Japan seems to have an obsession with decorating things. Deco candy, decoben (bento), deco tape, deco everything. Kawaii desu ne! *Gets shot*
Seriously though, it's pretty darn adorable, and just Googling this stuff is great for inspiration. I recently discovered the existence of 'deco roll cake', which is basically creating beautifully patterned Swiss rolls by piping coloured cake mixture onto the baking paper before pouring the main cake mixture over it: when you peel back the paper, ta-dah! The image is magically transferred onto the cake, which is then filled and rolled up.
As a nod to the whole deco culture, I was going to use red (adzuki) bean and matcha green tea as the flavour combination: two very popular flavours in Japan. Alas, I'd already squandered my stash of matcha powder on many matcha lattes. So, unwilling to give up on making a green cake, I used my old favourite Malaysian flavour instead: pandan.
I've used this before in my recipes for bubur cha cha, kueh dadar and kueh ubi bingka: take a look at the bottom of the kueh ubi bingka post for a bit of info on pandan extract, what it is, and where to find it.
As for the red bean part, you can find it in large tin cans of smooth sweetened red bean paste at most Asian food stores. In my case, I found a small can of anko that I used half of (anko is Japanese sweet red bean paste- it usually has actual chunks of beans in it).
Ingredients for Deco Part:
-1 small egg
-30g caster sugar
-50g self-raising flour*
-red and yellow food colouring
Ingredients for Swiss Roll:
-4 eggs, separated
-40g caster sugar
-40g self-raising flour
-1tsp pandan paste (or vanilla and a bit of green food colouring if you can't find it)
Ingredients for Filling:
-150ml whipping cream
- 100g anko (sweetened red bean paste)
1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas Mark 4.
2) Line a 26x36cm baking tray with non-stick greaseproof paper, and very lightly grease it.
3) Start by making the flower patterns: beat the egg in a small bowl, and stir in the sugar and flour. Divide into two bowls, and stir red food colouring in one and yellow in the other.
4) Using a small round piping nozzle or a piping bag with a tiny hole cut into the corner, pipe on alternating rows of small and large yellow dots onto the paper: the small dots will be the centre of the flowers. Pop in the freezer for about two minutes, then pipe on your petals over the top of the small dots. You'll only have to do this for just over half of the length of the pan as the rest will be hidden when you roll the cake up, anyway.
5) Put the whole baking sheet into the freezer to set the flowers: this stops them from running and smudging when you pour the main cake mixture over later.
6) To make the Swiss roll, start by sifting both flours onto a plate.
7) Make a meringue mixture: beat the egg whites with an electric whisk in a large bowl until they form stiff white peaks (when you can hold the bowl upside down over your head without getting messy). Add in half of the sugar and keep beating until glossy.
8) Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl with the whisk (make sure you do this AFTER the whites**) with the rest of the sugar until pale and fluffy, and whisk in the pandan/ vanilla with green colouring. Get rid of the electric whisk, and lightly stir in the sifted flours, trying not to beat too much air out of the mixture.
9) Take a few tablespoons of the meringue and incorporate gently into the egg yolk mixture, then very gently fold in the rest of the egg whites with a spatula or metal spoon, keeping in as much air as possible until well combined.
10) Take your baking tray with the flowers out of the freezer, and pour on the Swiss roll mixture. Spread evenly, drop it a few times on the counter to bang large air bubbles out of it, and bake for 20-25 minutes.
11) Take out of the oven and invert into a cooling rack lined with more baking paper, leaving the tin on top so the cake doesn't dry out. Leave to go completely cold.
12) To make the filling, whisk the cream until stiff (not too much or it'll turn into butter!) and mix in the red bean paste.
13) Once cool, get rid of the baking sheet and gently peel the paper off. Now flip the cake over so that the pattern is on the bottom and furthest away from you.
14) Cut a sloping angle into the end furthest away from you (the patterned end), so the cake can roll up more snugly.
15) Spread on the red bean cream, leaving an inch or so of space at the end so the cream doesn't squish out when you roll it.
16) Roll the cake up starting from the end closest to you, using the baking paper under the cake to help tuck over the first bit and then roll it away from you.
17) Roll the whole cake tightly in the baking paper and twist up the corners. Cover it with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to set the filling.
18) Unwrap the cake, slice a bit off the ends to neaten it up, and cut into slices to serve, using the flowers and dots as a serving guide.
*I used 40g but the mixture was a little runny, making it difficult to pipe (you can see my flowers are a bit on the blobby side). Adding a bit more flour will make the mixture easier to control so you can pipe more delicately, but it might also make the deco patterns tougher in texture.
**If you get any yolks in the egg whites, they won't whip up as well: grease affects the proteins in the egg whites and stops strong air bubbles from forming.
Have fun deco-ing!