Saturday, March 20, 2010

Springtime Cakes

Cherry blossom season is such an overwhelming identity for spring in Japan that the blossoms make their way into all kinds of unexpected places this time of year: Hello Kitty wash towels, ice cream, excuse-our-construction signage. Both the cherry flowers and the leaves can be part-pickled, part-candied, and used to top Japanese sweets like steamed tea cakes or to wrap glutinous rice cakes (mochi). In the Sakura Roll Cake above, a whole sweet-and-sour sakura blossom tops off the thin coating of cream, and the filling contains lots of finely chopped flowers. As for the green cake, it was quite mild tasting and I couldn't decide whether it was pistachio or matcha flavored. The tart flavor of the sakura blossoms combined with the barely sweetened cream were what made this cake memorable.
Gateau Chocolat is a name given to a huge variety of chocolate cakes in Japanese patisseries (I've even seen the name applied to chocolate-flavored bread filled with chocolate-flavored cream, at Mont-Tabor bakery in Azabu Juban). This particular Gateau Chocolat is a dense, rich, brownie-like cake, crisp and crumbly at the edges but moister toward the pointed center. It contains bits of orange rind and chopped chocolate, and toward the bottom it's flecked with patches of a lighter-colored dough that has a slighty nutty, slightly molasses-y flavor similar to chocolate chip cookie dough (the website calls it "crumble," whatever that means). Though it's not a particularly springlike cake, and the citrus notes actually give it more of a wintery feel, there are certainly plenty of days in early spring when it feels like winter. And isn't chocolate always in season?

Petit Decorer
Minami-azabu 1-4-21

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