Sakura Mochi Layer Cake

This cake is inspired by sakura mochi, a wagashi treat that is served during the springtime in Japan.  It is typically sweet rice covering a dollop of red bean paste, then wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf or topped with a pickled sakura blossom.  I incorporated these elements and gave them an American layer cake twist.

Three layers of sakura cake are covered with ethereal sakura frosting; not too much of it, as I wanted the flavor of the cake to really shine through and buttercream can often dominate.  In between the cake layers are two layers of sweet red bean paste (koshian), and bits of chewy homemade mochi. The cake is dotted with pickled sakura blossoms. You can preserve the sakura flowers yourself if you have access to cherry blossoms, or you can buy small packages of them on Amazon.

Last year, I went to the sakura matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and was blown away by the number of people.  I don’t think I had seen so many New Yorkers in one place before! The people watching proved to be just as delightful as the petal watching.  I went to the festival alone, lending it a similar feel to the days I wandered Kyoto’s streets alone as an exchange student.

This cake reminds me of the beauty of wandering alone in a strange place.  When you’re alone, you can absorb the little details without being distracted or rushed.  I hope that you can make and eat this cake in a similar fashion – leisurely and with the luxury of noticing every deliberate detail.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Sakura Mochi Layer Cake

For the Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons sakura extract
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Pink gel food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two 6 inch circular baking pans with cooking spray and parchment.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Incorporate the egg yolks one at a time, and add the sakura extract.
  5. Add pink food coloring, if desired.
  6. Alternate adding the milk and the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  7. Evenly distribute the batter in your pans.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 12 tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1.5 teaspoon sakura extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
  3. Incorporate other ingredients and mix until all are combined.

For the Mochi

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup mochiko flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • corn starch, as needed

Instructions:

  1. Mix the mochiko with the granulated sugar.
  2. Add the water to the mixture and mix until a paste forms.
  3. In a microwave, heat mixture for 2 and a half minutes.
  4. Using corn starch to prevent the mochi from sticking to the table or your hands, roll the mochi into small balls.

Additional notes:

Add store bought packaged red bean paste in between the cake layers.

When working with pickled sakura, be sure to soak the blossoms before use, as they are preserved in salt.  I soaked the blossoms for about 30 minutes and sprinkled sugar on them after laying them out to dry on a paper towel.

Caramel Corn Miso Cupcakes

Last year I made some cupcakes with the Japanese snack cookie called  “Mushroom Mountain” (or “Kinoko No Yama”).  Today I present to you another cupcake design that pays homage to a favorite Japanese convenience store snack-aisle staple!

Tohato Caramel Corn is SO good.  It’s similar to Cracker Jacks and comes with peanuts, but has a better crunch that conventional caramel corn.  I bought it three times over the last month with the intention of making this recipe, and all three times I ended up eating the entire bag before I made it to cupcake production.  Pro tip: if you try this recipe, buy lots of back-up bags.

These caramel cupcakes are topped off with fluffy miso caramel buttercream frosting and a few crunchy pieces of the Tohato caramel corn mix.  Miso in a cupcake sounds weird, you say?  I promise, this ultra-umami masterpiece will have you salivating for more in no time.

I love to bring conventionally savory Japanese flavors into my pastry recipes.  Miso is perfect for amping up the nuance of an otherwise too-sweet dessert.  I also love to use sesame, kinako powder, sweet potato, and spicy yuzu kosho in my desserts.  Stay tuned for more umami action in the Hadley Go Lucky kitchen.

Scroll down for the recipe!

For the Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Do not overmix the batter.
  5. Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with batter. Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Let the cupcakes cool before frosting.  Don’t melt the frosting with a warm cupcake!

For the Miso Caramel Sauce

(Makes 1 pint; you’ll have some left over for decorating.  From Food52.)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • tablespoons white miso

Instructions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir together sugar and water. Without additional stirring, bring mixture to a boil.
  2. When sugar becomes a deep golden brown and wisps of smoke just start to form, remove pan from heat.
  3. Once off the heat, carefully pour in the cream, which will cause the caramel to bubble. Stir to combine.
  4. If the caramel seizes up and hardens with the addition of the cold cream, then put the pan back over low heat and stir until the caramel is liquid again. Whisk in the miso. Allow to cool before using as ingredient in the Caramel Miso Buttercream frosting.

For the Buttercream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup miso caramel sauce

Instructions:

  1. Whip butter in a stand mixer until lightly fluffy.
  2. Gradually incorporate all of the powdered sugar.
  3. Add the miso caramel sauce.  Mix until combined.