Thursday 3 April 2014

Matcha Azuki Ladybug Chiffon Cake with Hidden Ladybugs

Inspired by Susanne's Rainbow Themed Chiffon Cake with Hidden Rainbows, I gave some thought to how I can hide things in a chiffon cake other than simple shapes of cookie cut-outs, like my Matcha Azuki Sakura patterned Chiffon Cake with Hidden Hearts. This is more challenging than hiding things in cakes that have no holes in the middle. The whole project becomes an engineering problem :P. I gave my kids a few choices of what they wanted me to hide in a chiffon cake. They chose ladybugs! This is a challenge I do not want to undertake too often as it is time consuming and a little nerve wreaking since it's my first attempt to hide something other than simple cookie cutter cut-out shapes. And because I have to cook, do housework, take care of the kids as well, I (unwisely) left the cut-out teeny bits of cake out in the open for more than an hour and in the fridge overnight. The resulting cake was drier and the hidden parts were not as soft as most of my other attempts but I was really happy and surprised that the hidden ladybugs showed up in quite a few of the slices when I thought this bake was doomed to fail!

I used a combination of piping design on chiffon tin and using another cake to create the ladybugs to make this cake. I took this chance to experiment with adding condensed milk into a Matcha cake as suggested by hubby because it reminds him of Hokkaido Matcha ice cream. First, I baked the Azuki flavored cake. On hindsight, I should have increased the portion of the recipe to 3 egg yolks as the bugs were a little too thin to handle easily. I chose the cooked dough method for this cake hoping that it would be more moist.

Egg yolk batter
2 egg yolks (large, more than 65g)
20g Azuki bean paste (I used homemade one)
14g condensed milk
10g water
20g butter
36g cake flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder (sifted together with flour)
Red and black gel food coloring

3 egg whites
30g caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a 10x10" tin and a smaller tin (mine was approximately 5x8") with baking sheet.
2. Heat Azuki bean paste, condensed milk, water and butter over stove until butter melts. Add cake flour and baking powder in one addition and mix well until no trace of flour is seen.
3. Gradually stir in the egg yolks.
4. Divide the egg yolk batter into ratio of 3:1 by weight. Color the larger portion red and the smaller potion black.
5. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold in the meringue into the egg yolk batters one third at a time, taking care to fold in quickly but gently. Pour the batters into the trays, bang them on the table a few times to release air bubbles and bake for 15-16 minutes.

7. After the cakes have cooled, use a round cutter (I used the largest medicine cup I have at home) to cut out the body of the ladybug, a smaller round cutter to cut out the head of the bugs (divide each circle into half), and a straw to cut out the spots on the bugs. This is really fiddly work and took me more than an hour to complete 28 bugs but aren't they cute?

The cakes dried out quite a bit since I left them out in the open in between too :( (busy with my younger kid). Ideally, the assembly should be done within a day to minimize the drying out of cakes but I left these bugs wrapped with cling wrapped and refrigerated overnight.

The main cake was baked in a 17cm chiffon tin with the following recipe:

Egg yolk batter
3 egg yolks
32g Canola oil
30g condensed milk
40ml water
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
4g + 1/4 tsp Matcha powder (You should use more like 6g for a stronger tea flavor but I wanted a bigger color contrast between the leaves and the cake background)
64g cake flour (reserve 1/2 tsp from this batch)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Green and brown gel food coloring

4 egg whites + 1 egg white
40g + 10g caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Prepare the egg yolk batter by whisking the first 5 ingredients together in the order listed, taking time to whisk the egg yolks and oil together for a couple of minutes. Gradually whisk in sifted flour (64g minus 1/4 tsp), green tea powder (4g) and baking powder until no trace of flour can be seen.
3. Take 1 heaped teaspoonful of batter and add 1/4 tsp of sifted flour and 1/4 tsp of green tea powder and mix well. Add green and brown food coloring until a desired shade is reached.
4. Prepare 1 egg white worth of meringue using 10g of sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar. Add 4 heaped tablespoons of meringue into the colored egg yolk batter in 3 additions. Put the batter into a piping bag with a Wilton No.5 tip and pipe the four-leaf clover onto the tin with 2 ladybugs on it. Make sure that the piped pattern is thick enough for good transfer of pattern onto the main cake. Otherwise it will be left on the cake tin. Bake for 2 minutes or until the batter seems dry.
5. Prepare the meringue for the main batter using 4 egg whites, the rest of the caster sugar and cream of tartar. Fold the meringue into the main egg yolk batter in 3 additions and cover the leaf and ladybugs pattern with enough batter to just cover.
6. Arrange the ladybugs in a ring and fill the cake tin with the rest of the batter. I took longer than I would have liked to do this step as the bugs were really thin and hard to handle. I was afraid of deflating the egg whites because of this! Bang the cake tin on the table a few times to release any trapped air and bake for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 150 degrees Celsius and baking for another 25-30 minutes.
7. Immediately invert the chiffon tin after removing from the oven and cool completely before gently unmoulding by hand.

The Matcha portion of the cake turned out nicely soft and fluffy despite a long delay before sending the cake into the oven but the bugs were really hard and dry by regular chiffon standards. I steamed the cake before eating it and it helps. My kids loved the steamed cake with condensed milk (since I have lots left) mixed with some red bean paste. *Phew* at least I don't have to throw away this bake! It's wonderful to see the smiles on their faces when they see the hidden bugs too :). After this experience I have a better idea of what to do and what NOT to do when making chiffon cakes with hidden surprises. For now I am taking a break from this type of bake until inspiration strikes, I am feeling brave or someone requests for it :P.

With love,
Phay Shing

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