japanese strawberry shortcake

Japanese strawberry shortcake is nothing like the strawberry shortcake you may have sampled in America (sweet biscuits topped with strawberries and whipped cream). Although I love the American version (which I will hopefully write about sometime soon!), Japanese strawberry shortcake will always hold a place in my heart. It is a moist, light, airy, not overly sweet sponge cake topped with layers of billowy sweet whipped cream frosting and filled with succulent, red strawberries. In Japan these cakes are most popular around Christmastime due to their holiday coloring; however, with all of the ripe, beautiful strawberries that springtime gives us, I think spring is the perfect time to make this light, succulent dessert.
With love,
Erica

Inside the cake
You can be fancy and frost it like this…

Or go for the rustic look and frost it like this — anything goes!

 Adapted from La Fuji Mama
Cake:
4 large eggs, white and yolks separated
4.2 ounces (120 grams, 9.5 tablespoons) granulated sugar, sifted once
3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4.2 ounces (120 grams, 14 tablespoons) cake flour, sifted 3 times
1.2 ounces (22 grams, 2.3 tablespoons) butter, melted
Whipped cream frosting:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the simple syrup:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
8 – 10 ounces fresh strawberries

Sponge Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch circular cake pan and lightly dust with flour.
2. Add the sugar to the egg whites, and beat the egg whites until they are stiff and glossy.
3. Add the egg yolks to the egg white mixture, and gently whisk until the yolks are incorporated.
4. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and flour (in that order) to the batter and gently fold them into the batter with a spatula.  Fold in the melted butter until it is well combined.
5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan, and get rid of any air bubbles in the batter by dropping the pan on a counter once or twice.  Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes.  The cake is done when it is golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly.  Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Run a blade around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, and remove.
To make the Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting:
1. Put the cold water in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and let stand for 5 minutes (do not stir).  Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon just until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
2.In a mixing bowl, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and beat until slightly thickened.  Then, while beating slowly, gradually pour the gelatin into the whipped cream mixture.  Then whip the mixture at high speed until stiff.
To make the Simple Syrup:
1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and water.  Bring the water to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Assembling the Cake
1. Reserve 6 to 1o strawberries for decorating the cake.  Slice the remaining strawberries into thin slices (about 4 slices per strawberry).
2. Slice the sponge cake horizontally into 2 layers.
3. Place one sponge layer cut-side up on a cake board or serving plate and lightly crush the surface with the simple syrup.  Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the cake layer and arrange the strawberry slices over the surface.  Spread an additional layer of whipped cream over the strawberries.  Brush the cut-side of the second layer with the simple syrup and place it over the first layer.  Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.  Decorate as desired and garnish with the reserved strawberries.

The Perfect Cream Puff

Sometimes, the best baked treats come not from the popular, hip bakeries of the city (ex. Georgetown Cupcake and Magnolia Bakery), but rather come from those little specialty stores that may not even have a name. I had the honor of discovering one of these places today in New York City. After having a quick shot of espresso at Café Zaiya, I ventured next door, to a little Japanese grocery store that I think is called Yagura. In the front of the store, there was a little lady set up with a stand, selling fresh cream puffs. They were so fresh, she piped the cream into the puff right as you ordered it. Simple as that. There were only two things that one could order at this little stand – plain, and azuki cream puffs. But this lady sure knew what she was doing! I ordered the plain cream puff, and it was the best cream puff I have ever tasted. It had a thin, crispy, lighter –than-air puff, with a delicate, eggy flavor filled with flawlessFrench pastry cream with just the perfect amount of vanilla. Delicately dusted with just enough powdered sugar – this cream puff was a work of art. I hope that next time you find yourself in the city, this little lady will still be whipping up her delicious, perfect cream puffs. 
With love, Erica
 
Freshly baked choux, before being piped with pastry cream

The simple beauty of the cream puff

Look at that light and fluffy texture!