugar and vanilla essence into a fluffy pale colour before adding the egg and rest of dry ingredients.

Anyhoo, here’s my adapted recipe. You will need a kitchen scale and an electric mixer with paddle hook (highly recommended or it’s popeye arms) for this.

Kokuto Butter Cake

  • 250g Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 100g Kokuto (Black Sugar)
  • 100g White Castor Sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 eggs
  • 40g Katakuriko (Potato Flour)
  • 25g Cornflour
  • 255g All-purpose or Plain Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • A quick approximate conversion chart,
    250g butter = 1 cup = 1 typical supermarket block
    100g sugar = ½ cup sugar
    128g flour = 1 cup flour
    40g Katakuriko = 4 tbsp
    25g cornflour = 2 tbsp

    Takes , including bake time of 60 mins. Serves 1 if you wanna eat the whole loaf yourself or enough for a dinner party of 8.

    1. Preheat Oven to 180ºC or 375F, Grease or line a pan that is minimum 20 cm diameter.
    2. In an electric mixer, using the paddle hook, cream sugars, vanilla and softened butter on medium high speed till fluffy and light. It will take a good 5 - 10 minutes. You might need to stop the machine half way to scrap everything down the bowl.
    3. While mixer is running, combine Katakuriko, Plain Flour, Cornflour and Baking Powder in a seperate bowl and stir to mix well.
    4. When the butter mixture is fluffy like a soft serve texture and the colour has lightened considerably, you may now add the eggs.
    5. Add one egg at a time, making sure that each egg is beaten before pouring into the mixer with the same paddle hook. You have a choice of doing this by hand or turn the speed to stirring/low. Continue to cream till each beaten egg is well combined with the mixture, until all eggs are added.
    6. Add half of flour mixture and keep machine stirring until combine. Add half of the milk, stir till combined. Add the rest of the flour, stir till combined, followed by rest of milk, stirring till fully combined. You may notice that there will still be tiny dots of black sugar in the batter. That is perfectly fine, unless they are chunks like small pebbles. In that case, use a spatula to smoothen it out. The finished batter should resemble that of soft serve gelato, pliable but form stiff peaks.
    7. Spread mixture into pan and bake for 1 hour. Test with skewer inserted into middle of cake to make sure it comes out clean. Otherwise bake cake for an extra 15 mins till the cake is fully baked.
    8. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting and consuming. It will be soft and pillowy. Cake stored in refridgerator will be considerably harder but still moist. You have a choice of enjoying it as is or let it sit out to come to room temperature or microwave for 10 - 15 seconds to warm it up. No more than 15 seconds tho, or your cake will become a crumbly mess, utterly impossible to eat with a fork.
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