Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Matcha Frosting

Zucchini Matcha Cake, frosted and ready to be served with some tea

I know, I know, I’m very much channeling my inner Asian girl. But I’d like to argue to that I go above and beyond the typical obsession, that I freakin’ went to Uji, Japan: the capital of Matcha. Indeed, I am a hardcore fan. I have a dedicated matcha cup, a fancy whisk,  a whisk holder for said fancy whisk. Plus, I store my ceremonial grade matcha in the freezer. What do you say to that, haters! What’s that? I’ve said this before and only my social anxiety gives a damn about my oh-so-sterotypical penchant for matcha baked goods? Oh okay. 

You’d think I wouldn’t fall for every matcha recipe I see on the internet, but only if you don’t know me and my undying devotion to all things Matcha.

Matcha sugar cookies

Matcha cookies with white chocolate

Matcha in Every Dessert: Not Always a Good Thing

What a beautiful disappointment.

However much I love my matcha desserts, there are definitely hits and misses. Alanna’s recipe in The Alternative Baker for chocolate Cake with matcha frosting? A hit. Bon Appétit’s Matcha-white chocolate sugar cookies? An unfortunate miss. What’s worse, food52, my trusted go-to site for recipe inspiration, called them matcha snickerdoodles. If there ever was a misnomer, this was it; naming a sugar cookie a snickerdoodle held it up to expectations of cinnamon covered chewiness that supposedly blends together white chocolate and matcha into a delectable treat. 

As much as I wanted to love these cookies, the sugar was too overwhelmingly present, and the matcha did not shine through-instead, it was more for aesthetic purposes. I don’t want my food to merely look good, but taste delicious. Every recipe I’ll post will be greater than the sum of its parts; it’ll have that nuanced contrast of textures and flavors that linger in your mouth, making you wonder what that one ingredient is, how you must take a another bite to be pin down what exactly makes this cookie so great. 

I’ll be honest, even if St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t this Friday, I would’ve made this cake. As it is, St. Patrick’s days means a green-tinted tsunami of matcha desserts will undoubtedly coming out way. I mean, how could I resist Four & Twenty Blackbird’s matcha custard pie? Or Molly Yeh’s black and matcha cookies?

Back to the cake. Zucchini always adds moisture into cake recipes, and this one is no different. Dutch cocoa powder adds that appetizing rich, darkish color and toasted nutty flavor. The cake is not too sweet, and is especially lovely when combined with that light tartness from the matcha cream cheese. A faint, but detectable matcha flavor adds that unique quality to the otherwise traditional chocolate cake.  I didn’t have sorghum flour on hand, so I substituted AP Flour, which I always have in hand (you know, just in case I absolutely need to bake a batch of muffins in the middle of the night à la Kirsten Wiig in Bridesmaids).

matcha chocolate cake and tea time!

With a 9 – 5 job, I’ve learned to sacrifice sleep in pursuit of more interesting things in life. Indeed, although social conventions have molded me into a upright citizen who gets up at 7:20am every morning, I’m convinced I secretly night owl at heart. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve stayed up later writing a blog post, but with a 9 – 5 job this necessary sacrifice of sleep takes its toll. Is this perhaps the breaking point, the barrier to entry for new bloggers, a feat held together by sheer determination and willpower to continue typing late into the night? 

This is only my second post and I have yet to understand all that there is to blogging, but like everything that you care for in life, doubt and anxiety–along with excitement–manages to creep in. But hey, if I wasn’t a bundled mess of excitement and nervousness, then I wouldn’t care very much about this. So hello, world. 

Chaos in Uji, 
Crust

Deeply vibrant green matcha frosting on chocolate zucchini cake 


Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from The Alternative Baker

YIELDS One 8-inch square cake

Cook time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

Cake

1 cup (225 g zucchini or 2 small or 1 large)
1 cup (215 g) packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil or sunflower oil
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup (60 g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (115 g) AP flour**
1/4 cup (25 g ) sweet white rice flour
2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup (170 g) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (85 g) powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp (5 g) matcha powder
pinch of salt 

Baking Notes:
*30 ml evaporated milk and 30 ml water works too
**original recipe uses 115 g sorghum flour

Storage Notes: Cake can be wrapped and stored for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you’re not serving the cake right away, chill for up to 1 day. 

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or grease pan with softened butter.

To make the cake, grate zucchini on a box grater (or in my case, a microplane-totally works!). Place zucchini in a large bowl and add brown sugar, sugar, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Then, sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt into the large bowl. Using a spatula, stir well to combine until mixture is deliciously dark.

Scrape the batter into the prepared square pan, making sure the layer is evenly distributed. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, but is not wet. Let cool completely on a rack for at least 30 minutes until completely cooled. 

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, matcha powder and salt in a food processor and blend until the frosting morphs into beautifully light green fluffiness. 

When the cake has cooled, use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top.

Serve up that deliciously ~moist~ matcha-frosted cake. Cheers.

 

 

Japanese Matcha Melon Pan

Matcha melon pans cooling on a tray. Can't wait!

Welp. I did it. I channeled my inner Asian girl and honed in on any recipe that would greatly benefit with the addition of Matcha. et voilà! Matcha Melon Pan heaven. Out of the oven, these buns are the best afternoon snack. 

