It has been Spring like in the Bay Area. Cold misty mornings, and as they day progresses it gets sunny and bright. The timing for this post is really not right, with what is going around in the world with the COVID-19 virus, but I had written it a few weeks ago and I have just not had the heart to post it with the world happenings. My heart goes out to all the front line people fighting the virus, and I really hope that sunnier/warmer days will bring some sort of an end to all of this. It is really hard to process what everyone is going through, and what the people who are working so hard to fight the virus in hospitals, keeping grocery stores open, essential services open and the police too, to keep all in order. It is a very difficult task and one that must be acknowledged.
There have been so many cherry blossom trees popping up everywhere, making the place look pretty – it gives hope and some spot of brightness in these dreary days. The pretty couple shades of pink, light and airy petals, makes the tree look beautiful! I remember when my kids were in the first grade, they had a craft project to do in Spring, where they would take 5 cotton buds together, tied with a rubber band, and they would dip it in 2 shades of pink, and make this gorgeous cherry blossom tree. Another craft project was to make the cherry blossom tree with crepe paper! It looks so pretty.
The pink flowers with the brown branches on the cherry blossom tree, against the clear blue skies makes the scene absolutely beautiful and breath taking! One day I will go to Japan for the Spring Cherry Blossom Festival! I have only seen pictures online, and they are so ethereal! Drawn with this inspiration, last year I made these absolutely pretty Cherry Blossom Macarons, which are one of my absolute favorite creations! The mac shells had cherry blossom extract, so did the buttercream inside, with a dollop of Cherry Blossom Jam in the middle. I bought the cherry blossom extract and jam from an online Japanese grocery store that I found called anything-from-japan.com ! They have really fun stuff like sakura ( as cherry blossom is called in Japanese) sweet flakes, salty flakes, preserved cherry blossom flowers which are edible, sakura powder to put in pastries etc.
This year I decided to make a 3 layer Cherry Blossom Cake, with one layer filled with the cherry blossom jam, and the other layer filled with lychee curd. I used cherry blossom extract in the cake and the frosting. The flavor is very subtle, and the cake is delicate with the cherry blossom flavor! My kids were not a fan of the jam but they LOVED the lychee curd and the cake flavors! I was very pleased with how beautiful and intricate the cake looked from top to bottom hehe. Inside I created an Ombre effect, because I feel everything in life should be in ombre and floral lol! The cake recipe is a basic vanilla cake recipe, and the frosting is a Cherry Blossom Whipped Buttercream Frosting.
I divided the cake batter into 3 different bowls, and weighed them to make sure that all 3 bowls are equal in weight. Then I put them in 3 6 inch cake tins, once they were greased properly with butter and flour, and laid with a 6 inch parchment paper. You can get the 6 inch parchment papers from Amazon, and it makes it so much easier to simply line the tin with it, rather than go through the efforts of cutting the parchment paper into an exact round that would fit into the pan. It makes it easy to remove the cake from the tin too. It plops out so easily. It is best to keep the cakes overnight in the fridge, or if you don’t want to wait, keep them in the fridge for atleast 2-3 hours, after completely cool and before frosting. Make sure to trim the top of the cakes to level them out so that they are even and straight. You can use a bread knife to do so.
For the layers, I first take the bottom layer, then apply a generous amount of simple syrup on the cake so that it keeps the cake moist. Then I used the frosting to pipe a layer with a pipping bag with the tip cut off, to make an outer rim on the cake. I filled the first layer with lychee curd. Then I topped a second layer of the cake on it, and then repeat the simple syrup process, and then layering the rim with frosting. Fill it with the cherry blossom jam in an even layer. Top off the cake again with the 3rd cake layer and use simple syrup again to keep the cake moist. Now you can go ahead and decorate the cake.
The frosting recipe is enough for the crumb coat, the actual shaded frosting, and also the decoration of the cherry blossoms. Crumb coat is when you take the cake, and assemble the layers, and then frost the outside to secure the crumbs from falling. This prevents the crumbs from showing up on the side of the cake. You do a light layer of frosting, and then put the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes, then you can frost it completely. Before decorating the cake with the cherry blossoms, make sure you put the cake in the fridge again for it to set and solid. It makes for a much easier job with the decoration and pipping.
I did a very simple design, but you could go fancy to pipe flowers like Tessa from Style Sweet CA does! She makes the most gorgeous looking cakes always! I know Easter this year is going to be quiet, no mass gatherings, no huge family brunches, but even to celebrate within your own family, this pretty cake would bring a bright cheer to your Sunday Easter brunch. We all need comfort food these days. Since it might be hard to get the Cherry Blossom extract, you can simply use the vanilla extract and make it a vanilla cake with a strawberry jam layer in the middle, or even a strawberry curd with a vanilla frosting on the outside.
I hope you get a chance to try this recipe, if so, please do put a comment on the blog, and/or Instagram and use the hashtag #thejamlab! I would so appreciate it!
Cherry Blossom Cake with Cherry Blossom Buttercream Frosting
2 ½ cups cake flour (OR 3 cups all purpose flour minus 3 tbsp of the flour + 3 tbsp corn starch)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter ( 1 ½ sticks ) at room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature
¾ cup whole milk at room temperature
2 teaspoon cherry blossom extract
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cherry Blossom Whipped Buttercream:
1 ½ cups unsalted butter ( 3 sticks ) at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp whole milk at room temperature
2 tsp cherry blossom extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup lychee juice
½ cup granulatead sugar
3 egg yolks
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp unsalted cold butter cut into 6 pieces
Cherry Blossom Jam( available at anything-from-japan.com )
Americolor gel paste for the pink shades and blue
Edible pearls to decorate
1) In a medium bowl, combine the granulated sugar, egg yolks, salt, lemon juice and lychee juice and whisk for 1-2 minutes to make the mixture ribbon like.
