Friday, November 15, 2013

Spirit World Cake from "The Legend of Korra"

          In last week's "Legend of Korra" episode (s.2, ep.10), while in the Spirit World, Korra is separated from Jinora, becomes a frightened child (it's symbolic), & is found by dear Uncle Iroh! It was so awesome to see him. And Iroh, being the fount of wisdom and peace that he is, ushers the scared little Korra to a wedding reception where he serves her cake and tea. Iroh likes his eats and drinks, that's for sure. It's connected to his contented nature.

 "Help yourself to some tea and cakes. They're spirit cakes so you won't gain any weight. Of course, you won't loose any either."
—Uncle Iroh, "A New Spiritual Age"(TLoK S.2, Ep.10)

          In lieu of out of body experiences, I'll just have to enjoy this cake the old fashioned way. I love that the "Korra" writers included the ability to eat food while in the spirit world, because food really is more than just fodder for your physical form. It's like the fact that sex is not just for procreation. Yes, I just said that. Meaning there are things we do physically that also affect our spirits. Korra's lesson, from both the meal and Uncle Iroh, is that she doesn't need to be afraid. There may be scary moments, but there are also happy ones, and life, and light, and delightful tastes, and that she is in control of how she reacts to these, and thus, how she experiences them, for good or for ill.

          Along with the cake, Iroh serves Korra tea from the teapot that belonged to the first Avatar, Avatar Wan. For a time, Wan carried Raava, the spirit of light, in this tea pot before they merged to fight Vaatu 10,000 years ago. That is one old pot! But Raava's light and being was so brilliant that, as Uncle Iroh tells Korra, "you can still taste a little light in each cup [of tea]."


My illustration for "Raava's Spirit Tea" available here!

"My teapot!"
"That's right. This was your's long, long ago. When you were Avatar Wan you used it to carry the light spirit Raava around, until the two of you became one. You know, when you make tea in it, you can still taste a little light in each cup."


         I couldn't resist coming up with a tea blend inspired by this scene. I imagine a tea that you can take a deep breath of and sigh and sip on and feel relaxed but also clear minded. So, on Adagio Teas, I concocted "Raava's Spirit Tea" , a crisp and bright blend made with lemon, fruit accents, and a hint of ginger. Please check it out here! Now on to the cake.

Note: In Asia, a typical celebration cake is a sponge cake with whipped frosting and fresh fruit. I assume this is why a similar looking cake appears in this episode of "Korra" for May-Jim's wedding meal. So putting Asia's love of sponge cake, whipped cream, & fruit together with the somewhat unique cake depicted in "A New Spiritual Age", I came up with the cake you see here. Now you don't have to travel to the Spirit World to eat it!


Spirit World Celebration Cake

Ingredients:
Sponge Cake (Makes two 8" rounds)
(recipe for cake [only] from Woodland Bakery)  
4 Lrg Eggs, room temperature
2 Cups White Granulated Sugar
2 Cups Cake Flour, sifted
(All-Purpose Flour is okay too)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup (8 Tbsp) Butter (salted or unsalted)
1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
Syrup
1/3 Cup Water
1/3 Cup White Granulated Sugar
2 tsp. Rum Flavoring
Whipped Frosting
3 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
5 Tbsp. Granulated White Sugar
1 Tsp. Clear Vanilla Extract
2 (.35 oz.) pkgs Whip it Stabilizer
(OR whip in 3 large, melted marshmallows)
2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (give or take)
Glaze & Fruit
1/4 Cup Apricot Preserves
1 Tbsp. Water
5-6 Fresh Strawberries, leaves removed & cut in 1/2
2 Fresh Kiwi Fruits, peeled & circle cut
1/4 Cup Fresh Blueberries

Important Items:
2 Round 8" Baking Pans  
Pastry Brush
Parchment Paper
1 Round Chopstick (optional)
Frosting Piping Bag
Large Star Frosting Tip

