This is the possibly the easiest matcha cake and certainly one of the most beautiful desserts. Green tea powder, matcha, is fragrant but not overpowering and the sponge is really simple. Skip the bay leaf sugar if you must but you’ll be missing a treat.
I love exotic cuisines and trying new flavours. European cooking is really quite boring (yes, EVEN Italian) because we grow pretty boring produce; the farther north the worse. No wonder folk in the past would get crazy about spices and be willing to pay loads for an ounce of cinnamon or nutmeg. Which, incidentally, we still do considering the soaring prices of vanilla and ever high of saffron.
I love far western and far eastern flavours and I’m happy to use plantain instead of potato, swap rye for cassava, get the heat from birdseye chillies and the fragrance from lemongrass. I find tom yum soup superior to carrot and coriander, wontons to pierogis and soba noodles to spaghetti. I’m happy to try goat’s meat or kangaroo, pufferfish (with caution) and love dried shrimp. I can stuff congee into tacos with biltong on the side, and sip horchata as I munch away.
All that and more – except desserts. I can’t be tempted by the choicest Turkish baklavas, let alone sweets farther afield. The far eastern cakes seem to be made from beans or soya (which is the same thing) and they are either too sweet or not sweet enough to my palate. Biscuits tend to be made from sawdust and they aren’t big on chocolate in south east Asia. As for the other side of the world, they either fill everything with custard and caramel or serve fruit in various guises.
There’s nothing wrong with either but I’d rather have a slice of cheesecake for dessert. The only spot where my European taste can happily travel is the Japanese chiffon or sponge cake with matcha powder. I first had it authentically first-hand, baked by a Japanese colleague and brought to a work cake do. It was airy and squidgy at the same time; the tea flavour distinct but not overpowering; perfectly risen and rolled around a layer of cream. I am ashamed to say I parked myself in close vicinity of said cake and pretty much scoffed it bit by bit single-handedly, bar a slice or two snatched by a brave soul who tore through my defences.
This is quite different from the authentic Japanese castella (sponge cake) but for the matcha flavour. I made it on the basis of the simplest batter with added green tea powder. The result is very good, the cake tasty on its own but it climbs high up the elegance ladder with the addition of lemon cream frosting and the unusual bay leaf scented sugar, the idea nicked from Ottolenghi.