desserts, general information and events

mochi cake.

mochi cake.

You guys: 9 people died over the new year in Japan, with 13 more people in serious condition due to mochi cake. Last year? 4 deaths, with 2 deaths the previous year. Seems as though mochi cake is so dense, so chewy, and so delicious that people consume it en masse this time of year, and sometimes too fast, which can lead to accidental choking.

Here’s the thing: I can see how choking could happen, but if you live in Japan and eat it all the time, I don’t know…be careful with your mochi, people, because it’s a dangerous and uncertain world out there. Japanese authorities recommend you chew it a bunch prior to swallowing, cut it into bite-size pieces before giving it to little kids or the elderly, and  – perhaps most importantly – never be alone with your mochi.

mochi cake.

If I were to be injured due to mochi cake, it would most likely be due to quantity: I would just eat it until I was one big human-shaped mochi, because it is delightful. For those of us who love a thick, simply-flavored slab of pound cake, mochi is a textural masterpiece. It has a lovely balance of subtle sweetness to it as well, not at all cloying, just exceedingly sticky where conventional dense pound cakes are not. I hesitate to use the word “gummy” because it connotes something negative: there is nothing negative about this cake, in my opinion. The top bakes up crispy and golden, with that whole “dramatic valley of parting cake” crackle going on at the top, which I love in a cake. You can’t eat a ton of it, although you’ll want to: structurally speaking, you could build very durable houses with enough of these, and it’s going to feel that way in your stomach if you eat too much at one time.

mochi cake.

Practical for a snack cake? Not really – it’s very rich, although in little doses I would argue yes. Rather, it’s the ideal foundation recipe for a cake you can really go places with. Perhaps one could use it as a means to infiltrate other dessert recipes? I think so, which is precisely what i’ll be doing with it. It’s from the Jeni’s Desserts cookbook, so I think the natural pairing here will eventually be ice cream. Perhaps chopped into cubes, toasted, and spun into a complementary flavor? I think so. For now, it sits in my freezer, waiting to be messed with.

And I will mess with it soon enough.

Since I’m getting back into the swing of regular writing, and I managed to keep my word count down in terms of cake, I thought i’d just write about general happenings.

Mr. Table informed me the other day that I may be the only person on earth who stops obsessively watching The Wire (for those of you who don’t know, it’s a gritty, Homicide-like, decade-old, Baltimore-based crime drama which could be the best show ever made) to catch up with the most recent season of Downton Abbey. Although it may seem disjointed to like those two shows, I think of it as this: I like quality television, no matter what it is. More than that, I think I just like exceptional storytelling, in all forms.

This is big news (only because it took so dang long) is that I’ve finally got a decent workout routine going. I had one prior to blogging, but between beginning the blog and raising a kid, I fell out of sync with it, and I’m happy to say I’ve kept at it enough for it to reach Official Habit status. I am just not the person who can get away with almost constant recipe-testing without some form of regular exercise, and it makes me very happy and organized and let’s be honest, probably a much nicer person through the day. You know what totally helped me get back into things? Great storytelling (again!), this time in the form of the Serial podcast from This American Life, because listening to it makes me forget I’m up at 5 am working out. If you haven’t heard of it, you should really check it out, and if you listen like I do and have a strong desire to repeatedly discuss the facts of the case with other Serial nerds, you let me know. I am here for you. 

Audio podcasts (which I have just really gotten into in recent months, so pardon my noob excitement) in general are such a great way to do things while you listen to stories, by the way. I’ve always enjoyed audiobooks, but tend to relegate them to vacations or long car rides. Podcasts are kinda great when I’m in the kitchen, or just working on other things because they’re not as lengthy as a novel, and it keeps my brain thrumming without having to stop and look at something i.e. books or a screen. There’s definitely something about it that makes you appreciate and understand clearly why radio was such a big thing before television became a big thing: I daresay I prefer it because it lets your imagination out to play a little bit.