Last weekend, while walking through Berkeley’s college town, we stumbled into an Asian bakery. Obviously, when there’s any bakery of any sorts, a slight detour is to be made. Even if I had just gorged myself on delicious, satisfying, tongue-numbing Indian food at Vik’s Chaat, I couldn’t help but imagine taking a bite out of those those crunchy, yet fluffy buns. 

Freshly baked Japanese melon pan half eaten 

First: What are Melon Pans? 

Melon Pans = fluffy sweet bun + crispy cookie topping. The bun is an enriched dough, made with yeast. The origin of “Melon Pan” can be broken down into two parts. “Pan” in Japanese means bread, adapted from the Portuguese. As for “Melon” part, I’ve always assumed it was named because the top looked like a melon. Just One Cookbook is my go-to blog for all things Japanese. Nami clearly does her research and laid out some really interesting theories for the etymology of “Melon” , some rooted in Japan’s rich cultural history. 

These babies were to be my weekend project. The only problem: I HAD NO MILK. 

Alas, after sifting through the internet looking for a dairy-free melon pan recipe, none was to be found. (Granted, what Asian pastry dough doesn’t have milk?)

I am horribly lactose-intolerant and have accepted that fact as such. Will I ever outgrow it? Most probably not. Will I ever stop hoping? Never! Friends have suggested outlandish theories to overcome my biology. “You just have to have a little diary every day! One milk tea a day keeps the doctor away!” or “Just fight through the pain and embrace the bloat!” Well, I’m all for any excuse to drink milk tea, but not so sure about embracing the pain. I digress. 

Luckily, I happened to have a can of evaporated milk lying around. That’s fate right there. I was meant to bake Matcha Melon Pans this week, and nothing can stop me! Why did I have evaporated milk in my pantry? Who knows! (Yay for hoarding! Take that Marie Kondo!) I subbed whole milk with 1 part evaporated milk : 1 part water. Worked beautifully.  
 


The Perfect Melon Pan 

Contrasting textures: A crunchy, crispy sugary top draped over a pillowy soft bun

Uniformly golden brown buns: Gotta love that Maillard reaction

Uniformly sized buns: Buns the size of your face to promote ultimate satisfaction

I narrowed down my search to two recipes. Obviously, I am not the first to think of adding matcha. Ever stumbled upon turtle shaped melon pans? Adorable. The Little Epicurean’s recipes are always spot on, so this was my base recipe. Fix Feast Flair’s recipe inspired me to also add that extra c r u n c h for the cookie topping, by upping the butter and sugar, of course! 

Another thing I should mention: I don’t own a stand mixer. I know, I know, I really should invest in one. For the longest time, I yearned for a Kitchenaid stand mixer (in Pistachio, more specifically) but have made due without it. In time, I have grown to enjoy the extra effort (and therefore love, no?). Now, I don’t own a stand mixer out of principle more than anything. Why use a stand mixer when my hands are perfectly capable to knead and my biceps strong enough to whisk? Why be separated from the way dough was made by our great ancestors. I say, unplug your stand mixers and become one with the dough! 

Lactose & Hedgehogs, 
Crust

Overhead shot of cooling matcha melon buns


Matcha Melon Pan

Adapted from The Little Epicurean and Feast Fix Flair

YIELDS 8 LARGE BUNS

Prep Time: 3 Hours | Cook time: 20-25 minutes

DIRECTIONS

Combine yeast, warmed milk, and one teaspoon of sugar. Let sit until mixture is bubbly (around 6-8 minutes).

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, milk powder, matcha, salt, and eggs. Mix with spatula (or hands) until dough comes together. Continue to knead with hands for 10 minutes until dough is smooth, adding softened butter in small increments. Knead for around 10 minutes, adding more flour if dough looks wet. Form the dough into a ball.

Transfer dough back into the same bowl, lightly greased. Covered with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on room temperature. 

While dough is proofing, make the cookie topping. In a medium sized bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add in flour, matcha powder, and salt. Add egg and vanilla and mix until cookie dough forms. Transfer cookie dough onto plastic wrap and roll it into a log. Chill until ready to use. 

When dough has doubled in size, divide it into 8 pieces. Shape into balls and place on a lined baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30-45 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375° F.

As the dough proofs, divide and roll the chilled cookie topping into 8 small balls. Smoosh the balls between two sheets of parchment paper (or between your hands if you’re being lazy =P ) and flatten until it is large enough to cover the dough. Gently drape the cookie topping on top of each dough ball. Use a knife to gently score cookie dough with criss-cross or horizontal lines. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are evenly golden brown. Enjoy!

Storage Notes: Buns are best fresh out of the oven. Keeps up to 2 days in airtight container. 

INGREDIENTS

Dough

2 1/4 tsp (7 g) active dry yeast
70 g evaporated milk*, heated to 110 F
70 g water
2 1/4 cup (300 g) bread flour
1 cup (120 g) AP flour
1/3 cup (60 g) + 1 tsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
2 Tbsp Matcha powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, whisked
4 Tbsp (60 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

Cookie Topping

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp Matcha powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Notes
*140 g of whole milk works too  

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