This cake means so much more to me than just another successful translation from the Japanese baking book I bought–it means I finally have a real friend here to give it to! I came home from work Friday afternoon with the thoughts of a crazy person: wishing, praying to just skip over Saturday entirely and wake up to Sunday’s lunch, shopping, and dinner date with my new friend from school, Mina. We got along like two peas in a pod from day one at Koriyama West Junior High School, where she teaches English, and where I was visiting as the resident Assistant Language Teacher for four days last week. Somehow our discussions in the teacher’s room veered from the weather and Japanese studying to confessions of love for ice cream, Sex and the City, J-Pop, and a mutual commiseration over our long-distance boyfriends. When we realized we live just ten minutes away from each other on opposite sides of the Koriyama train tracks, it was like a match made in heaven!
So when Mina asked me out for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Nara, followed by photo-booth pictures, yogurt parfaits, window-shopping, and homemade dinner at her parent’s house, I nearly died of happiness. And it was a good thing after all that Saturday paid no heed to my hopes of expedition, because I was determined to bake my feelings of joy, relief, and bonhomie at making such a great friend into the perfect hostess gift: a lightly sweet, fragrant tea cake.
Despite my willingness to delve into yet-unexplored baking travails, I ended up settling on this modest seven-ingredient honey-rum cake, won over by its coy bubbles and spicy-sweet rum aroma. I’m growing fonder of my diminutive 15cm square pan day by day, and when baked and trimmed, the cake made for an equally darling afternoon treat. And since I have a penchant for parchment paper and twine, I couldn’t resist beautifying the leftover gift box from another good friend (mother of the adorable hand-eating baby) to make a handsome wrapping for this tea cake. With a refurbished old box, some scraps of paper, a mere 12 inches of twine, and a snug cellophane sheathing, I gave a lot of love to a little treat.
Honey-rum Tea Cake
adapted from “The Tiny Stick Cake Recipe Book”
70 grams flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
60 grams butter, room temperature
40 grams powdered sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 TB honey
1 tsp Spiced Rum
Butter and line a 15cm square baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180˚ C / 350˚ F. In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter, add powdered sugar and beat with a spatula until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, mix egg and honey with a fork. In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. By turns, add 1/3 of the egg/honey mixture and TB flour/baking powder to the creamed butter and stir after each addition with a whisk until incorporated. Repeat until you have used all of the egg/honey mixture and add the last of the flour/baking powder.
Spread batter in lined baking pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven (with mittens, of course :p) and place on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. To remove the cake from the pan, pinch the corners of the parchment paper used to line the pan, and carefully transfer cake to a wire rack to fully cool. Cut cake with a clean knife and serve room temperature.