Sakura Branch Cookies: Happy Spring!

In honor of the first day of spring this past week, I made these cookies that mimic the spring branches that are swarming the sidewalks and shops in New York’s flower district right now.  I was delighted to stumble upon that part of town earlier this month… to my winter-weary eyes, it was proof that New York really has it all.

My first weekend of spring is shaping up to be pretty darn sweet.  I’m excited to attend the Dessert Goals festival.  Yes, the same festival that I went crazy for last autumn.  As the professionals say, dessert is always a good idea.  In addition to attending one of their food styling workshops on Saturday, I’ll be volunteering there on Sunday… anything to make the sugar-fueled dream last a little longer!  One day just isn’t enough, as I learned the hard way last year, racing to eat my way through sugary booth after oh-so-sugary booth.

There’s a fresh crop of vendors at the festival this spring, and I’m especially excited to sample the churros s’mores from Boqueria and the mini eclairs from Rare Bird Sweets.  Dessert Goals is without a doubt the best place to hunt down interesting new dessert mash-ups.

Just earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend about trying the Whole 30 diet… where you cut out dairy, sugar (gasp!), grains, and alcohol for 30 days.  What better time than the beginning of spring to infuse a little extra energy into my life?  I resolved to try it, but then, being honest with myself, decided that 30 days was not realistic and started considering a Hadley-customized “Whole 7” diet.

Nope, I still haven’t started that yet.  With Dessert Goals looming and with the Cherry Bombe Jubilee event on the horizon, it is truly my duty to abstain from healthy living, for the time being!

There will be plenty of time to go all-in later.  Balance truly is key, so for now, I’ll keep trying to inject my creations with fresh fruits and alternative ingredients.  I’ll save the Whole 7 low-down for another blog post.

Hope your spring is off to a gorgeous start, stay sweet!

 

Ichigo Daifuku Cake

“Ichi-go Ichi-e”

This Japanese phrase has grown to mean a lot to me.  It literally means “one time, one meeting.”  In other words, you don’t get moments back.  This chance is your chance… your chance to start a conversation, to ask a question, to pick up a lucky penny from the street, even though people are watching.  This is your chance to try that new recipe that you’ve been eyeing.  Who knows, maybe the moment will grow into something more.  In short, take all the chances that you encounter, and regret nothing.

Adding to my “punny” delight, the word ichigo in Japanese also means “strawberry.”  One strawberry, one meeting.  Words to live by; savor that strawberry!  Ichigo daifuku is a Japanese treat: a strawberry covered in red bean paste, with a thin outer layer of mochi.  It was one of my favorite snacks to pick up while I lived in Japan.  It’s healthy-ish!

This cake is inspired by ichigo daifuku.  It’s three layers of strawberry cake laden with strawberry puree, covered in whipped cream, with layers of red bean paste and mochi bits in between the cake.  The cake is decorated with strawberry cut-outs.  I made the mochi and purchased the ready-to-eat red bean paste.  Scroll down for the recipe!

Fun fact, this cake plummeted to the floor shortly after the conclusion of my photo shoot.  I guess that I got a little too confident carrying it to the fridge… what can I say, ichigo, ichie.  It was beautiful while it lasted!

in-between layer detail… spread on a thick layer of red bean paste.
Add bite-sized bits of homemade mochi for extra chewiness.

 

Strawberry Cake

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cover inside of 5 inch baking pan with butter.
  2. Place 4 large strawberries into a blender, and blend until smooth.  For a smoother cake, strain out the seeds.  I chose to leave them in for more texture.  Set the puree aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, white sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and strawberry puree until well combined.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, and red food coloring (only if you want) to reach a desired shade of pink. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the cake has risen and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Allow cake to cool before frosting.  Torte the cake into three layers.

Whipped Cream (For Frosting)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Instructions:

  1. Place mixing bowl in the freezer and allow to chill for ten minutes.  It is important for the bowl to be cold.
  2. Whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and confectioners sugar.
  3. Continue whipping just until incorporated, then stop. If you over-whip, the cream will develop a butter-like consistency.

Mochi

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice flour, aka “mochiko” (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Mix the rice flour, sugar, and water together.
  2. Cook the rice flour mixture in the microwave for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
  3. Stir rice flour mixture and heat for another 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Roll mixture into small balls.  Dust with extra rice flour to prevent stickiness.

Assembly: Stack cake with layers of red bean paste and mochi bits in between the strawberry cake.  Frost cake with a thin layer of whipped cream for a naked finish.  Use cookie cutters to punch out strawberry shapes and use these to decorate the top of the cake.