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!

Pineapple Linzer Cookies

I made these pineapple linzer cookies after visiting Té Company, a snug little hideaway in the West Village.  This cafe worked better than yoga to calm my mind.  Their assortment of oolong teas was vast and a little intimidating, but also playful; I found one tea variety that was described as “the Jason Bourne of Taiwan’s tea R&D center.”  Other contenders were earthy, and descriptions like “vintage barn” were included in their flavor profiles, along with more conventional tea-tastes like hibiscus, cedar, and hawthorn.  I could have spent all afternoon letting my eyes wander through their menu.  Upstaging the tea, however, was this cafe’s amazing pineapple linzer cookies.  Té Company’s recipe was posted in Saveur Magazine last year; my mind is still blown that they were willing to share such a special recipe with the public.  I had to test it out immediately!

The cookies are an elegant blend of sweet pineapple and spicy yuzu kosho (a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt).  If you make this recipe, go light on the yuzu kosho… I recklessly painted it on to a few cookies, and believe me, it burns.  When the yuzu kosho proportions are correct, tasting these cookies at home serves as an instant ticket back to calming memories of Té Company.

Blogging is ultimately a social pursuit, and it has served its purpose as a way to catch and share what life has been kind enough to throw at me.  My journal, on the other hand, is a place of cacophonous confusion and spiraling uncertainty.  Read my journal, and you’ll know that the quiet moments that I tracked down at Té Company were rare and priceless.  Because I’m trying to build my own business, I don’t really turn my mind off after the work day is done.  My thoughts are always swirling with ideas about how to move forward with my projects, regardless if it’s a Tuesday morning or a Saturday night.  It’s increasingly harder to track down moments of inner silence.

While sipping tea together at Té Company, fellow blogger Lisa of Tiny Pinecone suggested that I try journaling first thing in the morning, before even checking my cell phone, as a creative exercise before the busy noise of the rest of the day hits full-force.  This has proved to be so much harder to do than it sounds.  As it turns out, my cell phone has taken the place of a security blanket.  It sits, perched right at the side of my bed for easy access in the morning.  For the past few days, I’ve failed at this new routine.  It’s amazing how difficult it is to alter small movements in your daily shamble.  I’m now determined to make this small change happen.  I truly believe that small steps can alter everything.

Try your hand at these pineapple cookies and savor their spicy sweet harmony.  Think about your own routine.  What calms you down and revives your spirit?  Notice those things, and make them happen.

 

Cookie Dough (This recipe is borrowed from Saveur Magazine)

Ingredients:

4 34 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 12 cups plus 6 tablespoons hazelnut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 34 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved

For the Pineapple Jam

Ingredients:

5 cups cleaned pineapple, cubed
2 cups granulated sugar
2 sprigs rosemary
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Zest and juice of 1 lime
14 cup yuzu kosho

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed of a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth; beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 300°. On a lightly floured surface and working with one dough ball at a time, roll out into a 16-inch by 19-inch oval about 18-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a 34-inch round cutter, cut out another circle off-center from about half of the cookies. Re-roll scraps once.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating pans in the oven, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pineapple jam. In a medium saucepan, bring the pineapple and 1 13 cup water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer pineapple to a blender and purée. Return pineapple to saucepan and add the sugar. Cook until the pineapple starts to caramelize, about 18 minutes. Add the rosemary and stir to coat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the salt and lime juice.
  6. To assemble the cookies, spread about 1 teaspoon of yuzu kosho over the cookies that do not have the holes. Top with about 1 tablespoon of jam and cover it with a cookie with a hole in it. Let cookies rest overnight to fully set. To serve the next day, top with fresh lime zest and Maldon sea salt.