February is the month of mid- wintery, reliably cold weather and unmotivational blues. All anyone wants to do is huddle down and stay inside. Especially if there is a kotatsu, the draw of the warm cozy blanket is so luring, no one leaves home without good reason. The promises riding on the bitter cold winds that spring will soon start showing its lovely face are still just whispers between the howls through the empty branches of the trees. But February is also something else for me. February is my birth month.
This means cake. Yeah yeah, I know. Shouldn't I be done with cake after Christmas in Japan? It was only a mere month and a half before. But those February blues, that cold melancholy grips me every year. And what better way to pull up from the dreary mundane of winter than by stuffing a sweet delicious and filling pile of cake in my mouth. But this is Japan, the land of light and airy fluff. Heck, Christmas cake is often mostly just whipped cream. Now don't get me wrong, cakes sold in Japanese cake shops are divine. But let us be honest, most of the time they aren't actually selling cake. The shelves are in fact stocked with some form of tort , or a pile of chestnut paste or a pudding even. And when it is cake. with an icing and layers, perhaps topped with glazed fruit so they will hold their perfect flawless shape and color, the texture can be so light it is almost like licking snow. Delicious fruit covered snow.
But I don't want snow. It is cold and freezing to the bone outside. The wind is banging on my windows, rattling my walls, yelling at me. It is trying to tell me to brace myself against winter! Pack on some of that winter fluff! Have the calories and the fat. Get something full of butter and flour and sugar. Go for the fudge-y dense stuff. Eat something hearty and pretend you are a polar bear for your birthday, not some snow queen. Japanese cake just doesn't cut it. It's just a snowflake, beautifully crafted, but melts away to nothing all too fast. For my birthday, I need something that will sit in my stomach and last for days. Only then can I find a cozy space to hibernate under my kotatsu and ride out the rest of winter like a true bear would do. So what is a girl with a craving to do? Stare at pictures online of gorgeous cakes, and YouTube videos of how to make cakes more gooey, dense, fudge-y and delicious just with a few tweaks of the ingredients? There is nowhere close that could imaginably have dense rich cakes for sale. I’ve checked all the Japanese cake shops nearby. Delicious, but not dense. All I need is flour, sugar, oil and something to make it puff up. oh, and heat to start the chemical changes to give me something stiff instead of sweet soup.
Luckily this girl has a semi-oven. The wonder of Japanese technology allows for one appliance to serve several purposes with just the push of a button. It’s like magic. My microwave is also my oven. I can reheat my coffee and then bake a cake. But my Japanese sorta oven lacks one magic I miss from the States, intense heat. At home, when I would make my birthday cakes in the past, I could feel the oven prepping itself for the batter while I assembled it. My back could feel the toasty waves of heat radiating from behind me as the temperature rose to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, after the batter is complete, I go hide under my kotatsu until the oven beeps at me saying it's reached 180 degrees Celsius, and I have to pop the small round cake mold that I bought from the nearby 100 yen store in as quickly as I can so as not to lose too much heat before closing the door. The room isn’t cozy, but instead full of dry bitter air. The microwave oven does a good job keeping all its heat to itself, sharing it only with my cake batter. Winter is still cold. But I can finally have my cake. All that is left is the icing, but again I am denied what I really desire. It is so sweet and probably just as terrible for you as would be eating a stick of margarine, but pre-made frosting in the cans sold by the boxes of cake mix at grocery stores in the states are just so gooood. I guess I can just settle for something actually tasty, like whipped chocolate ganache.
Warm,moist and just out of the oven, my three layer chocolate ganache cake became a two layer cake because this polar bear couldn't hold out for the decoration stage. It really is the best way to somehow enjoy icy and unfriendly February. So, please, before this month ends, go out and enjoy some cake. You know, to celebrate my birthday, or maybe the ending of winter. Whatever excuse you want to give for having cake.