Tag Archives: Japanese

Tea & tofu champs

I WON!!!!??!

Remember that matcha frosting I posted about a while back?? Well.. it took me a few weeks of research, plus a bank holiday weekend of baking to find the right cake & filling recipes to match – but all the blood, sweat and tears were worth it in the end!! (and no blood really, that would’ve been gross  + unhygienic)

I won Iron Cupcake London!!

This post comes a bit late – it’s been waiting in the wings because I’m stupidly superstitious and I figured I should hold off until the fantastic Caked Crusader posted the results..just to be sure.. I came away with some lovely prizes and a massive (sugar/win/champagne) high on the night, but you never want to jinx things..  We can all breathe a sigh of relief now though, because I’m happy to report that my little bakes are in fact listed as the champs. woohoo!

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1st place champs

The challenge was ‘World’, so I chose to go with a Japanese theme (which seems less than original in retrospect, as there were at least 3 other beautiful Japanese-themed entries..doh).  Mine consisted of a two-tone matcha chocolate cupcake (marbling just seemed like too much effort) filled with sweet adzuki bean paste and tofu chocolate mousse, topped off with matcha cream-cheese frosting.  Er, ignore the wonky shape of the cake please.. frosting hides many sins..  Unfortunately, not flower paste sins – I bought little cherry blossom cutters but it was my first go at sugarpaste work and things didn’t work out so I had to improvise..

my attempt at sugarpaste cherryblossoms..hmmm

pretend they look like cherry blossoms...go on..

I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe and adapted another recipe found here for the matcha layer.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
From Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; or about 30 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

4. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

*I’ve made the layer-cake version before with peanut butter frosting, as recommended in the book, and the combination is PHENOMENAL. try it. seriously.

Moist Matcha Cake adapted (slightly) from this recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablesoons matcha powder

1 ¼ cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round pans, or line two 12-cup muffin pans.

2.  Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and matcha powder. Set aside.

3.  In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil and eggs until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, mixing until just combined.

4.  Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

After the cupcakes were cool, I used the cone method to fill them with Chockylit’s sweet bean paste (below) and a tofu chocolate mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  The double filling was down to indecisiveness to be honest.  When I was testing combos out, my boyfriend swore the bean paste tasted better, but I preferred the mousse filling – so I just went with both in the end.

Sweet Bean Paste adopted from Cupcake Bakeshop

1-1/4 cups red adzuki beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1. Cover beans in cold water and soak uncovered, overnight.
2. Drain, transfer back to the pot and cover in 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3. Drain and puree with a hand blender or in a food processor.
4. Press through a metal sieve. Note: This is time consuming work. The pureed beans become a thick paste and it takes some time to press through the sieve, clean off the underside, continue pressing until most of the bean puree passes through and the skins are left behind.
5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pureed beans and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool.
6. After the paste has cooled, scoop out 1/2″ balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap so they won’t dry out.

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting inspired by Cupcake Bakeshop and adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne
(I doubled the recipe  and ended up with tons – enough to cover 30 for ICL and about a dozen more since…)

4 ounces (1 stick) of butter

8 ounces (1 package) of full-fat cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp orange extract

~3 tablespoons matcha powder

Blend cream cheese and butter in a blender, pulsing until combined.  Add half the powdered sugar and again pulse until combined.  Add the remaining powdered sugar, along with the vanilla, orange extract and matcha powder.  You may want to add more sugar if you’re like me and prefer a firmer consistency that holds up to piping..and car journeys across London during rush hour.  Decrease the amount of sugar if you have any sense and hope to live a long, healthy life.

I also entered these coconut cupcakes with mango frosting and guava jam filling as my ode to Mexican paletas, but I’ll save the recipes for another day.

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Berry Blossom Pie

Berry Blossom Pie {take 2: Mochiko...madness?}

You want pies with that… spoonful of nostalgia?!

This month’s YWPWT theme – VACATION PIE – was chosen by Jenn of Piccante Dolce, and our mission was to bake up a sweet (or savoury!) treat inspired by vacations we’ve taken or hope to take.  Initially, I was at a loss as to where to even start with this one because there are loads of places I hope plan to visit someday…But it also got me thinking about the brilliant holidays I’ve been lucky enough to take already, and suprisingly – out of all the more exotic vacations (Reunion, Peru, Thailand..) – I kept coming back to..{drumroll here}….. family trips to the lake every summer.

I lived in Tokyo for 7 years as a child, and each summer we fled the hot, sticky city for a few weeks of rustic cabin-dwelling and lakeside lounging.  So my entry is an ode to those vacations:

..to the  tortuously boring 5-hour car journey from Tokyo, the lack of tv (!), the smell of musty sheets on a rickety bunk-bed, the injustice of having to share a room with my younger brother, and the sickening stench of outhouse drop-toilets… unforgettable.

