Satsumaimo Layer Cake

I don’t recall hearing the sing-song jangle of ice cream trucks during my time living in Japan, but I do remember a yakiimo cart that made its rounds near Yoshikawa station.  Yakiimo are warm,  whole roasted satsumaimo, Japan’s sweet potato with red skin and a white interior.  The cart owner would always be bellowing a steady song dedicated to the celebrated yakiimo.

To me, roasted satsumaimo are mouthwateringly good without any alteration; butter and sugar aren’t necessary.  When you do add those two ingredients into the equation, you’ll float away on a rich flavor cloud!

One popular treat in Japan are satsumaimo cakes, reformed into a small potato shape after mixing mashed satsumaimo with sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and a few other key ingredients.  There are even some regional Kitkats that are flavored after Japan’s ubiquitous sweet potato varieties.

This luxuriant layer cake is dedicated to the lovely, sweet tuber that has grown close to my heart.  Three layers of satsumaimo cake are topped with daigaku imo, a caramelized, candied version of the wonderful root.  The cake is slathered with kuromitsu (black sugar) cream cheese icing, and drizzled with kuromitsu syrup.

Taking a bite out of this cake reminds me of helping one of my host grandmothers tend to her satsumaimo crop in the garden.  There are so many moments in Japan that I hope to always carry with me, and rooting around in the dirt with someone I couldn’t communicate with well over the common goal of nurturing latent sweetness is definitely one that takes the cake.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Satsumaimo Layer Cake

For the Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups mashed cooked satsumaimo sweet potatoes, cooled (about 4-5 sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with canola oil. Line bottoms with baking parchment and spray the top of those too.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high for 5 minutes until creamy.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl, so all is well incorporated.  Add in eggs one at a time.  Beat on medium-high for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla and sweet potatoes and beat until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed (scraping down the bowl is important stuff, y’all).
  4. Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Beat on low speed until just incorporated.
  5. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake at 350-degrees F for 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake and placing on a cooling rack.  Torte each cake in half when the cakes are completely cool.

For the Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons kuromitsu syrup 
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese

Instructions:

  1. Beat butter with the cream cheese on high, until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually incorporate the powdered sugar
  3. Add the kuromitsu, salt, an cinnamon.  Beat until well incorporated

For the Daigaku Imo

Ingredients:

  • 2 satsumaimo, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or another neutral-flavored oil)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar

Directions:

  1. Wash the skin of the potato carefully.  You will not peel it.
  2. Cut the potato diagonally in the rangiri style – by rotating the potato a quarter between cuts.  Soak the pieces in water for 15 minutes to remove starch.  Change the water half way through.
  3. Wrap the lid of your frying pan with a kitchen towel and tie on the top near the handle.  By doing this, you prevent condensation from the lid dripping down onto the potatoes.
  4. Before turning your burner on, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and oil in your frying pan.  Stir well.
  5. Dry the potatoes with a towel before placing in your pan.
  6. Cover with your prepared lid and turn the stove on to medium heat.  Every two minutes, open the lid and flip the potatoes so that all sides are cooked.
  7. Cook in this style for approximately 10 minutes.
  8. Take off the heat and sprinkle with black sesame seeds, to taste.

Cherry Chai Cupcakes

My latest collaboration with Dona Chai and Brins Jam & Marmalade resulted in these adorable cherry chai cupcakes.  A lightly flavored Dona chai cupcake is crowned with cherry chai buttercream from Brins (formerly named Stagg Jam & Marmalade).  Brins actually used Dona chai in their jam recipe, so this cupcake is a flavor match made in confectionery heaven!

The cherries on top remind me of the alluring ice cream sundaes at old time-y diners, such as the one on my old college campus in Chicago.  Sometimes the only thing that would motivate me to write a paper was a friend dragging me from the bookish danger zone of my dorm room to study at our diner with a sweet treat close at hand.  That cherry on top could make it or break it!

Dona is a Masala Chai tea concentrate.  If you mix equal parts with hot milk, you’ll have a wildly good chai tea latte on your hands.  With vibrant spices like green cardamom and black peppercorn shining through, Dona chai breathes sparkling life into baked goods.  I suggest drinking a chai latte as you munch on your cupcake batch!  Dona chai is brewed in Brooklyn, where the brand also concocts a golden latte concentrate made from turmeric.

While I was cozy at home eating cupcakes this weekend, I was excited to browse the upcoming lineup at New York’s Dessert Goals festival next week.  I’m excited to see their new space in Long Island City!  I won’t leave before grazing on some fluffy shaved ice at the Bonsai Kakigori stand or taking incessant photos of the push-pop cake creations at The Pop Cake Shop.  I think there are a few tickets left for the event, so skedaddle on over to their website as soon as possible!  And if you can’t make it, definitely, DEFINITELY mix up a batch of these gorgeously flavored cupcakes.

Scroll down for the recipe!

For the Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Dona chai concentrate
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and beat in the eggs.
  3. Mix in the Dona chai concentrate.
  4. Fold in the flour and buttermilk, alternating between each, and mix until just combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar and then mix into the batter.
  6. Distribute batter in cupcake holders until 3/4 full.  Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cups Cherry Chai Jam from Brins Jam & Marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Beat the butter in an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly incorporate powdered sugar, sifted.
  3. Add cherry chai jam and vanilla.
  4. Beat until well combined.

Don’t forget the cherry on top!