Sunday, January 27, 2013
Japanese cakes are characterised by the sweet bean paste that they generally contain (or in rare cases that they are covered in). The bean paste is dark brown and of similar consistency to overcooked baked beans. It is quite sweet, sweet enough to be disgusting to those that are used to eating beans as a main meal, but not nearly as sweet as Western confectionery. This means that if you can get over your qualms about eating sweet, as opposed to tomato flavoured, beans then Japanese cakes are considerably more healthy being higher in protein and fibre and lower in calories.
The bean paste is generally covered in flour based sponge cake such as in the round sweet bean sponge-cake sandwich (dorayaki) favoured by the iconic robotic cat, Doraemon, and the maple leaf shaped baked bean fritter (momiji manjuu) made on Itsukushima Island near the famous sea gate. More traditionallly, the bean paste is encased in a slightly gooey layer of rice such as in "great prosperity" (daifuku) rice cakes and this rice may also be wrapped in leaf, of an oak tree (kashiwa mochi) or of a cherry tree (sakura mochi). The outer layer of pink stained rice in the latter (sakura mochi) has been salted, to produce from an untrained Western point of view, something truly grotesque. The salting of the outer layer of rice creates a contrast with the slightly sweet bean paste, to make it seem almost as sweet as chocolate.