Not so Japanese Layered Matcha Cake
Sometimes you have to change your plans. And I am a huge plan changer. Especially when it comes to recipes. The fact that I cannot stick to recipes is one of the main reasons why I develop my own. And I think changing plans, being flexible, or having an alternative on hand is a big part of being vegan, too. Especially when it comes to non-vegan recipes.
When Amatō of Wagashi Maniac asked me to veganize one or two Japanese dessert recipes, I said yes, if I could have a look at the ingredients first. Not because I wanted to scan them for unusual ones, but because I wanted know exactly how many eggs were involved and what baking skills those desserts called for. After all, I have no clue about Japanese cooking and baking. I don’t know what to expect from a recipe and I have no idea how it should turn out.
Amatō sent me a translation of a matcha soufflé roll that looked beautiful. And called for four eggs. Which are not that difficult to replace. But the egg whites had to be separated and beat stiff. After all this was a soufflé roll. Egg white foam substitutes and jelly rolls are not a vegan’s best friend, at least not mine. I could have tried ordering a certain egg replacer online that is said to mimic egg white foam and probably would have solved my problems. I thought about that for a minute. But then I changed my plan. I have made a vegan sponge cake before and thought this might be a good starting point for the jelly roll.
Well maybe I should have ordered the egg replacer. In the end I was glad I didn’t. My cake didn’t turn into a jelly roll, the sponge cake crumbled as soon as I tried to roll it up. But I wasn’t disappointed. I changed my plan once again and made a layer cake instead. This recipe isn’t very close to the original version anymore. But that’s not a bad thing. The really good thing about vegan cuisine (ha, I said it!) is that you might start with a substitution but end up with a really great new item. I think one of the things I’ve learned from being vegan for four years is the fact that the question “but does this taste like the real thing?” is irrelevant. It probably doesn’t but it will still taste great. And it will probably be something new.
The original (non-vegan) recipe, which you can find here, calls for tsubu-an (anko), a sweet bean paste made from whole adzuki beans. I didn’t have that on hand so I asked Amatō for a substitute. She suggested sweet chestnut spread. Luckily I still had several cans of a French spread on hand, bought on our trip to France last year.
The original filling consists of whipped cream, matcha powder and tsube-an. I used a slightly adapted version of Amatō’s recipe for matcha and wasabon mousse instead.
Layered Matcha Cake
For the sponge cake:
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
180 ml (3/4 cup) hot water
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
125 g (1 cup) German type 405 flour or pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
25 g (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
10 g (2 tablespoons) matcha powder
Line a 29 cm x 29 cm (11 x 11 inch) square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°C). Sift chickpea flour into a bowl. Add hot water and whisk until you got rid of most lumps. Some small lumps are okay. Add sugar and oil and whisk constantly. Sift in flour, starch and matcha powder and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Make sure to distribute the batter evenly by using a dough scraper. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
For the filling:
Adapted from this recipe
120 g (1 cup) cashews, soaked for a couple of hours
300 ml (1 1/4 cup) almond or soy milk
1/2 cup (110 g) refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon agar-agar powder
Combine cashews and non-dairy milk in a food processor or blender. Purée until very smooth. In a small pot, melt coconut oil over low heat. Add soy milk mixture and whisk in powdered sugar. sprinkle agar-agar on top, whisk, and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture has thickened. If it is not that thick yet, don’t worry. Most of the thickening will take place as the mixture cools. Let cool completely. The mass will become very solid and a bit rubbery. Now transfer it to your food processor and process until smooth.
1 100g (3.5 oz) can chestnut spread
Spread the cake with a thin layer of chestnut spread. Carefully cut it into four equal strips. Take the first layer of your cake and spread with filling. Place another layer on top, spread with filling, repeat with the other layers. Make sure you have enough filling for each layer but also for the sides of the cake. After you have assembled your cake use the leftover filling to carefully ice the sides. Sift some powdered sugar on top. (You can also use a mixture of matcha powder and sugar.) Place the cake in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.