In other news, probably we’re moving this year: same city, different area, closer to the action, back to where we always lived until about 7 years ago. I don’t have words enough to tell you how thrilled I am about this; it’s a long time coming and something I look forward to with equal parts terror and elation. Thankfully, sometimes often significant stress plus hard deadlines make me operate like precision German clockwork, so I suppose this will be masochistically fun for me. I don’t know when everything will set into motion, but the clock is ticking on it and it’s going to be a massive undertaking: getting the house in optimal condition, packing things up, looking for the perfect fit for us. I’m sure I’ll occasionally need to vent, so expect that situation to pepper this space for months to come: lucky you.

Other randoms? Let’s see…

The Wee One and I recently watched A Little Princess movie from 1995 (one of my favorite childhood books) and I noticed that the director of that movie was none other than…Alfonso Curaón. You know, that Alfonso Curaón: the one who directed Gravity, Biutiful, Y Tu Mamá También, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and Pan’s Labyrinth, among others – some really highly-acclaimed movies I count in my list of favorites. Thus proving, I suppose, that everyone has to start somewhere. And honestly, watching A Little Princess again with adult eyes made me realize that it’s actually kind of a gorgeous movie: really stylized in the way that most 1990’s children’s movies are not.  If you like incredibly cinematic, sweepingly gorgeous films, this is your dude.

Speaking of The Wee, I’ve determined that more adults should listen to smart 4 year olds, because they have some great explanations for stuff that we can’t access with our knowledgeable and boring brains. She’s recently been asking about how babies understand things – like little babies who can’t say words yet – and I’ve been trying to break that down in a factual way that she can understand. Her takeaway from my thoughts on the subject? “I know how babies understand, Mom! You take words and you put them into kisses, then you give the baby kisses and they know how you feel.” Bingo, Wee One, you completely hit that one on the head, and you also made me spontaneously cry as I was getting my pants on.

I’m working on a project – a food project – and I can’t say much more than that about it, except to say you’re going to love it, I hope. The one problem with this food project? I had to visit my favorite international market – Global Foods – to do some research the other day. This is not really the problem: I would take a tent and live inside Global Foods because I could spend hours looking at the crazy stuff they have there: it’s like a toy store for exceedingly curious food nerds. The actual problem is in the section I actively avoid most days, which is, you guessed it, the fresh meat section. Because tripe, tongues, and hearts, y’all – and that’s just the stuff I could identify. For those of you who think I’m brave and eager to try anything, guess what: wrong. I have a clear line, and that line is raw and unusual animal parts. Mmmmmmmm nope!

So that’s what’s going on, people: it’s going to be a busy week of research, stuffing my fridge with a barrage of ingredients, and then cooking those ingredients into hopefully successful recipes to share with all of you. Until then, chew on some of this kochi cake…carefully.

This is the recipe straight from the Jeni’s Desserts Cookbook – so not even adapted because her flavor combos are always perfect and I felt no need to do that with this most perfect of straightforward cakes.

Mochi Cake

  • 2 cups sweet rice flour (the same rice flour I used in those baci di dama back in December)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cups evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Let’s do this:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan if you want to be normal about it. For a more dramatic loaf, may I suggest a 12 x 5-inch loaf pan like this ravishing beauty I own from LeCruset. Natalie makes fun of me for it but it was worth every penny (also, I got it on sale for half off) – loaves bake perfectly into elongated slabs and then basically leap right out of the pan with the ease of a gazelle. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon until evenly distributed. Add the evaporated milk, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, and butter in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Create a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid ingredients, and stir with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 minutes, then rotate the cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The timing with my elongated pan is the same as the standard size, but check things after about an hour in to see how everything is going. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

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  • Reply mellissa @ ibreatheimhungry January 19, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Awwwww…The Wee One is so adorable and her explanation got me RIGHT IN THE FEELS. How sweet! Super jelly of your Official Habit workout status – my Official Habit is still too much sitting on my tail – not enough doing anything that resembles exercise. I’ve never watched The Wire and now I’ll NEVER get off my tail as I’ll pretty much be glued to Netflix until I watch every episode ever made. I’m sure it will be totally worth it and thankfully my Amazon prime membership means I can have all of my new XXXL clothes shipped here free so that’s something at least. I wonder if Amazon ships Mochi Cake…better order XXXXXL then….

