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!

Fashion Week’s Victorianna Cake

This past week I had the honor of participating in fashion week in an entirely new way: making an after-party cake for designer Anna Sui’s new VICTORIANNA collection launch. This season’s whimsical styles billowed like perfect buttercream and were as ethereal as poufs of drifting meringue. Sui’s designs were a nod to mid-20th-century fashion illustrator Lila de Nobili. Take a look at de Nobili’s illustrations, and you’ll understand their whimsical and gauzy allure.  Cupcakes shaped like roses and succulents were part of Sui’s mood board for this season, so my role in creating a pastry pairing built upon her already sugar-inspired collection.

Focusing on Sui’s affinity for purple in both her designs and branding, I composed a watercolor two-tiered cake with three layers per tier, each tier featuring ombre lavender layers. Ultra-moist almond cake was the luscious vehicle for layers of snappy lemon curd and bright raspberry jam. Everything was topped with an eye-opening lemon buttercream with refreshing pops of zest.  Frothy pink roses and edible wafer paper butterflies embellished the sides of the cake. 

This cake brought me to some of my favorite places in New York.  NY Cake, my second home, is a must-know for anyone who wants to up their own pastry game.  Wandering though gives me so much inspiration! Another stop, the flower district, continues to take my breath away whenever I walk through… I first became acquainted with the flower district when I began food styling in 2017 and was smitten with the glamorous early-risers and their important missions of buying candy-bright flowers for Vogue shoots.  The flower market opens around 5:30am, and shops begin closing around 10:30am; the early bird gets the bouquet.  

Monday of fashion week was one long list of logistics, and I went into a headspace where I just power through one task after another.  Even though my brain was in list-mode, I was able to appreciate the fact that every single cake process is a story.  Every cake is a mini hero’s journey of highs, lows, trials, romance, magic, and ultimate triumph.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe for two days straight while this two tiered buttercream beauty was under construction!

The first challenge is coaxing the buttercream to a perfectly smooth state. With buttercreams that contain abnormal shapes like bits of lemon zest, it’s hard to get it perfectly smooth. Challenge ACCEPTED. Blemishes drive me crazy. Marbling icing colors for a watercolor effect was an especially enjoyable part of the process. Then, if you’re delivering (and I was), there’s always a tense Uber ride where you’re clinging to the cake for dear life, lurching when the car lurches to counterbalance any unfortunate inertia. I had a hard time even lifting this cake, so enlisted the help of my boyfriend and most trusted assistant.  Putting the cake’s fate in the hands of anyone else is a terrifying prospect in and of itself.  There is such relief when the cake is finally GONE, out of your hands, to its final destination!

This is truly a cake that I am very proud of… I love when art mirrors art, and it was a treat to channel Anna Sui’s ethereal shapes and dreamy colors. What artist do you most want to see translated into cake form?  Be sure to comment with any suggestions!