Matcha Strawberry Genoise Cake

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake layered with strawberry jam and cream cheese whipped cream.  The cream cheese adds some bulk, stability, and a touch of tang to traditional whipped cream.  A modern twist on a classic sponge cake!  

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

True story: when I had the opportunity to go to Japan in 2008, I didn't really know what matcha was.  At the time, I had just deiced to turn my hobby of baking and pasty into a career.  I wanted to use the experience to take home some new inspiration from all of the cutting-edge pastries as well as traditional Japanese sweets.  Before heading home, I threw in a tin of matcha into my suitcase – the packaging and instructions entirely in Japanese characters.

That tin of matcha ended up sitting in the back of my pantry for at least a year or two.  I knew how to order a matcha latte, but I had no idea what to do the matcha powder in my own kitchen.  Like I mentioned before, the packaging was in a langue that I didn't understand.  Funnily enough, by the time I got around to baking with it, I didn't need "instructions," or at least not for its typical use (making tea).

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

Since then, matcha and I have gotten to know each other quite well.  I've used it in macarons, cake, and even ganache in my new book.  So fast-forward 8 years since out first meeting, and I've combined matcha with a classic genoise for a new, modern twist.  Aaaaaand, it just so happens that it's cherry blossom season in Japan right now, so it found it very appropriate to make this cake for spring!

A genoise cake, you ask?  I know I've already thrown in some possibly new words like "matcha," but how about a another to add to your vocab too?  Even though genoise is used in a lot of french pastries, it is actually Italian, named after the city Genoa.  It is very similar to a classic sponge cake, using only whipped eggs to lift and lighten the cake, meaning without chemical learners, but with butter instead of oil. 

In all honesty, genoise cake is kind of a pain to make – especially for something kind of, well, plain.  I think "mild" and "versatile" might be more appropriate words for the fancy-pants sponge cake.  It's not very sweet nor flavorful, yet that does make for the perfect cake layer in a pastry or something that can take on a multitude of other flavors (matcha, in this case).  

22.  22 is the number of eggs I wen though when recipe testing.  The first two batches did not blend well enough, resulting in cake layers that were split: dense, rubbery cake on the bottom and light, flavourless cake on top.  The butter did not incorporate well enough (I was too afraid to over-mix the perfectly whipped eggs) and it sunk to the bottom of the pan.  Of course I questioned if this finicky sponge cake was even worth it, but I was determined to master the classic pastry.  In the end, decreasing the amount of butter, sifting in the dry ingredients, and mixing a bit of the batter into the butter before adding it back to the rest of the mix helped out the most.

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

In typical layer-cake fashion, this matcha genoise has been paired with sweetened strawberry jam and tangy cream cheese whipped cream.  Here's a bit more of what I have to say about this fabulous flavor combo:

Genoise cakes are fairly mild in flavor yet very versatile. In this case, even the delicate flavors of the added matcha powder are able to shine through. They can be subject to drying out, but act like sponges to simple syrups and other flavouring agents. I brushed on a generous about of vanilla bean syrup to add extra flavor and moisture to each layer before I spread on the strawberry jam and cream cheese whipped cream. Now, if you thought the star of the this cake was the fancy-pants matcha genoise, then let me introduce you to this cream cheese whipped cream! I wanted to frost the cake with something that was not going to weigh down the delicate sponge or subtle matcha flavor, but plain whipped cream is sometimes a bit too light and unstable. Mixing some softened cream cheese with sweetened whipped cream was the answer! Not only does the cream cheese add fabulous, tangy flavor, it “bulks up” the whipped cream and even stabilizes it enough to frost the cake without headache. Try it – it’s amazing!! Top with fresh berries and there you go! I bet you could also use raspberry jam with fresh raspberries if you’d prefer.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

Head straight over to The Cake Blog for the full recipe!

Matcha Raspberry French Macarons

Classic French macarons are given a modern twist with the addition of matcha.  Matcha (green tea) ganache and sweet raspberry fill the centers of these delicate pastries.