    • Reply shannon January 20, 2015 at 11:14 am

      Mellissa, i know with the feels, right?!? UGH, that kid: she’s deep like the ocean, that one. And your workout routine will get back on track: i know you’re one healthy lady, so i imagine it’s just a very temporary setback. And, it’s cold out: who wants to work out when you can snuggle into blankets? NO ONE…it’s a miracle any of us get out of bed in the morning at this time of year.
      Tell me if you start watching The Wire how you like it: I personally think it’s gotten better with each season, and i just finished season 3 (two more to go). SO good. And thank heavens for Amazon Prime, if for no other reason than a constantly rotating wardrobe (due to mochi consumption). Eat slowly, my friend. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 20, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Killer cake, Shannon! (See what I did there?) Like when a server says, “don’t touch the plate, it’s extremely hot,” I now want to eat that cake with reckless abandonment. (And touch a hot plate.)

    2.0 and I became obsessed withe The Wire last year. We binge watched every season as it rolled in at the library. The only problem with library dvds is you are often 987th on the waiting list, and by the time they get to you there’s a scratch on a very important part of the dvd so you miss who shot your favourite character and then have to figure it out for yourself. Rosie Beaucoup talks about the characters as if they are her real-life friends. “Oh that Omar!” she’ll say. And then she’ll play the footage of that time he was testifying in court and “really gave that lawyer a run for his money!” (Around the same time she discovered The Wire, she discovered Jamie Oliver. As in: she believes she discovered him, and his “recent” fame is thanks in part to her.)

    • Reply shannon January 20, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Servers should NEVER say that to people regarding hot plates: who doesn’t want to touch it after that? JUST TO SEE HOW HOT, EXACTLY.
      We have the same problems with libraries here: pointless to rent something when the note reads “you’ll get the first dvd OF 8,399 holds” unless, of course, you’re planning how you spend your evenings in January 2029 in advance. Is Omar Rosie’s favorite character? He’s mine, although Brother Mouzone was my other favorite and when they got together? Head explosion. Omar forever, though. Tell her I really enjoyed that scene in the courtroom as well; one of his finest moments.
      Please also let her know that i completely understand how a person such as herself could be responsible for the superstardom of Jamie Oliver; most likely she was the catalyst which lead to his worldwide fame. I know this because i currently believe that my streaming of The Wire caused HBO to take immediate notice (as i am a trendsetter with my finger on the pulse of pop culture, much like Rosie B) and resulted in the remaster and re-release of The Wire this month. Just saying…the announcement happened within WEEKS of the start of my binge-watch. Also, i believe that i brought both Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsey to prominence here in the states, but that’s entirely different story.

  • Reply Ashley January 20, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Three cheers for Jeni and her wonderfulness!!!! I love the Wiseman’s chocolate cake from that book. So easy and so delicious with anything. And on a really random side note, a friend of a friend said she was interviewing with Jeni’s (as a nutritionist) and I was so insanely jealous that I wished my seven year long graduate degree was in something Jeni could use. Dang.

    I love listening to audiobooks in the car, especially when I was commuting to and from school. My listening rate has dropped dramatically and I’ve resorted to playing them on my computer to finish a book.

    New project! International foods store! Ahhhh, I can’t wait!!! I made a trip to our region’s tremendously large international food store in December and was just overwhelmed by the options, all in unreadable languages and unfamiliar forms. I wanted to buy all the stuff, but I was afraid of what I might be buying! 🙂

    Moving! I totally see you being super organized and efficient, making it smooth and easy. And while the work of moving isn’t fun ever (unless you hire movers or have lots of very nice friends), it’s kinda fun to find new places to put things.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats January 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm


    I would love to binge watch Downton but I’m behind a couple of seasons and it’s not on demand and the old season isn’t on my Amazon Prime yet, but maybe I should re-watch The Wire because I keep seeing its characters everywhere else … side note, YOU STILL NEED TO WATCH JUSTIFIED (the new – and last – season starts TODAY! IN 30 MINUES!). And you might as well add “Suits” to that list, too bc I got Mr. Eats hooked on that one …

    I’ve been running out of Podcasts but you should probably check out Invisibilia, i’ve only listened to the 1st episode so far but it was pretty. darn. good. if I do say so myself. Also been listening to Science Friday because, um, yeah. I’m a nerd. And I know that you are too so just do it <3

    If I died choking to death on this mochi cake, I would at least die happy…

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:53 am

      She is quite the amazing little kid. I die continually over things she says and does because she is such a tiny adult.

