Japanese Christmas Cake / Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

My first blog entry on my first real blog ever! *clap clap clap* So I guess I’ll start by saying Happy New Year may this year bring you health and happiness. As it is so early into the New Year I haven’t had a chance to experiment much in the kitchen yet, so I will write about Christmas 2012!

Usually being the food crazy person in my household I am left in charge of the cooking and food prep for Christmas. Poor me? No! I love it! More the joy on everyone’s faces when they eat the food rather the painstakingly long hours of prepping. This (last?) Christmas I decided to make a Japanese Christmas Cake (Japanese: クリスマスケーキ Kurisumasu kēki) for dessert. Why? Because it was simple and they look super cute! I will be sharing the recipe I used below. I also made Christmas Yule Logs for giving to family – but I’ll save that for another post!

In Japan, this cake is eaten on the 24th December and no matter how attractive the cake is, not many will want the cake after the 25th. In the past, the Japanese used this as a humorous metaphor to compare women who were still single after the age of 25, to this Christmas cake habit – they were referred to as Christmas cake girls. Not a particularly nice joke and I don’t know how much of this is true! But I’m sure in this day and age not so many people care for age! Or maybe they still do in Japan?

Moving on, it was a ‘simples’ affair for Christmas 2012 compared to past Christmases, I made roast turkey which I had brine overnight for the first time – this really made a difference, the turkey was evidently more moist compared to previous years, standard pigs in blanket, good ol’ brussel sprouts and carrots, roasted parsnips, homemade stuffing, homemade roast potatoes and a homemade gravy made from the oven roasted turkey juices and giblets. And people, there was joy on people’s faces especially when they saw the dessert, so job done.

Simple Christmas Dinner by kyliesfood.com
My simple Christmas meal with pink martinis and ginger pimms, gobble gobble.
Japanese Christmas Cake by KyliesFood
And here’s how dessert turned out! Not too shabby….

I know Christmas is so far away but this is basically a Strawberry Shortcake if you minus the Christmas decorations, so can be enjoyed anytime of the year – without feeling like a Christmas tree!

Say What?!: Did you know that in Japan they traditionally eat KFC (that’s right Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken.) for Christmas Dinner and this particular Japanese Christmas Cake for dessert. It’s all gravy.

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Japanese Christmas Cake/Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

The recipe I used was adapted from La Fuji Mama and YouTube channel “cookingwithdog” (not how it sounds, exactly how it sounds).

Ingredients for Japanese Christmas Cake/Strawberry Shortcake

You will need
Parchment Paper (bottom): 18.4cm/7.24 inch diameter
Parchment Paper (side): 6x58cm/2.36×22.8 inch long
Cake Pan (18cm/7.09 inch diameter) (You can use a larger or smaller cake tin but adjust the ingredients accordingly)

For the Sponge Cake (uses the Genoise sponge method though any basic sponge will do)
150g Eggs (5.29 oz)
100g Sugar (3.53 oz)
90g Self-Raising Flour (3.17 oz)
15g Unsalted Butter (0.529 oz)
1 tbsp Milk

For the Syrup
2 tbsp Sugar
3 tbsp Hot Water
1 tbsp Kirsch – a type of brandy made from fermented cherries (I omitted this and just made a simple syrup with the above)

For the Filling and Decorating/Topping
400ml Whipping Cream (1.69 U.S. cup)
1 teaspoon unflavoured powdered gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
3 tbsp Sugar (adjust depending on how sweet you like your cream)
Vanilla essence (optional)
450g hulled and washed Strawberries (0.992 oz) (save some for decorating the top of your cake I used 5 whole strawberries)
Icing Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
Christmas Ornaments (optional)

To Make the Sponge Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 320F/160C/Gas Mark 3
  2. Line your cake tin with parchment paper.
  3. Fill a saucepan with enough water to perform a bain marie (when your mixing bowl is placed on top of the pan, the bowl should not be directly touching the water but the bowl should rest on the pan comfortably above the water)
  4. Heat the saucepan to a simmer.
  5. In a mixing bowl (not on the heat), lightly beat the whole eggs then little by little beat in the sugar (unless you want a workout use a hand-held electric mixer for ease).
  6. Place the lightly beaten sugared egg mixture over your pan of simmering water – the bain marie. Beat eggs till they are pale, smooth and leave a ribbon/track along the surface of the mixture when your mixer is lifted. The ribbons should take about 10secs to sink back into the mixture and return to its undisturbed state. This is called the ribbon-stage – oolala.
  7. Meanwhile place the butter in a small dish/container and pour the milk over it.
  8. Place the dish/container into the warm water you used for the bain marie in order to melt the butter with the milk. Ideally using enough water/a suitable sized container so that the water doesn’t sneak into your butter and milk mixture.
  9. Take your ribbon-staged egg mixture and sift in the flour.
  10. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour with nice airy strokes to ensure a fluffy sponge. Do this for about 30 repetitions or until flour has mixed in.
  11. Pour the melted butter and milk mixture into your flour and egg mixture.
  12. Continue folding until the butter mixture is well incorporated and the cake batter looks smooth and uniform.
  13. When done pour into the lined cake tin, give the tin a few gentle taps on the bottom to remove air bubbles on the surface.
  14. Bake for 20mins or until done. You can test to see whether the cake is done by poking a clean wooden skewer through the centre of the cake, it should come out clean if sufficiently baked.
  15. When baked invert onto a piece of clean baking parchment on a cooling rack.
  16. Leave to cool in cake tin, this is done so that the cake stays moist.

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, set aside and allow to cool.

To make the Whipped Cream Frosting (this is a stabilised whipped cream recipe where gelatin is used to ‘firm’ up the cream a little, if you omit this you might find your whipped cream “weep” – leak water when used on your cake):

  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-peaks is reached – where when you lift your mixer the whip cream stays on the mixer. Be careful not to over-beat your cream as it will start to separate/crack/curdle and turn to butter.

Assemble the cake:

You can use your imagination here and assemble it how you like!

  1. Separate how much of the washed and hulled strawberries you want for the topping and slice up the rest of the strawberries for the filling.
  2. Take the cooled cake and separate into two layers by cutting in half using a serrated knife.
  3. Take the top half of the cake and use as the base layer.
  4. Topside up, lightly brush your syrup mixture all over the surface of the base layer.
  5. Spread the stabilised whipped cream on top of this.
  6. Layer with the sliced strawberries.
  7. Top with some more cream. (make sure you have enough for the frosting)
  8. Lightly brush syrup mixture onto the base of cake layer you have left to be used as the top layer of the finished cake.
  9. Place this cake layer on top of the filling.
  10. Ta-dah!
  11. Now frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream, and decorate how you wish! You can get fancy with a piping bag.
  12. I suited mine up in Christmas decorations of course with the icing sugar sifted over the top to look like snow.
  13. Boom.

Tip: You can leave the frosted cake (in a cake box) in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours to allow the sponge to firm up and moisten, before topping with your decorations. As I was pressed for time I made mine all on the day it was eaten, and everything worked out fine!

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