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.

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!