Neapolitan Mochi Cake

I can’t believe we’re already in the midst of February!  With Valentine’s Day arriving in a few short days, I’m sure you might be thinking of something a little decadent to give to your sweetie this year.  Why not make a heart-shaped Neapolitan Mochi Cake for both you and your love to snack on instead of the same old box of chocolates?

Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate are one of the most yummy flavor combinations around.  So if your Valentine loves Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, then they’ll also love this Japanese-style sweet rice cake.  It’s as if the classic frozen treat from Naples, Italy has traveled East!

Back in November, I made Pumpkin Butter Mochi, a type of Japanese wagashi that is generally eaten as a tea snack.  Those individually-sized mochi were made with a base of light coconut milk, the type found in the refrigerator section of your market with a consistency much like regular milk.  This recipe uses real coconut milk, the thicker kind you find in a can.  I figured that since this mochi isn’t stuffed with any filling, full-on extra richness and flavor was the way to go.

For the chocolate layer of this cake, use the best baking cocoa you can find.  The darker and better quality your cocoa powder is, the more brownie-like the chocolate layer of this mochi cake will be.  And for the pink layer, I’ve added a bit of strawberry syrup, the kind they use in Italian sodas.  It’s the best way to get some bright strawberry flavor and pinky color into the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy some freshly baked mochi cake with your sweetheart this V-day!  Diced into little bits scattered over ice cream, or cut into thick slices for snacking, this popular Asian treat is made even more delicious and charming with classic Neapolitan flavors mixed in.

Neapolitan Mochi Cake

Makes 1- 6” mochi cake.

Ingredients:

8 oz. mochiko (sweet rice flour)

1 cup coconut milk (the kind from a can)

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1 Tbsp strawberry syrup (I used Torani brand)

Non-stick spray

chocolate sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Equipment:

large mixing bowl

wire whisk

3 small bowls

scale

6” heart-shaped cake pan (I used Wilton)

piece of foil to cover cake pan

cooling rack

Directions:

1.)    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using wire whisk, mix sweet rice flour, coconut milk, water, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder together in a large bowl and mix evenly.

2.)    Using the scale, weigh the mixed mochi batter (minus the mixing bowl).  Divide the number by 3, then place each amount of that measure into 3 separate smaller bowls.  One bowl will be for the chocolate batter, one bowl will be for the strawberry batter, and one bowl will be for the plain white batter.

3.)    Into a 1/3 portion of the full amount of batter, add the sifted cocoa powder and mix in well.  Spray cake pan with an even spray of non-stick spray.  Pour the cocoa batter mixture into the pan and shake gently to even out.  Cover loosely with foil and bake in oven for about 10 minutes until lightly set.  When it is lightly set, you should be able to touch the center without any residual batter getting on your finger (I’m going to refer to this as the “finger touch test.”  The edges of the cake will also have slightly pulled away from the pan.

4.)    When the cocoa layer is set, pour the plain vanilla portion atop the set cocoa layer, and lightly shake to even out the layer.  Cover with foil loosely, and bake for about 20 minutes until lightly set.

5.)    When white vanilla layer has set (use finger touch test) make the strawberry batter.  Mix 1 Tbsp of strawberry syrup into last portion of batter and stir in well.  Pour atop middle vanilla layer, and gently shake to even out in the baking pan.  Loosely cover with foil and bake for about 35-40 minutes until fully set (use finger touch test).  The cake will also have slightly puffed up and pulled away from sides of pan.

6.)    After removing baked mochi from oven, place on cooking rack to cool completely.  When completely cooled, slide knife between edge of cake and inside of baking pan to help remove it from the pan.  Flip the cake out and enjoy!  To store mochi, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  Mochi is best eaten fresh, within a few days of baking.

Pumpkin Butter Mochi

My trip over to Little Tokyo a few weeks back inspired this Pumpkin Butter Mochi recipe.  As the leaves are turning and fall is officially in full swing, this sweet rice cake pairs a traditional Japanese tea snack with a classic autumn fruit…pumpkin!

I’ve chosen to use pumpkin butter in this recipe, but a spiced canned pumpkin pie filling will work just as well.  Pumpkin butter is a bit thinner and more acidic than pumpkin pie filling, although both typically have the same spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) mixed in.  Because pumpkin butter has more acidic liquids like lemon or apple juice added in, it’s less starchy and less sweet than its counterpart.  I actually find the “fruit butter” idea confusing, because fruit butters like pumpkin butter generally don’t contain fat.

Enjoy these pumpkin butter mochi with a cup of clean, grassy sencha or a toasty cup of houjicha–a roasted green tea.  It’s really important not to overbrew Japanese green tea, so 2-3 minutes at 175 degrees is ideal.  Overbrewing green tea will result in a bitter, harsh tasting liquor, so if you enjoy green teas it’s a good idea to invest in a temperature controlled electric kettle or even just an instant thermometer.  You’ll be able to keep those subtle, umami notes of Japanese green teas that will pair harmoniously with these chewy, lightly sweet pumpkin butter mochi.

Pumpkin Butter Mochi

Makes 12 cakes.

Ingredients:

8 oz sweet rice flour (mochiko)

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

2/3 cup white sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/3 cup pumpkin butter or spiced pumpkin purée

katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch

non-stick spray

Directions:

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix together rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla, and mix rigorously with a spoon or wire whisk until the mixture is homogenous.

2.)  Give the muffin pan a thorough, even coating of non-stick spray.  Spoon 1 1/2 Tbsp of the mochi batter into each cavity, and place in oven to bake for 10 minutes.

3.)  After 10 minutes, remove the muffin pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Use the back of a teaspoon or other utensil to indent a small, shallow “ditch” into each of the mochi cakes (I used the handle of a jam spreader).

4.)  Spoon 1 tsp of pumpkin butter or spiced pumpkin purée into each shallow mochi cake “ditch,” then cover the filling with 1 Tablespoon of the remaining mochi batter.  Spoon this remaining batter on carefully so that the pumpkin butter or purée is fully covered.

5.)  Bake the filled mochi cakes in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until cakes are very slightly puffed and surface is dry to the touch.  Let mochi cakes cool completely in pan before removing.

6.)  After cooled and removed from the pan, generously coat the mochi with katakuriko or cornstarch on a dry work surface, then use a wire mesh sieve to shake excess starch off of the cakes.  Mochi cakes are best eaten within a day or two of baking them.  You can store them in the fridge for a slightly longer shelf life, but this will result in a slightly stiffer textured mochi cake.

Equipment:

12 cavity standard non-stick muffin or tart pan

wire mesh sieve

rounded teaspoon measure or other similar utensil

Step-By-Step:

Use a lightened coconut milk for a lighter textured mochi cake

Mix the rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla together

You will get a thinned pancake batter consistency

After the first 10 minute bake you will see the edges slightly part from the muffin tin, but the centers won’t be fully set yet

Create some “ditches”

1 tsp of pumpkin butter only…resist the temptation to over-fill

Cover the filling with the mochi batter completely for a fully sealed mochi cake

Potato starch, similar to cornstarch and equally messy

Potato starch is like cornstarch and equally messy

Shake off the excess!

Shake off the excess

Autumn, Japanese style.

Love these Japanese mochi cakes?  Check out my post on Japanese tea and wagashi here.