Matcha Raspberry Macarons

I distinctly remember the period in my career in where I went out on a quest to perfect French macarons.  I even remember the very weekend I devoted to making these finicky, fussy little treats.  It was probably about 4 to 5 years ago and my husband, Brett, was out of town for a few days.  I rarely ever had/have weekends to myself, but when I do, I like to plan little projects for myself.  By the time he got home, I was determined to master these suckers.

Dozens of egg whites and probably about $50 worth of almond flour later - I was nowhere close to where I wanted to be....

Raspberry Macarons

Like most things, I definitely learned that you can't master a skill in 48 hours.  Sure I made things that resembled macarons and I definitely got the filling down, but it has taken me many years and several different recipes in order to produce the kind of macaron I love to eat and enjoy.  A thin, crisp outer shell with a pillowy, chewy center - french macarons are not impossible to make.  Sometimes difficult and frustering?  Yes.  Worth the effort?  Most definitely!!!

I've tried both the French meringue method and the Italian meringue method.  And while "French" is even in the title, I think the turning point for me was when I switched to using Italian meringue.  In this case, you make an Italian meringue (boiled sugar and water mixed into whipped egg whites) then combine it with the almond/confectioner's sugar mixture.  I find that Italian meringue it much more stable, easier to mix without getting soupy, and way less difficult to over-whip (in defence of French meringue, I think I was over-whipping the egg whites making them dry and extra difficult to combine with the almond mixture).  

Raspberry Macarons
Matcha Raspberry Macarons
Raspberry Macarons
Matcha Raspberry Macarons

Upon moving to Vancouver, I worked about a 4 to 5 month stint at a local pastry shop.  They primarily specialized in macarons.  I had definitely made my fair share of macarons before working there, and after months of doing macaron production I was officially burnt out.  French macarons used to be my most beloved desserts.  They take time and patience to make (yourself) and may be difficult to find (really good one, at least).  At first, I was so spoiled by delicious macarons surrounding me, but they quickly started to lose their luster and that deeply saddened me.  I needed a break so that I could fall back in love with these precious little gems.

It had been about two years since I made macarons when I was suddenly inspired to try them out again.  Really, I wanted to see if I "still got it" and give my muscles a reminder on how to mix them properly.  So, over the weekend, I made my first batch of French macarons in a two years.  I went with pretty pastel pink shells with Raspberry Buttercream as well as Matcha Ganache with Raspberry Jam for filling.

Matcha Raspberry Macarons

Here are some of my thoughts on mixing macaron batter or "macaronage" (what most would consider the "tricky" part - me included):

In my humble option, using an Italian meringue makes this mixing process much easier.  I feel like I have much more control over everything.  Like when folding other ingredients of vastly different weights, I like to add the meringue in batches – usually in two or three batches.  As you go, the dry almond mixture slowly starts to incorporate with the thick, pasty meringue.  You don't want to vigorously mix these two ingredients together (although at first it might seem impossible that they will ever combine), but rather deliberately fold them together.  Since over-mixing is a major thing you want to avoid, try to make every fold count by scooping up from the very bottom of the bowl and folding it over on itself.  Continue adding in the meringue and rotating the bowl as you go.  

When properly mixed, the batter should run slowly like thick ribbons of lava.  Again, do not over-mix!  Over-mixing leads to major spreading, so be careful.  However, under-mixed macarons can be an issue too.  When piped, under-mixed macarons may keep too much of their shape - with peaks and not the smooth, flat tops that make macrons so mesmerizing.  If you are unsure about your mixing technique, try testing it as you go.  If you "plop" a bit of the batter back into the bowl, a properly mixed batter should blend back into itself within about 5 seconds.  Likewise, if you drag a spatula through the center of the bowl (full of batter), it should blend back together.
 

For even more macaron tips and tricks, check out Brave Tart.