      I was listening to the Slate spoiler podcast on Downton (they do one that’s very Serial-like only frankly, not as interesting b/c there’s not a case to break down and interpret), and the one thing they joked about is that Downton never fails to basically repeat the same plot line over and over again, each season. Mary and Edith hate each other, Tom Branson is always torn between aristocratic ways and his rebellious former self, lord grantham is always stodgy and wrong and kind of a prissy brat, lady grantham walks around like she’s on lithium, and Granny Maggie Smith is the best actress known to mankind. the end. so catching up is something you should do, but i imagine that aside from some developments, the same rules of season apply. 🙂 but i do love watching it, even with that said, but british television is, to me, pretty incredible and soothing, somehow.
      i know! i got sucked into The Wire and ran out my time on Justified in the process (because how is it already the middle/end of january?!?!) – I began the Wire season 4 last night: my guess is it’ll take me a few weeks to be done with that and season five and then justified is on my agenda. i even have Amazon Prime now so i can stream it. SUITS! i didn’t know you watched that! I think tim and i watched maybe the first 2 seasons of that and then stopped for some reason (i don’t know why?). i liked that show, though…i should pick that one back up again.

      did you JUST SAY INVISIBILIA as in, the Invisibilia that i was GETTING READY TO TELL YOU ABOUT?? Twin brains: i actually finished the second (third? they act like the episode they did on TAL was not a “real” episode) and i LOVE it. i’ve not heard of Science friday, but you know…#nerdsforever. so i’m in.

      oh, you would die happy. it’s that kind of cake. i’m a little afraid to do with it what i plan to do with it for fear it will just get better.

  • Reply Serena January 21, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Well, my comment isn’t nearly as long as your previous dear readers….but here it is: Ever since I ate mochi cake from a Chinese bakery in Chicago, I’ve been wanting to create. Thanks for the inspiration! (:

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Think nothing of it, Serena; everyone here likes to talk, as do i, so long comments are pretty common, although not required. Definitely try to make the mochi! I was actually surprised (given how difficult some asian baked goods are to produce) at how easy the recipe was, and how quickly it comes together.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog January 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I had no idea cake could be so dangerous. If you think about, it could be the perfect murder weapon… You know, if you wanted to murder someone, which I don’t. So, what you’re telling me is that I need to get an intelligent 4-year old? That’s what I heard. Can I borrow yours? Squirrel just recently started listening to podcasts. He now walks around with his phone up to his ear; he looks like a complete nerd. Also, Downton Abbey: I need to get in on that action. If you could, send mochi cake. I’m going to need something to eat while I binge watch Downton Abbey.

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Jennie, i know, right? It would be the perfect setup for murder! who would suspect anything from a seemingly innocent piece of cake!
      Seriously, intelligent 4yo are like my world right now…they can break life DOWN sometimes. They also can help in the kitchen, so…assistant.
      LOVE Squirrel for that: tell him i completely understand, because sometimes i’ll listen to a podcast on the down low while i play dollhouse with the Wee: one headphone in, one headphone out, just so i can hear her. multitasking at its most enjoyable.
      mochi cake would be DELIGHTFUL while watching Downton Abbey! You could do some tea and then cut the mochi up in little squares and serve it (to yourself) like tiny cakes.

  • Reply elizabeth January 21, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Death by Cake sounds awesome (death by choking on cake, not so much) and despite the very serious nature of it I can’t help but think of Eddie Izzard’s “Cake or Death?” bit.

    We still(!) have yet to watch The Wire, but with so many of our shows going away either sooner or later (Parks and Rec and Mad Men, don’t leave me!) we will finally have time to dive into some shows we’ve been sorely neglecting. The whole Baltimore connection should be interesting, too.

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:38 am

      It DOES sound awesome, i know, right? Specifically, death by filling oneself to the brim with said cake. 🙂 “YOU! Cake or death?” “uhhhh…cake, please.” i love eddie izzard: every time i think of him i think of that show he was on – The Riches – that i loved but somehow managed to only eek out a few seasons before it was cancelled. A shame, really: he was so good in that, as was the entire cast, i thought.

