Spring has finally sprung. Trees are showing buds and there is even some blossom in a few trees. Did you know that in Japan and Washington DC they celebrate the blossom season with festivities and picnics? Both are on my bucket list to experience since I am obsessed with blossom. Especially Japan is a renowned destination for blossom tourism. The so-called Sakura season is one of the highlights of the year in Japan when Japanese families gather in parks to view the blossoming trees and share food and good conversation. This tradition is called Hanami.
Inspired by Sakura and Hanami I decided to have my own little spring celebration by baking a Japanese Cherry Blossom Cheesecake. The recipe is from the newly published book Cheesecakes by Hannah Miles, published by Ryland Peters & Small. In the original recipe you also get to decorate the cake with chocolate branches and sugar flowers, but I chose not to, just because I don’t like to do fine needlework. Feast your eyes on the cake and imagine the flavours of sweetened green tea, and fresh cherries, and then scroll down for the recipe. This is something you would want to try!
I think this is the ultimate recipe for spring and therefore I’m submitting it to the Junglefrog Cooking Spring Challenge. Here’s the recipe:
FOR THE CAKE
55 g/4 tablespoons butter, softened
55 g/1⁄4 cup caster/white sugar
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1 generous tablespoon crème fraîche
55 g/scant ½ cup self-raising flour, sifted
FOR THE FILLING
4 sheets leaf gelatine
200 g/scant 1 cup cream cheese
250 g/generous 1 cup ricotta
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 g/½ cup caster/white sugar
150 ml/2⁄3 cup double/heavy cream
400 g/1½–2 cups cherry compôte
FOR THE DECORATION
30 g/1 oz. dark chocolate, melted
a 23-cm/9-inch round springform cake pan, greased and lined
a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle/tip
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
For the cake base, whisk together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add the egg and beat again. Dissolve the matcha powder in 1 tablespoon hot water and add to the cake mixture along with the crème fraîche. Sift the flour over the mixture and fold in so that everything is incorporated. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until the cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed gently in the centre. Leave to cool in the pan.
For the filling, soak the gelatine leaves in water until they are soft. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese, ricotta, vanilla and sugar together until light and creamy.
Put the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and heat gently. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves and add them to the warm cream, stirring until dissolved. Pass the cream through a sieve/strainer to remove any undissolved gelatine pieces, then whisk into the cheese mixture.
Blitz the cherry compôte in a blender or food processor to make a smooth purée. Spread one third of the cherry purée over the cake base, leaving a small gap around the edge of the cake. Fold the remaining cherry purée into the cheesecake mixture, stopping before it is fully incorporated to make a pretty swirled pattern. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the base and smooth level, then leave to set in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
To decorate, spoon the melted chocolate into the piping bag and pipe delicate chocolate branches on top of the cheesecake. Fix sugar flowers to the branches using a little extra chocolate so that they look like cherry blossom branches.