It was a sofa that inspired this mousse cake! I saw it in the window of a shop in Singapore selling chic modern Chinese furniture and clothing. It was my recent fixation on the bamboo green colour that attracted me to this sofa. As I stood there admiring it, my mind translated the green cushions into matcha mousse and the dark black wood frame into dark chocolate and azuki beans.
Back in my London kitchen, I started to think about the various components of this mousse cake. I thought that to match the rich grassy creaminess of the matcha mousse, I needed a correspondingly dense sponge. Most sponge used in mousse cakes is simply made from flour, eggs, sugar and butter. But, inspired by the financier I tasted in Tokyo – a financier is a bit like a madeleine – I thought, why not use hazelnuts as well? For further texture and flavour, I decided to add a chocolate mousse layer.
As for the azuki beans, I was taught by my mother to make azuki bean paste the Chinese way: boil the beans in water, drain, pass through muslin cloth and then fry with sugar and shallot-infused oil till completely dry. The shallots give a very interesting sweet aroma that carries the sugar caramel well.
However, I was concerned the slight oiliness of the bean paste might not work in the chocolate sponge. So I simply cooked the beans in sugar syrup in the Japanese way and candied them in the syrup until I was ready to use them. I pureed some of the azuki beans and added them to the chocolate sponge, saving some beautifully candied beans for decoration and for putting in together with the chocolate ganache.
Making the matcha mousse is easy. I whipped up a batch of creme chantilly and added the sifted matcha powder and then the gelatine in a sugar syrup made from glucose and water. It is strange that when ever I use gelatine in a mousse cake, I imagine I hear the voice of a friend who said that using animal-based gelatine in patisserie is quite disgusting. Not that I find it disgusting but I just find it amusing that one’s mind can form such a strong association with a mere throwaway comment.
I think I am not straying too far off in terms of flavour profiles. The chocolate and azuki beans complement each other well and both of them provide a depth of bitterness and sweetness against the slight green grassy taste of matcha in the mousse. The whole beans in the chocolate mousse also provide an additional textural contrast to the mousse and the moist chocolate sponge.
I made extra mousse cakes so as to try out different shaped mousse rings I purchased in Tokyo’s ‘kitchen street’ last year. To decorate them I used chocolate Chinese five-spice macaroons, candied azuki beans and a simplified version of the Chinese symbol for ‘longevity’ (that was on the original sofa in that shop window) piped in white chocolate.
Let me know what you think!