'The true cook is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generations yet unborn.'

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Matcha green tea butter cake

As an Asian who has lived in the West for a long time, I have a soft spot for western desserts. As much as I like classic flavours like vanilla, chocolate, coffee and butter, I absolutely adore Asian-inspired western desserts. Most Asians are familiar with ice cream flavours like black sesame, red beans, or even tofu. In these East-meets-West creations, the texture is still western, but the flavour is unmistakably Asian. The one flavour that has really taken off in the West, however, has got to be matcha (Japanese green tea). Many westerns enjoy matcha ice cream (even Häagen-Dazs produces it!) as much as coffee or vanilla ice cream, and desserts like matcha biscuits, matcha crème brûlée, and matcha opera cake are popping up everywhere.

Apart from the appealing colour it lends to desserts, matcha is full of healthy antioxidants and helps balance excessive acidity in our diets. However, I find most matcha-flavoured desserts created by western recipe writers way too light-handed - kind of like how Asian recipe writers tend to be unforgivably stingy with the amounts of chocolate they use in chocolate desserts. I suppose something like matcha or chocolate has to be in your culture for a long time for a people to be brought up with it and therefore appreciate the assertive flavours that may seem overwhelming at first.

Creating this matcha butter cake has been a labour of love. I wanted a tender American-style butter cake with not just a hint of green tea flavour - it has to be the foreground. For this reason I've used half butter and half shortening so that the butter doesn't overwhelm the taste of matcha. Matcha powder also tends to dry out the texture of baked goods, so I have also experimented with different amounts of liquid in the recipe so that the cake is moist but not gummy.

The unusual addition of whipped cream to a butter cake is Shirley Corriher's idea - it adds a velvety texture and moistness. In fact, it's almost too moist for my taste when it first comes out of the oven - but then I'm a weirdo who doesn't like very moist cakes. Wait till the next day though: the moistness should be perfect by then. You can do without the cream if you don't have any on hand - it won't ruin the cake, but you would want to increase the milk to 180ml (2/3 cup). In any case, I urge you to give this cake a try: it's one of the nicest things I bake. Your Asian friends will thank you for it too.

Matcha butter cake

115g (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
115g (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening (or all butter, if you prefer)
30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
185g (1 cup minus 1 tbsp) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
40g (8 tbsp) matcha powder
5 large eggs
400g cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour (*see below)
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
125ml (1/2 cup) whole milk, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) double/whipping cream

Optional: chocolate chips or bits of sweetened red beans.

*Use the dip-and-sweep method if you're measuring flour by cups. Use 3 cups if using cake flour and 2 3/4 cups if using all-purpose flour. The metric weight ought to be the same.

Set a rack in the lower third of the oven, and spray a 10-inch tube or bundt cake pan with non-stick baking spray.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F.

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder with a whisk to combine and loosen the mixture.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak. Set aside.

3. Cream the butter, shortening, vegetable oil, sugar, salt and matcha powder in a large bowl for 5-8 minutes at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Start on slow speed so that the matcha powder doesn't fly everywhere. Adding the matcha powder at the beginning with the butter helps distribute it evenly into the batter and conveniently eliminates the need to sift it too.

Light and fluffy - you should still be able to see some tiny sugar crystals though.
4. Add the eggs one by one to the butter mixture. Beat well between each addition to ensure proper emulsification.

After adding 5 eggs. Doesn't it look so enticingly creamy? And the colour! I swear I can use it as matcha buttercream and eat it off the spoon...

5. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions: Dry-Wet-Dry-Wet-Dry.

After adding the flour and the milk.
6. Fold in the whipped cream to the batter till homogeneous in two additions. If you've been using a Kitchen Aid, remove the bowl from the machine and fold in by hand using a spatula. Add the chocolate chips or red beans now if you are using them.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top using your spatula.

I just adore this colour.

Should have used a larger pan!

8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 65 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and the sides start to shrink away from the pan. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before inverting/removing. Serve at room temperature or reheat in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating to bring it back to life again.

1 comment:

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