Mother’s Day Garden Matcha Cake

As an art educator and a free spirit, my mom has undoubtedly opened creative doors for me. I grew up on a hobby farm in rural Illinois, which means that my childhood was marked by seasonal waves of baby chicks and ducklings, prairie burns that we tell ourselves we had control of, and the occasional biblical-style dust storm (truly). Living in the middle of nowhere meant that we really didn’t have neighbors to look over the fence and wonder what the heck we were doing with the place, or why.

One particularly memorable creative project from my childhood was my little garden in front of the house, inspired by the sweet children’s book “Mandy” by Julie Edwards. My mom gave me free reign over a little plot of soil.  Granted, it was a small sliver in the larger scheme of our two acres, but a prominent sliver. In the late winter, I would diligently look through Burpee seed catalogs, cut out my favorite colors and plant varieties, and collage a garden plan. Then, we would order the seeds and plant seedlings indoors, to be transplanted in the warmer months. I transformed the scrap of land into a chaotic celebration of floral color, pollinators, and the occasional cherry tomato plant, and the garden transformed me into someone that cares about adding beauty to the world, even if only a few people will ever see it.   

I’m in the big city now, barely keeping some fussy house plants alive, and longing for the wilder, large scale creative projects that come the most naturally to me. While my creative life as a child propelled me to seek bigger and more formidable challenges as an adult and to confront these challenges with an urban backdrop, I’ve found that my searching for these things often feels like a step towards boxing myself in; creating walls where there once were tilled fields and a horizon line. During this quarantine, I’ve found myself especially missing my mom, rural Illinois, and the creativity they afforded. 

I know that when I visit home again, every surface will still be covered in my mom’s handmade ceramic pots, cats, or both. There will be chaos everywhere, but it is my privilege to find order in the chaos and draw upon it for my own artistic pursuits, whether that’s the cakes that I create or the delirious scribbles in my many journals that hover around my apartment like friendly ghosts. 

The Spring Matcha Cake is dedicated to my mom and all moms. It is a perfect project to embrace the new season, especially if you’re cooped up inside. Three layers of luscious matcha cake are covered in silky matcha cream cheese frosting. In between each layer, there’s a satisfying store of semisweet chocolate ganache.  The top of the cake is decorated in Pocky white chocolate flowers, sprinkled with dried rose petals and edible glitter.  Even if you can’t enjoy eating this cake with your mom right now, I encourage you to make it anyway. Give her a call while you’re waiting to pull it from the oven.  

Scroll down for the recipe!

For the Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 5-inch or 6-inch baking pans with non-stick cooking spray and line them with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Whisk together.
  3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the wet ingredients. On low speed, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  4. When combined and smooth, pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean (about 45 minutes).
  5. Let cool. Remove from pan.
  6. When the cakes are completely cool, cut them to achieve 4 even layers. Set aside three of these layers for your cake. Snack on the fourth!

For the Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 227-gram bar cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon matcha powder

Instructions:

  1. Cream together the room temperature cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer.
  2. Gradually incorporate the powdered sugar.
  3. Add 1 tbsp matcha, or to taste.

For the Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Once simmering, at chocolate chips. Do not touch for 1 minute.
  3. Stir until smooth. Leave at room temperature for about 1 hour to achieve spreadable ganache.

For the Pocky Flowers

Ingredients:

  • 1 package matcha Pocky sticks
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • Dried flowers, such as rose petals or lavender
  • Sprinkles or edible glitter
  • Food coloring of choice

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet with wax paper. Arrange a few Pocky sticks on the paper, spaced apart. Make sure your baking sheet fits inside of your fridge, or use a flat plate instead!
  2. In a small bowl, heat the white chocolate chips in a microwave in 30-second intervals. Stir until the entire bowl of chocolate is melted.
  3. Stir in your desired food coloring.
  4. Fill a small piping bag with a small piping tip with the chocolate.
  5. Pipe chocolate on top of each Pocky stick in a flower pattern.
  6. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle on your desired dried flower petals, edible glitter, or other decoration.
  7. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

To Assemble

Put a dollop of frosting on a cake board and securely place your first cake layer. Pipe frosting along the perimeter of the layer to create a dam. Fill with ganache. If your frosting or ganache are very wet, you will need to chill your cake before repeating this step and building on top of each layer. Cover the outside of your cake with matcha frosting as well as sprinkled dried flower petals, if desired. Once chilled, decorate your cake with Pocky flowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

White Russian Cake Truffles

Hey gang, how’s your new year going so far?

I’ve been focusing on a couple of new brand-collaboration projects that I’m super excited about.  One is with socially conscious Peanut Butter Americano, and another is with Brooklyn-based Stagg Jam & Marmalade.  It’s personal projects like these that glue together the days that I’m freelancing as an assistant food stylist.  I’m still not quite accustomed with the freelance lifestyle, even though I’ve been at it for almost a year.  I’m the kind of person that likes to know exactly what I’ll be doing next week at this time.  While a freelance lifestyle seemingly offers more control because you can turn jobs down, I’m still in the skills-absorption phase and I really don’t want to say no to any new experience.

As always, getting me through this learning process demands the occasional sugary pick-me-up.  Take a look at these White Russian cake truffles!

If you’ve ever been to a bar with me, you know that I always go for the sweetest drink on the menu. White Russians have been my favorite cocktail for as long as I can remember.

If a dessert could be a winter puffy jacket, it might look (and taste) something like this.

These cake truffles are SUPER easy to make and look classy as can be.  It’s never too late for New Year’s cheers, especially when they’re in cake truffle form.  These guys also make for a perfect Valentine’s Day offering for your sweetie…

Scroll down for the recipe!

White Russian Cake Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • two 12 oz containers of vanilla frosting
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Bake the cake mix according to box instructions, but also add 1/4 cups Kahlua and 1/4 cups vodka.  Allow to cool.
  2. Crumble cake and mix with your hands.  Incorporated the frosting.
  3. Add another 1/3 cup Kahlua and mix well.
  4. Form into balls, about a half of a tablespoon each.  Place on a parchment lined tray and put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Pull truffles out and reshape them into balls.  They are easier to shape when they’re frozen.
  6. Warm up 1/2 cup of white chocolate until liquid form.  Dunk each truffle in the hot chocolate.  Allow to drip over the bowl, so that the truffles don’t form feet.
  7. Add sprinkles immediately before the chocolate cools.

You can also use this cake truffle technique with cakes that you’ve made from scratch.  It’s a great way to use up leftover cake from your other layered cake projects.

One of my favorite brands to order sprinkles from is Fancy Sprinkles.  They have some super cute Valentine’s Day mixes!  And they make vegan sprinkles too.