What is Kawaii?
Before we get started baking, let’s talk about what kawaii
is a Japanese word that best translates to “cute,” and it describes anything lovable, cuddly, and endearing. The particular style of it is like Hello Kitty, Pokémon, and Totoro. It often manifests in cute animals (both real and illustrated) with big eyes and heads that are disproportionately large in relation to their bodies. These features emphasize an innocence and youthfulness that is a major component of kawaii style. And beyond cute cuddly creatures, kawaii also frequently means adding a face to something that normally wouldn’t have one. For example, see the smiling Sushi Cake Pops on page 197, or the Kawaii Royal Icing Cookies on page 106. These lovable expressions add personality to the otherwise inanimate objects, making them extra cute or “kawaii.”
Kawaii culture is believed to have originated in the 1970s when teenagers in Japan developed a fun, childlike style of handwriting that was often accompanied by doodles of hearts, stars, and cartoon faces. Many believed this trend emerged in response to the rigidity of post-World War II Japan, as it allowed the Japanese youth to express their individuality. The Japanese stationary brand Sanrio noticed this movement and subsequently launched their cultural icon, Hello Kitty. A huge success among the Japanese population, Hello Kitty took the world by storm, ushering in a worldwide appreciation of kawaii. These days, kawaii style is used for all kinds of clothing, accessories, plush, stationary, and more! It’s truly become a cultural phenomenon, globally, and one that I adore because of how fun, colorful, and inviting it is. Panda Cake
Pandas are the quintessential kawaii animal. With their big eyes and fluffy bodies, you just want to reach out and give them a big hug. But because a trip to China to see real life pandas isn’t in the books for now, I decided to create the next best thing: a cake decorated like a panda! For this one, I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe. In fact, it’s become tradition in our family that every April 24—my birthday—I make and devour an entire chocolate cake by myself. Okay, let me clarify—not in one
and my dad will usually have a few slices, but for the most part I take down the whole thing. And my cake of choice is the one used in this recipe. It’s rich, fluffy, moist, and absolutely divine when paired with a creamy buttercream frosting.
Makes one 6-inch layer cake For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot coffee For the Frosting:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
Black and pink gel food colors For the Decorations:
Rainbow sprinkle mix
4 chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos
2 pink jelly beans 1. Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the pans with parchment paper and lightly spray again. 2.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on medium speed until combined. Pour in the hot coffee and beat on medium speed until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. 3.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cakes comes out clean, 27 to 30 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges of the pans and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment paper and let cool completely. 4. Make the frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the vanilla and milk until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat the frosting on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 5.
Transfer 1 tablespoon of the frosting to a small plastic zip-top bag and cut off a small tip. 6.
Transfer 1 tablespoon of the frosting to a separate bowl and color it black with the black gel food color. Transfer it to a small plastic zip-top bag and cut off a small tip. 7.
Transfer 1/2 cup of the frosting to a separate bowl and color it pink with the pink gel food color. Transfer it to a small plastic zip-top bag and cut off a small tip. 8.
Transfer the remaining frosting to a piping bag or large plastic zip-top bag and cut off a large tip. 9. Decorate the cake:
Using a cake leveler or serrated knife, cut the rounded tops off the cakes. Pipe about 1 tablespoon of the remaining white frosting onto a 6-inch cake board, and then place one cake layer on top. Pipe a layer of white frosting onto the cake and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Place a cake layer on top, pipe on a layer of white frosting, and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Top with the final cake layer, cut side down. For the crumb coat, pipe a thin layer of white frosting over the entire cake and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes. 10.
Pipe white frosting over the entire cake and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Run an icing smoother around the sides of the cake to smooth the frosting. Using an offset spatula, bring the frosting from the top edges of the cake toward the center to create a flat top. 11.
Using the reserved pink frosting, pipe the outline of a scallop border around the top of the cake. Then fill in the scallops with more pink frosting, and pipe pink frosting to cover the top of the cake as well. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm and doesn’t stick to your finger when tapped, about 20 minutes. 12.
Using an offset spatula, carefully smooth the scallops and the top of the cake. Press the rainbow sprinkles over the pink frosting. 13.
For the ears, use a serrated knife to cut off about 1/8 inch from the bottom of 2 of the chocolate sandwich cookies to create a flat edge. Place the ears on top of the cake toward the front. 14.
Separate the two remaining chocolate sandwich cookies and scrape off the cream filling. Use a serrated knife to cut two of the chocolate cookies into ovals for eyes, and cut a third chocolate cookie into a triangle for a nose. (You can eat the remaining cookie!) Using the reserved white frosting, pipe dots onto the eyes for pupils. 15.
Press the eyes and nose onto the front of the cake; use the reserved black frosting to pipe on a smile. Press one pink jelly bean on each side of the eyes for cheeks. Note:
Refrigerating the cake before smoothing the scallops allows you to touch them up without distorting their shape. Don’t skip this step!
Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Fong, Creator of the Popular YouTube Show. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.