Sakura Sake Raindrop Cake – Recipe

I've been researching how to make a truly clear and authentic mizu shingen mochi (raindrop cake). Japanese recipes call for agar... but any agar I use produces a really cloudy finish when set. It turns out some brands of Japanese agar are made with a different composition of seaweed than the ones more readily-available in the west (usually Thai or Chinese brands). Alas, the recommended Japanese brands 'Cool Agar' and 'Pearl Agar' cost around £40 to ship to England. HOWEVER I've managed to find an alternative that's more readily available, and it only cost me about £1 for a packet.




Gulaman is Filipino jelly, and is made out of carrageenan, which is derived from a different type of seaweed to other agars (and yes, it's vegetarian). It's still marketed as agar in some countries. But although it sets at a higher temperature like other agars, it sets with a softer consistency and is clear instead of setting firm and cloudy. You can usually buy coloured gulaman powders, but I managed to find an unflavoured, 'crystal clear' gulaman powder by the brand Lady's Choice. I'll overlook the slightly archaically sexist connotations of the brand name just this once.


I've been waiting to make another raindrop cake ever since I did the mojito raindrop cake, where you can see I used the regular agar to a slightly cloudy effect. This time not only do I have the right jelly powder, I have better moulds. I also happened to have a bottle of sake, so I decided to make it a little bit boozy again. As for the sakura, it's a little celebration for the spring.



I did a little experiment with moulds: I used two Tovolo moulds (which have one plastic and one silicone side), one all-silicone sphere and one teacup.


The teacup ended up with a really flat cake which looked more like a splodge than a raindrop. The all-silicone mould turned out cloudy because air bubbles were formed from the way the mould needs to have liquid poured from the top. The best mould was the Tovolo, which works by filling the bottom half and then smushing the top half on (which also helps squeeze out air bubbles). There is a little dip formed at the bottom of the Tovolo-moulded cakes, but this disappears when you serve the cake dip-side down.



Since this cake is flavoured with sake, pickled sakura (soaked to remove the harsh flavour) and sugar, it doesn't need to be served with anything else like the traditional plain raindrop cake. It would be nice served with some fresh fruit too, but honestly it's tasty by itself.

Ready? Let's go.

(Makes the equivalent of three Tovolo ice sphere moulds full.)

Ingredients:

200ml water
200ml sake
100g caster sugar
1 box unflavoured clear gulaman powder (90g)
Pickled sakura blossoms, washed and soaked for an hour

Method:

1. Arrange your soaked sakura blossoms at the bottom of your moulds.

2. Combine the water, sake, caster sugar and gulaman powder in a saucepan and stir to dissolve, Bring to the boil to fully-dissolve the gulaman, and quickly pour into your moulds (the gulaman will start setting very quickly).

3. Leave to cool to room temperature before popping in the fridge for two hours to fully chill.

4. Unmould, serve and enjoy.




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