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Big sponge cakes in dispute over ingredients

Shops selling what is called “giant sponge cakes” are in hot water over their usage of allegedly harmful ingredients, fanning complaints among Korean customers. 

Big sponge cake (Yonhap)
Big sponge cake (Yonhap)
A local TV program reported on Sunday that the cakes contained an excessive amount of cooking oil and chemical additives. The program also claimed some shops used liquid-formed eggs and paste that included emulsifier and inflation agents.

The large sponge cakes, also known as “giant Castella,” recently gained popularity in Korea due to their extra soft texture. The sponge cakes, originally coming from Taiwan, are about twice the size of typical sponge cakes as the name suggests. A number of shops have sprouted up in major cities here since May 2016.

According to the program, some cakes were saturated with fat and oil, while experts said it was abnormal to use such a large amount of oil in baking. The episode also showed a shop employee trying to sell cakes that were made the previous day.

“Eating those cakes means shoveling a spoonful of oil into your body,” an official from confectionary industry said. “Some shops might have used the oil, instead of butter, to soften the cakes.”

One of the giant sponge cake brands said on Monday the program’s coverage could damage its reputation since it does not use the controversial ingredients.

On social media, a dispute intensified over whether the ingredients in question were really harmful.

Some sponge cake shop owners called for an apology from the cable TV station, as the program generated a barrage of complaints from consumers. 

The website of a major giant sponge cake brand remained out of service on Tuesday due to heavy traffic by angry Korean netizens.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)

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