Two-Bite Red Bean Cakes

Two-Bite Red Bean Cakes

I love to try new and exotic foods. They can be unusual looking fruits, something prepared in a can or package, a sauce, and sometimes even a treat. That is what lead me to red bean cakes. I don’t know how the original packaging might have ‘enticed’ my interest, as I was in a market where almost everything was labeled in a foreign language, but one rule I generally live by: “What is on the ingredient list?” Now I eat almost anything, and pretty much promise to at least try anything I’m introduced to, but there are somethings that I will generally put back on the shelf. A good example would be any type of candy where shrimp power is listed… yeah pretty much something like that. (I’m having a hard time thinking of other examples.)

… Anyway, one day I was walking down what appeared to be the candy and snack isle at the international market when I stumbled across several stuffed pancake-like sandwiches. Apparently ‘red bean’ caught my attention. Boy was I surprised! They were sweet and wonderful! A pilot friend named Taka (who coincidentally is from Japan) came by at the same time and said, “Oh ya! Dose great! Japan favorite!”

That was nearly 10 years ago and I have never forgotten how good they were. I have finally decided to buy them again and make my own recipe.

These were more dry than the first ones I tried 10 years ago. More Scone-like and less fluffy pancake.

These were more dry than the first ones I tried 10 years ago. More Scone-like and less fluffy pancake.

The cakes I go this time were not nearly as good as the last. These ones were more dry and scone-like. I needed to make sure I got this right, so of-course, I did a little research.

The sweet red bean paste is called Anko in Japan and is made with boiled and mashed azuki beans. They either make their own or often times just purchase it canned. Since I don’t see any azuki beans or anko paste on any shelves near me I brought home a bag of simple red beans and cooked them according to the instructions on the back. I found that 1 cup of dry beans yields 2 1/2 cups cooked. With lots of ideas floating around the internet on how to make anko paste I started with a smaller proportion of sugar to beans (which I am VERY happy about) and decided that a little vinegar toned down the sweetness. I added just a hint of cayenne, not as heat, but to bring out more depth. THAT was a huge success!

Two-Bite Red Bean CakesNow there are two common types of red-bean cake. Goza-Soroh is a market fresh favorite where the sweet beans are baked completely inside these wonderful little two layer cakes using special cupped pans, a hook-i-bob, and some practice. I thought I could try and replicate this type using muffin tins or pop-over pans… no, not really. Not really at all. The other kind, Dorayaki, has many more recipes around the internet. This is much simpler, being like the cakes I first had, basically two pancakes with bean paste sandwiched between. As tasty as they are, I just don’t find pancake ‘sandwiches’ to be much of a culinary accomplishment. So I committed to something in between.

My first attempts were ‘okay.’ Tasty, but not great on the eyes. My second attempt was even worse; still very tasty, but now way too big for a sweets serving, not well proportioned, and even more awkward looking than the first. At least I have ‘tasty’ going for me!

Two-Bite Red Bean Cakes

A visual on how full to fill the mini muffin tins.

Knowing that my recipe is immediately going to be considered an ‘American take on…’  (since I am in no way any bit of any type of Asian at all) I started to think about what this snack might look like served at a party. What makes a little cake a ‘little cake?’ TWO-BITE! Everyone likes two-bite brownies. I know that the word ‘beans’ in a confection will stand out like a sore thumb, but ‘sweet’ is a winner, and if it’s only two-bites the taster doesn’t have to worry about committing an ‘unpardonable tasting.’ Finally I had a recipe that that was, of-course, tasty, but also proportioned and balanced well, easy to eat, and just the right size. WIN!


Two-Bite Bean Cakes

Makes: 36 mini-cakes (48 if you keep a tight pour)


  • 1 cup cooked red beans; mashed (about 1/2 cup dry beans)*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups ‘flufffed’ flour
  • 1 T water

*I strongly suggest cooking your own beans. I used canned beans and the flavor was not nearly as good. The salt content messes it up. You may also luck out and find Anko paste at a local market and be able to skip this step.


  1. Soak and boil your red beans according to the instruction on the package. (I know this is lame, but it saves you a lot of reading here.) Drain, and while still warm, mash them with a fork or potato masher. You can choose to mash them through a sieve if you wish to remove the skins. I didn’t waste my time.
  2. Add the mashed/prepared beans and sugar to a small sauce pan over medium heat until the sugar melts and you have a shiny new paste.
  3. Stir in the vinegar, salt, and cayenne.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside for assembly.
  5. Important – Follow these directions to make the batter:
    1. Whisk the sugar and eggs until smooth.
    2. Add the honey and baking powder; whisk.
    3. FLUFF YOUR FLOUR then measure. (I just shook the container.)
    4. Stir in the flour until smooth.
    5. Stir in the water.
    6. Let rest for 15 minutes. You should see bubbles.
  6. Heavily spray your mini muffin tins, then spoon approximately 1/2 T of batter into each cup. This should fill them visually about 1/3 full.
  7. Add approximately 1 1/2 t of bean paste to the center of the batter in each cup.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 17 minutes; until just golden.

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