Matcha Raspberry French Macarons
200 g almond flour
200 g icing sugar
140 g egg whites (4 large eggs)
200 g granulated sugar
50 g water
2 to 3 drops red gel food coloring

Since it had been such a long time since I tried my hand at making macarons, I wanted to go with a really trust worthy recipe.  I wasn't all that confident with some of my past recipes, so I went with this amazing one from Chef Natalie Eng (her work is phenomenal!  you should all check it out).

I followed her recipe exactly with amazing results.  For only one color of shells, add your gel food coloring straight into the Italian meringue during the last minute of mixing.

Depending on the size of your shells, they will take about 9 to 12 minutes to bake at 325 degrees.  When done, the tops of the shells should just barely "jiggle" but still stay connected to the "feet."  After about cooling just a few minutes, a done macaron should easily peel off a piece of parchment or silpat.

Matcha Ganache
7 ounce white chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspooons unsalted butter, diced

1.  Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl.  Sprinkle with matcha and set aside.
2.  Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to simmer.
3.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 30 seconds.
4.  Add the butter and whisk until smooth.
5.  Let ganache cool until thick and "pipe-able."

Raspberry Buttercream
mix about 1/4 cup raspberry jam/jelly with 1 cup Swiss meringue buttercream (or buttercream of choice - adjust raspberry jam to taste) until smooth.  You can find my favorite recipe in this post.

Assembly
After the shells cool, pair them up according to size.  Line the pairs up on a baking tray or clean work surface - one side up, one side down.  

For the raspberry buttercream filling, pipe a large dollop of filling onto the center of the upside down shells.  Leave a bit of room around the edges for the filling to spread after they are sandwiched together.  Top the macarons with the top shells and gently sandwich together until the filling comes to the edges.

For the matcha raspberry macarons, fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with the ganache.  Pipe rings on top of the upside down shells - again, living a bit of space for spread.  Fill the center of the rings with raspberry jam/jelly then gently sandwich together.

It's recommend that to let macaron "mature" in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, but I usually can't wait.  Enjoy at your own leisure =) 

NOTE:  Next time I will pulse the almond flour and icing sugar in the food processor a bit before starting.  My shells were a bit too "bumpy."

Matcha Sesame Macarons

MatchaMacs7 There is this great restaurant up on Main Street that I love to go to for Dim Sum.  It's funky decor probably hasn't been remodeled in decades, but who cares when the food is that good.  I always order the rice noodles and steamed pork buns.  For dessert, it is mango and whipped cream pillows and sesame balls.  Those sesame balls and the green tea they always serve inspired these Matcha Sesame Macarons.

I love sesame desserts, especially Japanese treats with black sesame paste.  When I feeling overwhelmed by super sugary desserts, I crave more subtly sweet treats like mochi and soft Japanese cheesecake.  These types of pastries tend to be lighter with more delicate flavors.  I've been wanting to incorporate more sesame flavor into my own desserts lately.  I only had a jar of tahini paste on hand, and figured it might work into a buttercream.  It is the same consistency of natural peanut butter, so it was definitely worth a shot.

MatchaMacs3

The results?  Pretty tasty, in my opinion.  I mixed the tahini paste straight into some buttercream.  The texture was a bit grainier than I would have hoped, but the district sesame flavor was delicious.

Once I created the sesame buttercream, I started thinking of different ways to incorporate it into other desserts.  I smeared a spoonful on a spare chocolate cupcake with some leftover caramel and the combination was heavenly.  For this post, I created a whole new treat entirely.  I decided it was about time I share a new macaron recipe.  I just knew that the sesame buttercream would make a perfect filling sandwiched between some matcha macaron shells.

MatchaMacs2

MatchaMacs1

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:78]

For macaron tips and trouble shooting, check out BraveTart.  Recipe adapted from this post.

I used a plain Swiss meringue buttercream as the base of my sesame buttercream.  You can get the recipe here, minus the sprinkles.