Hello everyone! Long time no see. I didn’t write a blog post last week because, frankly, I didn’t have anything to talk about. The only notable parts were that I spent last week studying for my midterm, and went out on Saturday and ended up trawling Harajuku at 4.30am in search of Famichiki (Family Mart Chicken; convenience stores sell ready cooked snacks, and my favourite at the moment is the glorious Famichiki – a giant chicken nugget sold in a variety of flavours from garlic, to curry, to cheese.)
Anyway, this week was much of the same; however, Thursday brought with it the holiday of Thanksgiving. Being equally as English as the holiday is American, I knew nothing about Thanksgiving beyond a bit of colonialism that led to the glorious turkey dinners featured on US sitcoms that miraculously bring together the quarrelling, starring family. Who doesn’t love the bond that food brings? I was excited to try the new experience, load up on carbs, and learn more of the personal side through my beloved Nicole, who seemed to treasure Thanksgiving just as much as all other holidays with her regular cries of “Christmas lights already? But Thanksgiving hasn’t even passed yet!”
My contribution to the pot luck? As we enter the colder months, I have found myself craving Black Forest Gâteau. Around this time last year (or so I thought: turns out it was actually last September. But all the same…) I made a behemoth of a Black Forest Gâteau – 4 layers of rich, deep chocolate sponge drizzled with sweet cherry syrup, sharp Kirsch cherries, thick freshly whipped cream, and handmade dark chocolate trees. Decadent, and oozing with love and sugar.
I really love cake.
Because I lack any kind of chill, I took it upon myself to recreate this. Is it traditional to an American thanksgiving? …No. But researching an American thanksgiving, I don’t think I know the components well enough to try and adapt them to the conditions given. But everybody loves chocolate cake.
However, as I would come to find out, making a black forest gâteau in Japan would be impossible. Here were the unique conditions of my challenge:
- Japan is a country devoid of cherries. I spent two hours I didn’t have trawling the entirety of Nishiwaseda searching for cherries. Not even a whisper, not even a can, not even a cherry flavoured snack. Today (Thanksgiving Boxing Day?) I went and had a peek in an import store. Nothing.
- I also don’t have an oven at my disposal, so I would have to use a rice cooker.
- I was going to try my best to make it vegan, too, for my darling vegan friend Elsa (whose lovely blog you can read here.).
Mary Berry, eat your heart out love.
procrastinating my Kanji midterm oops much research, here is the recipe, should you ever find yourself wanting to nourish your vegan friends with a decadent chocolate cake but you only have a rice cooker at your disposal with which to create it.
I Did My Best: Vegan, Rice Cooker Strawberry Gâteau (topped with almost vegan truffles)
This makes a three-tier monstrosity. I was originally adapting it from Mary Berry’s Black Forest Gateau, because I trust her recipes more than I trust anything, but it now bears barely any resemblance to it. I’ll still credit her though cos I love her.
Note: I only measured the dry ingredients exactly; I don’t own anything with which I could measure the liquids so I guessed. This recipe assumes you know what you want from a cake!!
For the cake:
- 200g flour, plus extra for greasing
- 200g white sugar
- 100g good quality cocoa powder
- Approx 4 tsp baking powder
- Approx 180ml oil (any oil BUT OLIVE OIL is fine, olive oil should never never never ever be cooked and this is a hill I will absolutely die on), plus extra for greasing
- Approx 4tsp vanilla extract
- Approx 500ml of warmish coffee (instant honestly works best for bringing out chocolate flavour. Two teaspoons will do it)
For the toppings:
- Double/whipping cream – as much or as little as you fancy. I’d recommend buying too much cream, and then you can use the leftovers for hot chocolate afterwards (or give it to your vegan friend to eat from the bowl with a spoon). I found dairy-free soya whipping cream in Ito Yokado!
- Dark chocolate (I couldn’t find chocolate without milk anywhere. Anywhere. Not even the 95% chocolate was without milk. This is the literal only non-vegan part of this. You can make it vegan if you use milkless chocolate, though)
- Strawberry jam
- Strawberry liqueur
- If you’re feeling fancy, strawberries too for decoration but honestly they’re like a million yen who can be bothered
- Soya milk
- Vanilla essence
- Cocoa powder
- Lay out all of your ingredients on the table, so as to create semblance that you have your life together should anyone come into the kitchen.