Directions:
1. Making the cake layers: Preheat your oven to 325°F. Crack the eggs into a large bowl & add the sugar. Mix on high for about 5 minutes until you get a light, thick, & fluffy mixture & the batter falls back into the bowl like a soft ribbon (stays visible for a second or 2 before disappearing). In a separate bowl, sift the flour & whisk in the baking powder & salt. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture & mix on low speed until combined. In a microwave safe bowl or in a pot on the stove, combine the milk, butter, & vanilla & heat until the butter is melted (if in microwave, try 2 mins). Pour the milk/butter mixture into a medium bowl & add in a dollop of batter. Whisk until the batter is incorporated (this creates what's called a liaison in baking). Now pour the liaison mixture into the large bowl of batter & gently fold them together until just combined.
Grease & flour 2 8" round baking pans & pour in the batter with about a 1/4" space at the top. Bake for about 25 mins or until the center of the cakes springs back when pressed gently. Remove from oven & let cool in pans for about 10 mins. Loosen the cakes form the pans using a butter knife & then flip out onto cooling racks to cool the rest of the way. Stack one layer on top of the other & carefully cut away the edges so the layers sit nicely together. Wrap in plastic & place in the fridge until ready to use (you can store them this way over night if you need to).
2. Making the syrup: At this time (or while the cakes are still baking), place the large mixing bowl you'll be using to make the whipped frosting into the freezer (for about 30 mins). In a small pot heat the water & sugar until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil & continue to cook for a minute or two. Remove from heat & stir in the rum flavoring. Remove the cake layers from the fridge, unwrap them, & lay them out on the wire racks. Using a pastry brush, brush the rum syrup onto the tops of the cakes (if there is a brown layer on the cakes, gently scrape it off with a butter knife & eat it. It's like, risen sugar or something & tastes awesome. And this way the syrup will sink into the cakes). Cover the cakes in plastic wrap again so they don't dry out.
3. Making the whipped topping: Get out the large bowl you placed in the freezer & pour in the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, & stabilizer (either Whip-It or melted marshmallows). Mix on high speed until stiff peak form, about 5 mins or so. Tear off a large sheet of parchment paper & trace the circumference of whatever dish you will be displaying your finished cake on. Cut out the circle & sit one of the cake layers on it. Scoop a few large spoonfuls of whipped topping onto the cake & smooth it out thick & even (about 1/2" thick). Place on the 2nd cake layer & spoon on several more large spoonfuls of whip. Using a butter knife or special frosting knife, spread the whip over the top of the cake & down the sides about 1/4" thickness all around, smoothing as you go. Make sure you leave at least a cup (preferably more) of whip for later to do the piping around the top of the cake.
4. Putting on the crumbs: Now, comes the messy part so make sure your work area is clear. If you have a spinning cake pedestal, great. If not, carefully move the cake to a wire rack by lifting it up using the parchment paper (the purpose of being on the wire rack will become apparent). Pour the fine graham cracker crumbs into a bowl & begin tossing small handfuls of it at the sides of the cake so that it sticks to the whip. Turn the cake to get all sides & make sure the graham layer is uniform with hardly any white showing through. Next, take your round chopstick (or similar item) & gently make diagonal line indentations about 1" apart around the sides of the cake. If whip is exposed, toss on a little more graham. Once the graham coating & line making is complete, carefully slide your cake to the edge of its pedestal or wire rack & dump all of the excess graham crumbs. Basically, slide to edge (a little bit over), fold down parchment, dump crumbs, rotate, repeat (if your cake is on a wire rack it makes this process a lot easier as you can simply fold your parchment paper down over a straight side instead of the rounded one of a plate). Once the excess grahams are cleared away, lift the cake up via the parchment paper & transfer it to the platter or tray you will be serving it on. Use a butter knife to remove any crumbs that may have landed on the top of the cake & spread on more whip if needed.
5. Piping the border: The next step is to pipe the whipped border around the top edge (shown above). Spoon the leftover whip into a piping bag with a large star tip & carefully pipe a scallop design around the top edge of the cake, angling it slightly so it also becomes a top ring for the sides of the cake & covers any rough spots where the whip & crumbs meet.
6. Preparing & placing the fruit: In a small pot on medium heat cook the apricot preserves & water until the preserves chunks are dissolved. Bring to a boil & cook for a minute or so longer. Remove from heat & strain the syrup into a small bowl (you can put the apricot stuff stuck in the strainer back into the preserves jar). Place the blueberries, kiwi fruit slices, & strawberry halves into separate bowls & stir in about 1 Tbsp. of apricot glaze each. Make sure all of the fruit is well coated with the glaze. Place the kiwi slices, in an overlapping circle, on the top center of the cake. Next, place 6-8 of the strawberry halves on top of the kiwi slices, in a blossom pattern. Spoon (or use your hand) the blueberries onto the top center of the cake, in the middle of the strawberry halves. FYI, the fruit has juices so don't put the fruits on until you're ready to serve within the hour.

 
I obviously went a little crazy with the whip on top. Thiick! But good.

12 comments:

  1. This looks like something delightful for summer! Too bad it's fall, almost winter here. The berries in stores are pretty expensive and bland-tasting around this time of year. June can't come soon enough.

    Guess I'll just have to make due with some 5 Flavor Soup and Spirit Tea in the meantime :)

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    1. Yes, this would make a wonderful summer cake! I suppose living in CA, I'm sort of spoiled with the fruits available.

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  2. This looks divine!!Can't wait to try it! Thanks :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Let me know how it goes!

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  3. this was so much fun to make! XD. Good recipe. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for telling me! I wasn't sure if the directions were too complicated or not so it's great to know that someone was successful!

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  4. No way was it complicated :). I had so much fun. And it looked like i took it right out of the spirit world. I wasn't able to make that awesome frosting so I used cool whip frosting instead. (had no idea cool whip made frosting. XD) It was really good.

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    1. I had no idea cool whip made a frosting either! I'm gonna look for it next time I'm in the grocery store.

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  5. I am SO happy we found each other lol! I am seriously spazzing out and fan girling right now. Freakin LOVED LoK and totally remember this!

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    1. Yeah, I'm missing Korra so much–I want more! And I'm happy I discovered your site too! I love finding more people in the fiction food community–it makes my heart very happy :).

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  6. I made this recipe this past weekend alongside the Raava tea you had on adagio. Thank you so much for the recipe! Having the spirit cake and tea really brought a bit of the show to life while binge-watching the fourth season (I also had some probending popcorn... om nom nom).

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    Replies
    1. Awesome! I'm so glad you enjoyed it all!

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