Bamboo dreams: a flower cake

I created this cake as an homage to my own childhood of Asian rice-based desserts, while also doing a nod to the greenery I would see growing up in Southern California by the coast. I wanted this cake to capture both the aforementioned flavors of Asian desserts, and the aforementioned scenery of flowers by the beach and mountains. Since I wanted the majority of my posts in March to be green for St. Patty’s, this dessert was no exception to that rule! I went with green bamboo rice for the main flavor, grinding it into a flour and into a milk that I used to flavor the entire dessert with! The cool thing about bamboo rice is that it has this bright green color to it, almost resembling the jade gemstones. The green color comes from the rice grains being infused with chlorophyll from bamboo. The flavor of it is relatively mild, with a few floral notes that normal rice does not have, which makes it a popular substitute for white rice in almost any application. By using it in a chiffon cake and as the body and thickener of a mousse, I guarantee that the bamboo rice flavor does come through, and delicately at that!

For the components, we have a bamboo rice chiffon cake, a pandan gelee, pandan soak, bamboo rice mousse, edible flowers, and chrysanthemum gelee. I found that garnishing cakes with edible flowers does not always go so well, since the flowers wilt quickly when placed on top as a garnish. But encapsulating them in a gelee almost preserves the flowers in their natural state, while also keeping them suspended in midair if the gelee is clear enough! I went with chrysanthemum because it has a floral quality to it that plays off the subtle flavors of pandan and bamboo rice really nicely, without overpowering them. The pandan adds this herbaceous sweetness to the dessert as well as more vivid green, just as a further homage to the bamboo rice. And the coolest part about this dessert is that it is 100% gluten-free, being made with only the rice as the flour! Since the flour being used in this recipe is just ground down bamboo rice, there is zero gluten anywhere! I wanted this dessert to represent the greenery and nature of Southern California, while also representing the flavors of desserts I ate at my local dim sum restaurant growing up!

For the bamboo rice chiffon:
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp canola oil
5 tbsp finely ground bamboo rice
a pinch of salt
1 drop pandan extract

In a bowl, whip egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix together the other ingredients. Fold the egg whites through the other ingredients to form your batter. Spread into a super thin layer on a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool down completely before cutting out 3 5-inch disks.

For the pandan gelee:
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons agar agar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
4 drops pandan extract

Bring ingredients to a boil. Take the mixture off heat and stir until it cools down to just above room temperature. Line 2 4-inch ring molds with cling wrap and place onto a flat surface, either a tray or large plate. Divide the gelee mixture between the two ring molds. Freeze until solid, at least 1 hour. Keep frozen for assembly.

For the pandan milk soak:
1/3 cup milk(you can use rice milk, but normal milk is fine!)
1 drop pandan extract
a pinch of salt

Mix together. Keep cold for initial assembly.

For the bamboo rice milk mousse:
1/4 cup finely ground bamboo rice
1 1/4 cups water, in 5 parts
1 tsp gelatin powder
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

In a blender, puree the rice with 1 part water. In a bowl, mix together another part of water with the gelatin and puree that into the rice-water mixture as well. Transfer to a pot and begin whisking on high heat for 2-3 minutes. As the mixture thickens, pour in 1 part of water and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Repeat until you used up all of the water. Take the mixture off heat and stir in the sugar and salt at this point. The mixture should greatly resemble freshly made mochi. Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature then fold into it the cream to form your mousse. Do that last step right before your initial assembly.

For initial assembly:
Line the bottom of a 5-inch ring mold with cling film and the edges with acetate. Place in one 5-inch round of cake then pour on 1/3 of the soak. Pour in about 1/5 of the mousse. Then place on a disk of pandan gelee. Then another 1/5 of the mousse. Then repeat this for the next layer of cake and gelee. For the last layer, place on the last disk of cake, the last of your soak, and spread the remainder of your mousse on top in an even layer. Freeze for 2 hours before attempting to unmold. Keep frozen for the final assembly.

For the chrysanthemum tea gelee:
1/2 cup cold water, in two parts
2 packets gelatin powder
17oz chrysanthemum tea
a pinch of salt

Mix one part of cold water with gelatin. In a pot, heat up the gelatin with chrysanthemum tea and salt. Bring to a simmer. Once the gelatin is fully dissolved into the liquid, take off heat and stir in your water. Stir until the mixture is just above room temperature.

For final assembly:
Edible flowers

Line the bottom of a 6-inch ring mold with two to three layers of cling film. Place in your still-frozen cake. Press edible flowers into the sides of the cake. Then line the sides of the ring mold with acetate. Gently pour the gelee into the mold in increments, adjusting the placement of the edible flowers and adding in more as necessary. I poured in about 1/4 of the gelee mixture first, then froze that for 1 hour before pouring in the rest and freezing it for another 2 hours(this guarantees that the gelee will not leak out of the mold!). Once the cake is fully submerged in the gelee, transfer to the refrigerator and allow that to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s