Sunday, December 18, 2011

Japanese Christmas Cake! Week Zero of 52 Weeks of Cooking!

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First of all, hi to reddit and those taking part in the 52 weeks of cooking challenge. This is indeed my first entry for week zero, with this “week’s” theme being holiday food. After perusing the very helpful wiki link on Christmas dishes around the world posted by rach11, I settled on Japan, because Japan is awesome, and the Japanese Christmas Cake seemed very appealing. On that note, I send my holiday wishes to r/japanesefood and r/asianeats!

As an admittedly big time anime fan, I find great humor in the trope of the Christmas cake as a metaphor for women in their mid twenties fearing becoming one. No matter how delicious a Christmas cake is, no one wants it after the 25th. If you still don’t get it, the saying means that women won’t be able to marry if they haven’t married by the time they are 25. It is an utterly ludicrous and highly old fashioned sentiment, but still pretty funny in anime format. Ok, on to the Japanese Christmas Cake!

Aside from being a Christmas time tradition in Japan, the ingredients are pretty standard and not imposing at all. No mirin or sake or anything else like that. That’s for another post.

Some quick googling led me to find this post from Foodlorists on Japanese Christmas Cakes. So, it’s a sponge cake with whipped cream and studded with fruit of my choice. Excellent. Rather than following the exact recipe I decided to go with the very well backed up recipe for sponge cake from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio.

Sorry, no shot of all the ingredients in a row. I goofed! For the impatient, recipes in full at end of post. Please read on if you enjoy seeing most of the steps!

First, preheat your oven to 350 F. Then, in a pot large enough to sit your mixing bowl in, heat a few inches of water to simmer while assembling rest of your stuff.

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Into the mixing bowl add 4 large eggs and a yolk. Amazingly, it is very close to 8 ounces. Like a pound cake, you need equal portions of eggs, flour, sugar and butter, but the assembly is a bit different as you will see. For the record, and ease of assembly, I went with 8 ounces of everything.

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Add sugar (8 oz.), salt (1 tsp.), lemon juice (2 tablespoons) and vanilla extract (1 tsp.) to the mixing bowl, set in the simmering water and whisk for a  minute or two to bring temperature up.

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Whisk on high for a few minutes. I did four minutes.

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It should have added quite a bit of volume!

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Fold in your flour (8 ounces) very gently until just combined.

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Then add cooled melted butter (8 oz.) to the batter.

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Pour into a greased and parchment lined sponge mold, two 9 inch cake pans or if you’re really desperate like me, a 7 inch casserole.

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Bake for 30-45 minutes until a knife or toothpick poked through the middle comes out clean.

Set on a cooling rack until ready to use.

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Given the slightly angled nature of the cake, I figured better to have the narrow side upwards, so it had to go upside down.

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Cut horizontally through the middle if you only have one large cake rather than two thin ones.

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Set aside while you prep the whipped cream. I set mine on some wax paper for easy clean up. Don’t mind the honey mustard lurking in the background, and sorry about the mess.

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Now, to the whipped cream. Add four tablespoons of sugar to your mixing bowl.

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And heavy whipping cream (1.5 cups.)

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Whip on high until fluffy and slightly stiff. Reserve some for piping if you are awesome like that and not forgetful like I am.

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Add chopped fruit. This is too coarse, it was troublesome. I’d make the dice three times smaller next time.

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Add chopped fruit to your whipping cream.

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Do not think that is not enough fruit and add more. Well, I guess you can, but I would not recommend it.

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Set aside the top part of your cake and get to frosting with the whipped cream.

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I recommend using a metal spatula, preferably offset, and not a wooden spoon like I did. Look at this mess.

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Add the top part, repeat.

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Seriously, what the hell me? That looks awful.

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See? An metal spatula makes things much less pathetic. Still not perfect, but much better.

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See? Not as bad as before. Still not great.

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Garnish with strawberries, and set protective force field around it. Refrigerate if you won’t be serving terribly soon.

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After about fifteen minutes after my friends decided to crack into the dessert, this was all I was able to take a picture of.  It was moist, crumbly, just the right touch of sourness from the lemon juice and all in all delicious.

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Japanese Christmas Cake Recipe:

Special equipment: Stand mixer, pan or pot large enough to set mixing bowl in, parchment paper, two 9 inch cake pans or a sponge mold, or even a 7 inch casserole (not recommended, but it works if you have no alternatives). Recommended: Offset spatula for frosting cake with whipped cream.

For the Sponge Cake (adapted from
Michael Ruhlman's Ratio and Foodlorists):

8 ounces of flour
8 ounces of butter, melted but cool (two sticks)
8 ounces of sugar
4 large eggs + one egg yolks (which is 8 ounces or pretty darn close!)
Tablespoon of lemon juice.
Teaspoon of salt
Teaspoon of vanilla
2 teaspoons of baking powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. In pan or pot large enough to set mixing bowl in, add two inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Melt your butter if you haven’t yet, so that it has time to cool by the time you need it.
  3. Line your cake pans, sponge mold or casserole with parchment paper, and lightly grease the sides. (Note: To line with parchment means to simply cut a circle the size of the bottom of your vessel and lay it flat. Some grease will help it stick.)
  4. In the mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar, lemon juice, salt and vanilla. Place mixing bowl into simmering water and whisk for a minute or two to warm the eggs.
  5. Set mixing bowl in its stand, mix on high until volume is tripled.
  6. Sift baking powder into flour if using, or just sift the flour.
  7. Fold the flour into the egg mixture gently until just combined.
  8. Pour batter into your cake pans or molds or casserole.
  9. Bake the cake batter for 30-45 minutes until a knife or toothpick poked through the center of cake comes out clean.
  10. Place on cooling rack until ready to assemble.

For the whipped cream and garnish (adapted from Foodlorists):

1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons sugar
6 medium strawberries (or similar quantity of other fruit) chopped into small chunks.
4 or more strawberries (or other fruit) for garnish

  1. In clean mixing bowl, add whipping cream to sugar, whip on high until fluffy.
  2. If you are a pro, reserve a cup of whipped cream for piping on later.
  3. Add chopped fruit to whipping cream, mix well to combine.
  4. Set aside until ready to garnish.

To assemble:

  1. If using a casserole, flip over the cake to hide how lopsided it is. Might need to do this anyway with your other cakes.
  2. If you made just one cake, slice it in half horizontally.
  3. Spread some whipped cream onto bottom part of cake evenly to cover.
  4. Place top half of cake on top of frosted part, spread more whipped cream to cover.
  5. If you are a pro, using piping bag to decorate cake with reserved of whipping cream.
  6. Garnish with whole strawberries or other fruit.
  7. Serve soon, or refrigerate because whipped cream will melt if left out overlong.

Thanks for reading everyone and stay tuned! Please comment and follow!

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