A Few Things I Loved About Traveling in Japan
1) The free “old man” pajamas provided by the hotels
The red kimono almost made it into my suitcase. Almost.
2) Springtime is like no other
The daffodils and crocuses popping up around Boston are cute, but they’re just not the same.
3) Excellent customer service
No matter if you pull into a gas station, buy an onigiri (rice ball) from a kiosk at the train station, or ask for directions for a hotel (at the competing brand’s concierge desk), the customer service is excellent. Sometimes I wish people would just say thank you in the States more often. It does make a difference.
4) Public transportation is on time.
Without fail, the trains pull up to the station a minute ahead of departure, allow people to hop into the cars, and leave, exactly on time.
5) There’s always time for tea. And with tea, there’s cake.
Like my jet lag, I have yet to shake the habit of daily tea and sweets.
Any downtime my mom and I had, we’d pop into a cafe – at the train station, in the hotel or down a random road from temple – and order a pot or two of green tea. With tea came sweets (“Obviously,” my mom would say), and talk of what our plans would be for the remainder of the week.
The 13 hour flight home left me exhausted. But after I climbed the stairs up to the apartment, my stomach rumbled. And it wasn’t a meal I wanted. It was tea and cake.
This is a lovely springtime cake, with notes of lemon, a natural sweetness from the almonds and a lovely crust from the turbinado sugar. The crumb has a texture that makes your tongue realize there’s something different, from the cornmeal. It’s great with a cup of tea (“Obviously,” I think my mother would say) or enjoyed on its own for breakfast.
Adapted from Pate a Chew
Makes 1 Bundt Cake
A bowl (like a soup bowl or a cereal bowl)
Medium mixing bowl
Stand mixer or a large bowl with electric beaters
Small mixing bowl
A 12 Cup Bundt Pan, buttered (like Earth Balance) and floured or sprayed with baking spray
Quarter cup of ground flax seed
Half cup of warm water
Half cup raw almonds
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you could use all purpose)
Half cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
Half teaspoon baking soda
Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt
One and three quarter cups of turbinado sugar (you can use granulated, but I absolutely love the caramelized bits on the crust of the cake that you get from turbinado) *this makes a not so sweet cake, if you’d like it sweeter, use 2 cups
Half cup of butter (like Earth Balance)
Quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce
3 – 4 lemons, zested
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of unsweetened unflavored soy milk (or your choice of non-dairy milk)
Half cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (use the ones you zested)
Place your oven rack to the middle position in your oven. Preheat your oven to 325F.
Add the ground flax seed and warm water to your soup/cereal bowl. Stir till combined and set aside.
Add the almonds to a food processor and grind until they’re very fine (like the texture of coarse, wet sand). Set aside.
Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt to your medium mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together till well combined and there are no visible lumps.
To the small mixing bowl add the apple cider vinegar and soy milk. Mix till well combined and set aside.
Add the butter, unsweetened applesauce, sugar and lemon zest to your standing mixer bowl. Beat the ingredients together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Gradually add the ground flaxseed mixture to the standing mixer bowl while the beaters are on low. Stir till well combined.
Add the lemon juice to the soy milk mixture. Stir till well combined. Set aside.
Add the flour mixture and soy milk mixture in increments to the standing mixer bowl, stirring till the ingredients are just combined. Begin with the flour mixture but end with the soy milk mixture. Scrape down the sides and back up the bowl with a spatula to make sure that all the ingredients are just combined.
Add the ground almonds to the standing mixer bowl. Fold in the almonds till just combined, being sure to scrape down the sides and back up the bowl with a spatula.
Pour the batter into your prepared bundt pan. Bake the cake for 60 – 70 minutes, or until a cake tester (like a toothpick) comes out clean. For me, the cake was done in 65 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. Do not serve the cake until it has completely cooled (it’s better once the crumb has “set-up.”)