- Put all your dry stuff into a mixing bowl. Mix it all thoroughly with a whisk.
- Add the wet ingredients one by one, to ensure they’re fully incorporated and you haven’t got any flour pockets lurking. You want the mixture to be smooth and thick and fudgy. Don’t overwork it or you’ll ruin the texture. Mix it slowly and tenderly. Fill it up with lovin’. That’s what makes it taste good.
- Grease up that rice bowl. It’s probably non-stick, but you hardly want dried chocolate cake clinging to your lunchtime rice tomorrow. Give it a thin coat of oil all over, then cover it all in flour or cocoa. Flour makes it stick less than cocoa, but cocoa doesn’t leave white all over your completed cake. Up to you.
- Pour in half of the mixture.
- Set your rice cooker to cook. Obviously, everyone’s rice cooker is a little bit different… but just trust it. Put it on to cook, and leave it. Don’t touch her. This is a trust exercise between you and your rice cooker. If you open it, you’ll let out all the lovely steam that’ll be puffing up your cake.
- While it was going, I tried to make chocolate shapes but I stiffened my chocolate by adding vanilla essence. However, from desperation, innovation is born, and somehow mixing the stiffened chocolate with soya milk made modelling chocolate, which I shaped into balls, rolled in cocoa, and called truffles. Leave them in the fridge to set.
- When the rice cooker is done, check on the cake. Put a chopstick into the thickest part; if it comes out clean then your cake is done. If not, put it through for another cycle. This time, check on it every 10-15 minutes or so, using your good judgement based on how wet it was last time. It won’t be as delicate the second time so you don’t need to worry so much about letting the steam out. For my rice cooker, the cake took 2 and a bit cycles, but obviously it’ll vary.
- Let the cake cool in the tin, then turn it out onto a chopping board.
- Cook the other half of the mixture in the very same way.
- Cut the completely cooled cakes in half, to create 4 layers, and then 3 when you inevitably cut one too thin and it falls apart. Eat the failed one.
- Drizzle them with strawberry liqueur and leave them to soak while you pretend to study more, but you are in fact just staring aimlessly into space. Occasionally top up the alcohol to taste, but don’t add too much or obviously you’ll have soggy cake.
- Whip up the cream. I did it by hand. It takes forever; if you have a mechanised whisk at your disposal please use it. Don’t buy ready whipped cream, you animal, whip it up yourself whatever way you do it. Don’t you love your friends? Don’t you love yourself?
- Assembly! Cake, jam, cream. Cake, jam, cream. Cake, little bit of jam to stop crumbing, cream. Realise that you put on way too much cream, steer into the skid, and cover the entire damn thing completely in cream. Sprinkle over cocoa powder and top with the truffles. Be generous with your fillings and toppings; in the words of Mary Berry: if you want a low-fat cake, just have a smaller slice.
- Let it sit in the freezer for a bit to give it some solidity when you slice.
So there you have it.
The Thanksgiving pot luck was so much fun! At our pot-luck was KFC, Domino’s Pizza, beautiful stuffed peppers, a gorgeous ratatouille, my cake, shots of Soju and a bucket of alcohol. The recipe for Nicole’s bucket cocktail is two bottles of white wine, a bottle of berry cocktail mix, half a bottle of vodka, and a big bottle of Sprite. Come through, mixology.
I feel like I had a very authentic Thanksgiving. I had my little Hoshien family, we all had deep moments about how thankful we are for each other, and there was a big argument about the authenticity of the moon landings. I found myself very thankful. We ate, drank, and were far too merry for our own good. But isn’t that what the holidays are for? It only makes me all the more excited for Christmas to come!
I have yet to decide what I’m doing for Christmas, but the closer it gets the more likely it’s looking that I’m going to stuff my face with imported cheese, then go to the An Cafe and Anli Pollicino 2man live in the evening. I don’t know Anli Pollicino, but I should probably get a move on on my resolution to find new bands I like while I’m out here, shouldn’t I?
Plus it’s in Shibuya and Taco Bell may well be open. But I’m not going to admit that.
大森靖子 Seiko Oomori
絶対絶望絶好調 Zettai Zetsubou Zekkoucho Absolutely, Hopelessly Terrific