But I’ll also never shake the memory of trekking up windy mountain paths to the tiny local store (the only store), just to collect the best blueberry pies I’ve ever known.  “Blueberry pie??! In Japan??!” you cry.. yeah, it seems odd. to me anyway.. I’ve always associated blueberries with New England (although they’re grown in virtually every US state apparently), so when the YWPWT challenge sent me on this trip down memory lane I googled & learned:

“The Nojiriko area has numerous roadside stalls and farmers’ markets where you can buy great local produce for a quarter of the price you would pay in Tokyo. The tomatoes and peaches are renowned and the region grows blueberries, apples, pears, corn, edamame and dozens of other fruits and vegetables, as well as all sorts of local specialities such as Scotch thistle preserve, walnut jam and aloe vera honey.”  [from this site]

Who woulda thunk it. (Not the bit about the insane prices in Tokyo..that I remember clearly).  So my entry to this month’s YWPWT challenge is a blueberry pie inspired by the ones I stuffed my face with each summer up in Lake Nojiri.  I tried to add some Japanese elements using cherry blossom cutouts, but the first version I made was VERY juicy and unfortunately the juice seeped out of the cuts, completely obscuring the blossom shapes. doh. (Apologies for the crappy pic – it’s mine..)

Berry Blossom Pie - take 1

Berry Blossom Pie - take 1 {the runs}

So I made another pie (some call this as madness, I call it ‘seconds’).  This time I decided to live on the edge and embrace the Japanese theme more fully by substituting Mochiko for the cornstarch. I’ve posted about Mochiko before, but just in case you don’t know: it’s a glutinous sweet rice flour used in Japan for making mochi..and as far as I know (not far), it’s not traditionally used as a thickener in pies.. (er, pies aren’t really ‘traditional’ Japanese desserts  anyway I suppose).

you say wonky, I say rustic..?

Berry Blossom Pie - take 2 {you say wonky, I say rustic..?}

So the Mochiko experiment has just come out of the oven and I have no idea whether it’ll work taste-wise.. but I’m going to take a risk and offer this one as my YWPWT entry.  The first pie hasn’t been sampled yet either, so I’m planning to bring both over to a friend’s house tomorrow evening for a blind taste-testing and I’ll post the verdict + recipes once judgement is passed.

Big thanks to Jenn for picking such a fun theme! Please check out the YWPWT blogroll to see what she and the other creative tartelettes came up with this month Xx


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Matcha, mochi and more..

Right well…. I promised to post more pics today of the crumble topped banana apple bread I made for yesterday’s Sweet Melissa Sunday deadline, but my live-in photographer had other things to do so that will just have to wait… which means I’ll have to maintain some self-control to ensure there’s still something to take photos of tomorrow. damn.

So instead, I thought I’d post a few recent experiments:

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A few weeks ago we went to a fantastic Japanese restaurant – Bento Box, go – for a friend’s birthday and it sparked a bit of an obsession.. I’d been playing around with the idea of joining the Iron Cupcake London challenge and as this month’s theme happens to be ‘Cupcakes of the World’, I’ve made it my goal to put together a tasty Japanese-themed cupcake fit for the competition.  Now, this is a bit odd because although I grew up in Japan, I never really developed a taste for most of the Japanese foods that friends and family seem to love – e.g. sushi, sashimi, ramen.. and especially green tea, bean paste and most so-called ‘desserts’.

But I’ll try anything in cupcake form.

I came across Chockylit’s recipe for matcha green tea frosting and promptly cycled down (yes, cycled..I was that pumped, haha) to the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus for ingredients.  This was an easy cream cheese based frosting and – it still shocks me to say this – it’s DELICIOUS. seriously, I love it. The taste is hard to describe – I’d say the matcha almost adds a nuttiness.. or something.. I added a teaspoon of orange extract in an attempt to get a satsuma-ish theme going and an extra teaspoon of matcha powder just to make sure the green tea flavour came through.

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This is definitely one I plan to use again – for the Iron Cupcake London competition and just for fun.  It went over reeeeeally well with friends.. (Particularly with one friend who I’d describe as a fanatical dessert-hater in fact  – she had 2!!)

* I was going to offer MATCHA POWDER as my ‘most unusual ingredient’ entry for Katiecakes’ fantastic giveaway, but I also picked up this at the Japan Centre:

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No, not the lucky cat.  (ha ha.. what a card I am, eh?).  The package he’s propping up contains Mochiko – glutinous rice flour – which is used to make ‘Mochi’ in Japan.  From what I remember, Mochi is a chewy, mildly sweet bread (?) often filled with sweet bean paste.  Have a look here to get an idea.  I’m guessing that using Mochiko will be my most unusual baking experience – because even though it’s not unusual at all in Japanese cooking, it’s a far cry from my usual bakes and my  typical tastes.

I was NOT a fan of Mochi balls as a child. I always mistook the bean paste for chocolate and felt horribly cheated once I’d bitten in and realized my error.  But the idea of making these Mochi balls, and using whatever filling I fancy, really intrigues me… (though I do intend to try the beanpaste again).  Have a look here, here and here for a few tasty-looking recipes I’ve been considering..

I’ll let you know the verdict once I get around to this one – but in the meantime, check out Katie’s gorgeous blog for a look at what other unusual ingredients her readers have been cooking with! xx

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