      The Wire is a commitment, mostly because it’s so intense and so delicious to watch that once you start, you’ll have to plow your way through, watching nothing else until you do so. I hadn’t watched it when it was first out, but started this winter and have immediately become addicted. Like Parks and Mad Men, it’s rich with both plot and character development, and you really end up feeling things for the characters, and they’re all very complex. And i’d love to hear the Baltimore perspective from you once you begin the series: i know they were always known for using so many real-life Baltimorians (?) and locations and they show so much of the city that it seems like it would be fun to watch, living in the city yourself. Probably lots of recognizable spots, names, and so on.

  • Reply Emma January 21, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I serial-sly cannot stop reading the Serial subreddit. Shannon, I think someone needs to stage an intervention. This is the first thing I’ve been addicted to since sugar!

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

      oh-ho ho i see what you did there, *bah-dum-bum!* Seriasly, it’s so difficult to tear oneself away from the barrage of facts from the case, right? I’ve avoided the Reddit rabbit hole mostly, but i DO like to avail myself of the Slate Spoiler Special podcast devoted to Serial (they recap each show and occasionally do extra add-ons about new info) and i really have liked the perspective of Rabida Chaudry’s blog ( – albeit very biased, it’s an interesting take on the case and on Adnan as a person. So addicting, although because of Serial, i know am kind of addicted to a few other podcasts, mainly b/c i like constant information being given to me b/c i can. never. know. enough. things.

  • Reply Matt January 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Not to make light of those stats, but I’m a choking risk anytime deserts are involved….just sayin.

    • Reply shannon January 29, 2015 at 9:46 am

      I would completely believe that, Matt. I would assume everyone in your house has mastered the Heimlich maneuver.

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends January 29, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t know how you did it, but your description of a cake dense enough to kill people each year made me really, really want to make and eat it. So delicious people die trying to get more of it into their mouths? Let me at it! (Honestly, it sounds like a pretty good way to go.)

    All of the things! I love the Wee One’s description of how babies understand things (seriously, sometimes kids just KNOW stuff, and it blows your mind). Also, I haven’t seen The Wire (will have to remedy that) OR listened to The Serial (and that), so those are both going on my to-do list. Also, color me intrigued, I can’t wait to hear more about this mysterious food project you’re working on! I can already tell it’s going to be awesome. 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      i know, isn’t that weird? i tell you about a cake so dense it’ll end your life and you are ALL OVER IT. 🙂 i had the same reaction, and in the grand scheme of death…not the worst thing that could happen. 😉

      She’s like a wise little owl! i think for her it’s that she just FEELS so deeply…weird to say about a 4yo maybe, but she’s just so in touch with feelings and emotions and understanding that it’s a little creepy sometimes. I”m cutting this comment short b/c if you haven’t watched The Wire or listened to Serial, i need you to get on that so we can discuss.

      this mysterious food project is intense, and it’s taught me things i never knew how to do before, but i’m learning SO much, and i’ve come up with what i think are some really good things. i’m so excited to share them, but i have to wait until April and I CAN BARELY STAND IT.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 13, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Wow, is that Mochi death thing serious?! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. The texture of this cake looks awesome- totally something I’d adore. So impressed with your 5am workout routine! I tried that once and it lasted less than a week. Aw, the Wee One is SO adorable and SO smart…I’m gonna have to go home and tell Berkeley how much I love him with kisses (not that I don’t do that already).

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:29 am

      it IS serious, Amy: i looked it up and evidently it was a big problem this year, and a growing problem in Japan over the holidays. If you ate this cake, you would know right away why people are so prone to stuffing it in their mouths with abandon.
      don’t give me too much credit for the 5 am workout routine: i’m an early birdie by nature, and i can’t bang around in the kitchen that early, which means for me, podcasts and workouts downstairs fit the bill nicely, plus I’m too lazy at night to do it. I’m just maximizing on my natural routine is all; it would be WAY more difficult to stick with if i tried to do it any other time.
      make all the kisses on Berkeley! make some for me too, that adorable little tiny baby.

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