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.

Chia Pudding Parfait Shots

I almost made some “The Handmaid’s Tale” themed treats for Mother’s Day, but reconsidered.  That ominous baking project can wait!  Instead, I wanted to make use of some adorable shot glasses that my friend recently gave me.  They are the cutest little munchkin mason jars!

I’m celebrating the spring holiday with something on the (somewhat) lighter, (vaguely) nourishing side of the pastry spectrum.  However, my mom is actually the biggest fan of peanut M&M’s… so I’m not sure that she’d approve of this healthier decision.  In a way, these little chia pudding cups are actually kind of anti-mom.  Good thing she’s a safe distance away from me, back in Illinois!

I’ve never sampled chia seeds before, so this is my first documented experiment.  Here are the results.

The chia is flavored with coconut milk, honey, and a touch of vanilla.  I layered the chia pudding with raspberry preserves.  Each shot is garnished with banana cut-out.  The super-sweet preserves balanced the far milder coconut/chia flavor.  Time to search for your mini spoons!  For a less-healthy option, layer the chia with cinnamon yoghurt and top the shots off with Biscoff cookie crumbles.

I’m so thankful that my mom has instilled in me a love for creative challenges.  I’m pretty sure that most moms don’t let their kid paint a mural on the kitchen windows as a first grader!  Without her encouragement, I would never have embarked on this pastry chef/food styling adventure.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with her later this year by using some of the ceramic cupcake and cake stands that she’s created.

Happy Mother’s Day!  Make some chia parfaits with your mom… or your anti-mom.  Scroll down for the recipe.

Chia Pudding Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • raspberry fruit preserves
  • fresh bananas or fruit of your choice

Instructions:

Pulse the coconut milk, honey, and vanilla together in a blender.  Pour over the chia seeds and let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge.  The following day, layer your chia pudding with your choice of fruit preserves and fresh fruit.  Cheers!