2) In a medium saucepan on medium heat, add the lychee mixture and using the whisk, keep stirring for about 5 minutes for the mixture to thicken. Once it starts to thicken, using a rubber spatula, make sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the bowl. When the curd sticks to the spatula, and you can run your index finger through the middle, and the curd is left on the side, that is when you know your curd is done.
3) Strain the curd through a fine sieve to eliminate any bits, into a small bowl. Add in the butter and mix to combine. Using a plastic wrap, cover the curd so that it does not form a skin. Refrigerate the curd for upto 3-4 hours.
Cherry Blossom Cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 6 inch cake tins with cooking spray. Add parchment paper and spray the cooking spray again. In a medium bowl, add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and whisk to combine.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add in the granulated sugar, and butter, and start at low speed for one minute. Increase the speed to the highest and let it run for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved in the butter. Scrap the sides of the bowl to bring the mixture down.
3) Now add in the 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing after the addition of each egg. Add in the cherry blossom extract and the vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
4) Slowly add in the flour in 2 additions, alternating with the milk and combine at low speed, after each addition of flour and milk. Do not overmix. Scrap the sides of the bowl.
5) Using a weighing scale, divide the batter into 3 bowls, equally. Add in shades of royal pink in one, and fuschia in the other and mix in the batter. This is to create the ombre effect.
6) Add each batter into each cake tin pan. Bake the cake for about 25-30 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean from the middle of the cake pan.
7) Let the cake cool for about an hour.
8) Cover each layer of cake in plastic wrap and let the cakes sit overnight in the fridge to set and firm.
Cherry Blossom Buttercream Frosting:
1) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add in the butter and salt, and whisk at high speed for a minute. Add in the powdered sugar, milk, and the extracts. Start at a slow speed to combine so that the powder does not start flying around. Slowly increase the speed to medium speed to make a smooth buttercream frosting. If the mixture is a bit hard, add in a tbsp. of whole milk and whisk to combine, until the buttercream is smooth. If the mixture is too loose, add in about ½ cup of extra powdered sugar and whisk to combine. The buttercream should be firm but yet pippable.
2) Remove about ¾ cup of buttercream each, into 3 bowls for the decoration. Using Royal pink, Fuschia and Brown gel paste into each of the 3 bowls, using 3 different small rubber spatulas, stir to combine. Add each colored buttercream into a pipping bag with the No. 1 or No. 2 Wilton pastry tip. Using a bench scraper, scrap the buttercream all the way down from the top, twist the bottom of the bag and clip to secure.
3) Using about 3 cups of the plain cherry blossom buttercream, fill it into a pipping bag with a 1 inch round tip. Using a bench scraper, scrap the buttercream all the way down from the top, twist the top of the bag and clip to secure.
1) Level off the domes from the cakes, using a sharp bread serrated knife.
2) On a cake turn table, add in a bit of buttercream at the bottom to stick the bottom most layer of cake. Add the cream layer of the cake. Using the pipping bag with the plain cherry blossom buttercream, create a rim around the cake. Add in about 1 cup of the lychee curd, using a small offset spatula, level it off. Add the second layer of cake, repeat the outer buttercream rim. Add about 1 cup of the cherry jam in the middle of the cake. Using an offset spatula, level off the jam. Add the final layer of the cake on the top carefully.
3) Now to create the crumb coat: Using the remainder of the buttercream in the pipping bag, pipe it around the cake with about half an inch between each pipping. Using a large cake spatula, level off the buttercream as you move the turn table, with the spatula in parallel to the cake, to secure the crumb around the cake.
4) Add buttercream to the top of the cake, and using the large spatula level off the buttercream to secure the crumb. Keep clean edges around the top of the cake. Store the cake in the fridge for half an hour.
5) After half an hour, remove the cake. You can do ombre frosting like I did here, by diving the remaining plain buttercream into 4 bowls, and adding pink in 2 different shades to 2 different bowls, sky blue to another bowl, and keeping the last bowl cream in color. Or keep the frosting plain with no color.
6) Using a small offset spatula, start with one color and add it evenly to the bottom of the cake. Repeat with a different color for the next level of the cake. Repeat with the 3rd color for the next level of the cake. Add in the blue buttercream on the top of the cake. Using a cake frosting leveler, turning the turn table slowly, level off the frosting all around the cake to smoothen the sides. Keep repeating the process till you get smooth sides. Using a large spatula, level the top of the cake by using the spatula at a 45 degree angle and bring the frosting into the middle of the cake from the edge of the cake. Keep repeating the process around the rim of the cake.
7) Using a small offset spatula, and hot water in a glass on the side, and a towel, dipping the spatula in hot water, and drying it on the towel, use it to clean the cake. Keep repeating till you get a very clean cake.
8) Store the cake in the fridge for an hour to set.
9) Using the pipping bags for decoration create a cherry blossom pattern using the brown first to create branches. Add in the flowers. Use your creativity to see how you want to place them. Add in the pearls.