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!

Back-To-School Pop Up: How to Plan a Pop Up in NYC

This past summer, I took a long-anticipated leap and accomplished something that I’ve dreamed about doing ever since moving to New York. After attending pastry school back in 2016, I knew that I wanted to open a pastry shop someday, more than anything. Moving to New York opened my eyes to the concept of branded pop ups (something that I really never experienced in Chicago). Pop ups serve as an intermediate step to the brick-and-mortar dream; they allow brands to get their name out there before committing to a more permanent establishment. It seems that there’s always a pop up happening in NYC, and I desperately wanted to be a part of that frenetic, creative energy.

My “back-to-school” pastry pop up concept came about as I was serving cake and cocktails to friends in my Bushwick apartment over a year ago. I had decided to buy some Capri Sun Wild Cherry as a cocktail mixer and paired the cocktails with a light vanilla cake topped with drifts of luscious cherry buttercream. As I took sips from my blush-colored concoction, I thought about how interesting it would be to explore the juice box theme further; a nostalgic staple from my grade school lunchbox days. My back-to-school theme emerged, and it quickly took over my every creative minute. When it comes to forming your pop up concept, follow your initial inspiration; it can come when you least expect it. In this post, I wanted to share a few notes about my planning process that might help those of you who want to put together an event of your own.

Assemble your paperwork – To start, make sure that you have a Certificate of Food Protection, or equivalent for your state/area, as well as small business insurance. If you intend to serve alcohol at your pop up, be sure that your venue has the correct alcohol handling license.

Find a venue – Finding a venue was the most difficult part of the pop up process for me. It’s known that New York restaurants look to collaborate with small food businesses during their off hours, but the New York rental rates were disheartening, to put it lightly. I suggest avoiding Manhattan entirely if you’re putting together your first event in the New York area. I lucked out when a friend in the industry recommended the lovely Cook Space Brooklyn, which happened to be right around the corner from my apartment. Their standard event rental rate is $250/hour. Their kitchen space is available for prep time rental as well for $50/hour. With an open kitchen and a beautiful Noguchi lamp overlooking a cozy dining area, the decision to go with Cook Space was an easy one. There are certainly other Brooklyn venues out there to consider; pick a space that pairs well with your concept.

Spread the word – Selling tickets ahead of time will allow you to best prepare by making the correct amount of your product (in my case, cake). Utilize boosted Instagram and Facebook posts to target individuals in your area with similar interests. Urge friends to spread the word on social media. Use every social opportunity to share your excitement about the event. That last part shouldn’t be hard, as your pop up will likely consume your thoughts as the event draws near.

Get sponsored – There are enough costs to putting together a pop up without factoring in recipe testing and food costs into the mix. It’s possible to obtain sponsors for your event, especially if you have a strong following on social media. It will never hurt you to reach out to brands for potential sponsorship. When you send out a sponsorship inquiry, be sure to share your social media engagement rate, a little bit about your brand and event goals, and how many people you expect will attend your pop up. Know how much product you will need for a successful pop up, and feel free to share that information as well. In exchange, offer to promote sponsor information on all of your promotional materials. I was lucky enough to collaborate with some brands that I love: Brins Jam & Marmalade, Kerrygold USA, and King Arthur Flour.

Develop your recipes – This was the most enjoyable part of pop up preparation for me. I love experimenting with flavor combinations, and if you’re a chef, it’s likely that you will be most engaged with this part of the process (and find that it doesn’t take too long). Inspired by Orange Tang, Hi-C Flashin’ Fruit Punch, and Grape Juicy Juice, I created three fruit-forward cake and cocktail pairings. I tested and finalized recipes over the span of a month.

Pay attention to detail – The small details matter! Creating an immersive space is just as important and creating your product. I collaborated with graphic designer Andy Chan to create two larger-than-life photo backdrops that looked like notebook paper with gel pen doodles. Other finishing touches included board games, a chalkboard menu, a hopscotch design taped onto the floor in the entryway, back-to-school name tags for each guest, and “permission slips” that served as event admission tickets.

Adjust expectations – It’s likely that your pop up won’t make a profit, but that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to collect content and establish your brand as an entity capable of organizing and executing large-scale events. Utilize your pop up momentum in unexpected ways. Make connections with future clients and supportive brands. And, despite the amount of work you’ll put into it, don’t lose sight of having fun! Creating a pop up was truly one of the most valuable things I’ve done for myself and my pastry career. I’m so thankful for all of the support I received from my friends during the preparation process.

Feel free to comment with any questions you might have! And if you put together a pop up, I’d love to hear about it.

xx Hadley