Monday, July 8, 2013

Tanabata and a Chocolate Roll Cake

Yesterday marked Tanabata in Japan. Tanabata is a yearly festival that celebrates the story of two stars, Altair and Vega, who are lovers yet sadly separated by the Milky Way. They only meet once a year, on July 7. In Japan, we mark the day by writing wishes on papers and tying them to bamboo trees and also, of course, eating star-themed foods. It just so happens that I have been craving chocolate, but eating it gives me gnarly heartburn (thanks, baby in my belly!). I thought about making a chocolate cake instead and seeing if it would be okay - spoiler alert: I ate lots of cake and had no heartburn!! Wahoo!!!

I ended up taking a few different recipes and mixing them together to make my cake.

It started out with 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated, and 42g of flour and 10g of cocoa powder whisked together in a bowl.

Starting with the yolk, add 20g of sugar and beat it for a long time until it thickens up.

Keep beating and it will soon start to look like mayonaisse. That's good.

Make sure to clean your beaters really well (I even wipe them off with vinegar to remove any oily traces), add 40g of sugar to the egg whites, and mix until you get a meringue.

After that you should have the mayonnaise-looking concoction, a meringe and your flour and cocoa powder. Add a half a tablespoon of each water and oil to the egg yolk situation and mix again to make sure it didn't get soft while you were making your meringue.

Add about half of the meringue to the egg yolks and mix them together using a spatula.

Then add in your cocoa powder/flour mixture and stir it up well until it is all combined.

Add in the last of the meringue and gently fold it until most of the meringe clumps are smoothed out.

Finally, put it on a baking sheet and bake at 160C for about 13 minutes.

While that is baking, work on your chocolate whipped cream. Put 250ml of heavy cream in a bowl and mix 30g of powdered sugar and 15g of cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

Start to whip the cream and once it starts thickening up, gradually add in the powdered sugar/cocoa powder mix. Whip it until stiff peaks form and then immediately put it in the refrigerator.

At this point, the cake should be just about out of the oven. Lay out a kitchen towel and sprinkle powdered sugar over it.

Flip the cake out onto the towel.

Sprinkle with more powdered sugar (and some cocoa powder too, if you are so inclined).

Then roll it up and put it in the refrigerator until it is nice and cooled.

While the cake is cooling, I got to work on the stars. I used a white chocolate pen, but melting some chocolate and piping it would probably get you cuter looking stars. I made a few big ones and sprinkled them with gold edible glitter. I also made a few small stars for decoration.

Once the cake is cooled, pull it out of the fridge and gently unroll it.

Quickly spread the whipped cream over the surface of the cake. I probably should have left a bit of room on the edges, but I didn't. Nothing bad happened, just a bit of whipped cream leaked out the sides.

Then gently roll the cake up and put it back in the refrigerator.

The final step is to make the glaze on top and to decorate. For the glaze, you will need 4g of gelatin (slightly dissolved in water), 100ml of heavy cream, 60g of cocoa powder and 100g of each water and sugar.

Start by making a simple syrup with the water and sugar.

Then gently whisk in the cocoa powder, keeping the fire on.

Once you have a nice chocolate sauce, add in the cream and gently whisk again. Once it is all mixed together, turn off the heat, add in the gelatin and gently whisk until it is all dissolved. Let the glaze cool for about 20 minutes.

Pull the cake out of the fridge and put it on a wire rack with parchment under it to catch the glaze drippings.

Slowly pour about half of the glaze over the cake, trying to hit all surfaces, sides included. It will start to seep into the cake, but that is fine. Once you have the cake well-covered, put it back in the refrigerator to make the glaze a bit stiff. Then pull it out again and cover the cake with the glaze a second time. This time is should look nice and glossy. Put it back in to stiffen the glaze up a second time. (I didn't take photos of this part because I was in a bit of a time crunch as friends were about to arrive. It really is not too difficult though.)

Once the glaze has hardened a bit, plate it and start the decorating. I started by sifting powdered sugar over the top of the cake to make it look Milky Way-ish.

Then I added my Altair and Vega stars right in the middle of the cake.

I finished with the little stars scattered about.

Finally it was ready to slice and eat. 

The cake ended up tasting quite nice. I didn't find it too sweet and yet it had just enough chocolate in it to hit my craving. The whipped cream was the best part, in my opinion. It tasted like melting chocolate soft serve - delicious!

At K's school they had Tanabata Festival on Friday. All of the kids were asked to wear yukata (summer kimono) and the parents were invited. It was so super cute!! All of the little ones in their yukata, singing songs, playing instruments (K was part of the castanet section), and dancing. It was adorable.

The week before the Festival, K's teacher sent home a paper asking us to write down what K wants to be when he grows up. I don't think we had ever had a "occupation discussion" before, but he obviously knows that Y goes to work and has a general idea of what he does there. Given K's love of trains, after bringing up Y's work, I said that there are lots of other jobs, too - train conductors, people who fix trains, people to take train tickets, etc. - and asked what he thinks he would like to do when he gets older. His answer? "I want to fix cars!" Huh, I didn't offer that up as a suggestion given that he loves trains so much more than cars, but if that's what he wants to be then that's great.

I was a bit surprised, but the more I thought about it, it started to make sense. One of my best friends gave K a truck with a drill, nuts and bolts that you can use to take the truck apart and put it back together. He loves it (thanks, Auntie Lisa)! Maybe that is where he got the idea from? Regardless, it was adorable and his little wish was hanging on a bamboo tree when I arrived. So sweet!

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