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.

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!