Saturday, August 21, 2010

happy birthday, 엄마!!!!

as a child i quickly learned that my mom has a penchant for 팥, azuki, red bean... however you may call it.  these beans are boiled and prepared with sugar for use in many east asian desserts and candies. almost like an analog to chocolate, it is quite versatile and pairs well with all kinds of treats. i clearly recall her fondness for this sweet paste because i hated it for the first half of my life, and couldn't understand the appeal!

later as my bones grew and my tastes along with them, i too began to enjoy pastries and treats with 팥, particularly a brand of green tea ice cream with 팥 i bought several times from the 7-11 by my uncle's apartment near 남산. maybe i could've blamed my ice cream binge on the hot korean summer, but there was no denying it - the combination of flavours was amazing! a timeless classic like pb&j, or tomato and basil
(more about that later).

fast forward to 2010...

i wanted to make my mom a very special cake for her birthday (technically on thursday, the 26th). keeping her favorite things in mind, i began my project.
slicing cake layers

i studied several green tea cake recipes online and adapted one to my needs. you can find the original recipe here. fresh pungent ginger balances the sweetness and discreetly adds complexity to the flavour. this recipe is adjusted for high elevation (5000+ ft)

ginger green tea layer cake (adapted from all recipes)
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp matcha green tea
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 drop green food coloring (optional)
preheat oven to 360 F.
grease and flour 2 8-in round cake pans.
sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and matcha. 
in another bowl, cream sugar, oil and eggs. stir in yogurt, vanilla extract, ginger, and coloring. 
slowly add dry ingredients and stir well until just combined. mix for one minute longer. 
pour batter into prepared pans, and shake to eliminate air bubbles.
bake for 25-30 min, checking doneness with a toothpick.
cool for 10 min in pans, then finish cooling on a wire rack.

i sliced my two layers to create four. this was easily achieved by marking the meridian of each layer with toothpicks, using them to guide a long serrated knife. next, i put together some frosting.

making of azuki-sesame buttercream frosting, with fresh 

this is my favorite part of this story. i was going to go to the store to pick up a can of premade 팥, but my mom insisted she would make some from scratch. think about it like this: i am making my mom this cake, and she helps me to make sure it happens. she helped bake her own birthday cake! what a wonderful mom :)

i can't offer a precise recipe for this frosting because i just did it "by touch", but here is my best shot:

azuki-sesame buttercream frosting
  • ~3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (softened)
  • 1 cup azuki paste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • cold milk
combine butter and azuki paste until creamy.
add confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until thickened.
add vanilla and sesame oil, whip thoroughly.
add milk 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
spread onto ginger green tea cake.

putting the layers together

ready for glaze!

before applying the frosting anywhere, i took a heaping spoonful aside and diluted it with milk to create a very thin frosting... just for crumb coating! the crumb coat is there to ensure crumbs stay in place and you don't accidentally rip your cake apart while applying heavy frosting. after that layer set i put on the original frosting, waited for it to dry and then smoothed it down by rubbing it with acetate sheets.

cooling down the white chocolate glaze

originally i had planned for the cake to be covered with a pourable white chocolate ganache. i had a very difficult time finding recipes to reference, though there are a myriad of recipes for its dark chocolate brother. but i wanted to stick to white chocolate since i didn't want to overpower the more delicate flavours of the cake with the strong, distinguished character of cocoa. plus, green tea chocolates are great and made with white chocolate. 

i anticipated something much different than my final product; the glaze i ended up with didn't exactly harden, and was somewhat clear rather than opaque. at first i was disappointed, but later i grew to like it since it lets the flecks of red bean from the frosting underneath show through. cooool. so i suppose it's better classified as a glaze rather than ganache.

white chocolate glaze
  • 1 part heavy cream
  • 2 parts white chocolate, chopped
bring cream to a simmer over medium heat.
remove from heat, stir in chocolate until melted.
cool to desired consistency, then pour.

happy birthday cake

i picked some flowers from my mom's beautiful backyard garden and put them under a spun sugar dome. black sesame seeds along the sides as well.

the thing about spun sugar is.... don't make it in hot weather! this picture was taken 5 min in and you can see it has already begun to collapse. an hour later it looked like the flowers were being choked by a pile of cellophane noodles. that being said, it is a beautiful addition to many desserts and hopefully with practice i will learn to make more stable sugar creations. the procedure is simple and i followed it directly from this site.


the cake was delicious! the green tea was very faint but enhanced the other flavours a great deal. i hope this helped make my mom's birthday a little more special. i love you 엄마!