Black Sesame Mochi Cake (+ Two Years!)
Two years of blogging. It’s hard to believe.
Two years of trying to fall asleep with recipe ideas rattling wildly around in my head: a very specific form of insomnia.
Two years of connecting with other food bloggers as colleagues and as friends (and yes, sometimes as an awestruck, admiring fan).
Two years of feeling extra pressure every time a potluck rolls around.
Two years of sampling restaurant menu items with Paula, and turning to each other to say, “we have to figure out how to make this for the blog!”
One year of not much travel. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me. Sure, in my first year of blogging I visited France, Belgium, and the Netherlands with Paula, and I went (back) to Korea and Japan, but then my grad student-sized income caught up with me, and now I haven’t been back to Japan in over a year and a half (!) with no trips planned there in the near future (!). Sad sad sad. (It’s the bullet train rail pass that’s even more prohibitively expensive than the plane tickets or the food…) This year I’ve been to Madison, Wisconsin/Chicago and to San Luis Obispo/Pismo Beach, California. So much for my international travel food photo posts… check back in a year or two.
Two years of buying mismatched dishes at thrift stores. (Actually, this had been going on for ages before that; it’s the fact that my thrift store dishes now get to star in photos on the internet that has resulted in something of a kitchen storage space crisis.)
Two years of knowing EXACTLY when the sun is going to set every evening.
The other day I came up with something that I should have come up with two years ago: the idea of keeping a little notebook around where I can jot down ideas I have for recipes/blog posts (which are practically one and the same in my mind…).
I sat down with a pen and a cup of coffee, somewhere with my laptop, cookbooks, and food magazines intentionally out of reach. Within an hour (Paula says an hour and a half), I had filled 14 pages with increasingly tiny handwriting, listing off all the things I want to make.
An average of 18 or 19 things per page means I sat there and wrote down easily 250 Things To Make just off the top of my head. (At 52 posts a year, that’s already enough ideas for 5 more years of blogging! Not to mention all the additional ideas I will have come up with during those 5 years…)
You might remember back in January, I decided to cut back on posting, from twice a week to once a week. This was a wise decision.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve become such an expert food blogger that I now spend less than 10 hours on each post, but it wouldn’t be true. (Yep, it’s taken over my life! In a good way mostly.)
It turns out I can cut down on posting, but I can’t cut down on how much mental energy, physical energy, money, food, time, anxiety, and love I give to this blog.
And YOU make it worth it.
I’m grateful to all of you for reading my blog, and for liking and commenting on my posts. (Even if I don’t have time to respond to the comments right away, or for a week or two, or ever, I still read every single one and they make me happy and motivated to keep creating this blog!)
I’m also grateful to my fiancée, Paula, who has turned into quite the recipe-inventor and guest blogger herself (and who has invested nearly as many hours in Spontaneous Tomato as I have).
Thanks to friends in town and elsewhere for asking me for recipe advice—which I often feel totally unqualified to answer, but it still makes me feel warm & fuzzy inside—and for sharing with me much recipe wisdom of their own.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ah yes, the mochi cake! Did you know you can make cake out of mochi flour (“glutinous rice” flour) so that it has that totally addictive chewy quality of mochi, lightened up with eggs, air, and coconut milk?
It’s a Hawaiian thing that I just discovered back in May at an end-of-the-year party for the East Asian languages department where I’m a Japanese teaching assistant. One of the professors brought a buttery mochi cake to the party, and I think I ate about a third of it myself. (Did I mention it was a 9″x13″ baking dish?)
It seems the traditional Hawaiian version of the cake is like the one I tasted: rich, simple flavors of butter and coconut milk carry you away; the texture is a perfect balance of chewy and cake-y (in my opinion… but maybe don’t take that from me, since I’m not much of a cake person. After all, for my first blogiversary post, I skipped the cake entirely and made gnocchi instead!)
My version was inspired both by the revelatory potluck cake and by Alice Medrich’s Sesame Seed Cake from her book Pure Dessert, which calls for a generous amount of toasted black sesame seeds and just a dash of toasted sesame oil.
You might think of Asian toasted sesame oil as a savory ingredient only, but let me tell you something: the scent of good sesame oil and vanilla extract decanted into a bowl together is what I’d call heavenly.
My recipe is a total mash-up of several different mochi cakes I spotted on Cookpad plus those two ingredients from the Sesame Seed Cake. I’ve now made it three times, significantly tweaking the recipe after the first failure (which was dense and more like mochi “bars”).
The last two times were both successes, but with one difference: I used Koda Farms brand “Mochiko” for the photos, but a different brand of “glutinous rice flour” imported from Thailand the previous time. I’m guessing the Mochiko might be better for actual Japanese mochi, but it gave my cake a slightly denser, drier, less chewy texture than the bag simply marked “glutinous rice flour” (which kept the cake looking more translucent, raw, and mochi-like in the center—though it certainly wasn’t raw after over an hour in the oven!), so I’d recommend the Thai version if you can find it in a store near you.
Note: this cake is gluten free! “Glutinous” rice flour just means the rice is chewy with a gluten-like quality. Mochi-ko (mochi flour), “sweet” rice flour, and glutinous rice flour are all pretty much equivalent ingredients, as far as I know. (Plain old “rice flour” will not work for this recipe, though.)
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Black Sesame Mochi Cake
(Makes 20-25 small bites)
~ 2¼ cups (11.5 oz.) mochi-ko (mochi flour) / glutinous rice flour / sweet rice flour
~ 1 tsp. baking powder
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ ⅔ cup sugar
~ 4 Tbsp. butter (½ stick), melted
~ 4 eggs, beaten
~ 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
~ 2 tsp. Asian (toasted) sesame oil (at room temperature)
~ 1 cup coconut milk
~ 3 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds
For glaze (optional):
~ 4½ Tbsp. powdered sugar
~ 1½ tsp. milk or almond milk
Special equipment needed:
~ 8″x8″ square glass baking dish
~ parchment paper
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″x8″ square glass baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and melted butter, then whisk in the beaten eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, and sesame oil. Add the coconut milk and stir until mixed well.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones in the large bowl, then mix well (whisk by hand to smooth out the lumps of dry ingredients). Stir in the black sesame seeds, then pour batter into the parchment-lined baking dish, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula.
5. Bake for 65-75 minutes, until the top is browned and cracked (try not to open the oven for at least the first 45 minutes of baking, or the cake might sink down a little). Let cool completely (or almost completely) before lifting the cake out using the parchment paper onto a cutting board.
6. Optionally glaze the cake once completely cool: Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, then use a rubber spatula to smooth the glaze over the cake. Slice into 20 or 25 pieces to serve. (Best on the first day, or store in an airtight container—once completely cooled—for 2-3 days.)
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Black Sesame Coconut Milk Ice Cream||Iced Mugi-cha Roasted Barley Tea||Japanese Chilled Tofu with Black Sesame Dressing||Korean Cinnamon Sugar Stuffed Pancakes (Hotteok)|