Thank you for being a part of the Kokoro Community! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a fashion designer based in Brooklyn. My husband and I design and run the line Blluemade, which focuses on great natural fabrics from Belgium and Japan. The line is entirely made in New York City. Quality and good sourcing is very important to us in both our work and what we eat!
We hear you love to bake. When did you first begin?
I grew up in the American South, so I think my first brush with baking was probably making Southern biscuits with my grandmother. I remember a few failed attempts at souffles in high school and a moderately successful coconut cake, but also a lot of box mix cakes and brownies!
What is your favorite item to bake?
Hmm that is a tough question! It really depends on my mood and the season. I love an easy cake for afternoon tea; yogurt cakes, olive oil cakes, something substantial made with fruit and a mix of flour of almond meal is usually a good bet! In the fall it's all about chocolate chip cookies. I've tried a few recipes over the years and my favorite is Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookie recipe from his "Ad Hoc at Home" book.
Tell us about your recent bake off. What did you create and what was your inspiration?
Our friend Will Cotton holds a yearly cake baking competition. His paintings include lots of sweets and he is a lover of great desserts, particularly French style. The cake baking competition is a light-hearted affair between friends, though it does bring out a competitive spirit! We only met him a few years ago so can only speak for the last two years, but I believe the cake competition is over ten years old now! Last year we made a version of a Spanische Windtorte, which is an Austrian cake using layers of French and Swiss meringue, filled with cream. We customized the recipe by coloring the meringue with food-grade charcoal powder and added fresh berries and lemon curd to the cream filling. This year, we did a different Austrian cake named for another country.Our launching point was a Russian Punch Cake, which comes from the historic 19th century Demel bakery in Austria. Punch cakes have layers of sponge cake topped with layers of custard. The entire cake is covered with meringue, which is torched later, and decorated with candied violets and chopped pistachios. We tested the recipe and found it to be a little plain for the competition, and we didn't want to use a store-bought element like candied violets (and getting fresh violets is unpredictable this time of the year in New York!). So, with help from Kokoro Cares, we made up a Japanese Punch Cake and flavored the cake with ingredients the team at Kokoro Cares helped us to source! We used an Ottolenghi sponge cake recipe, which we rolled instead of sliced, and flavored it with sakura powder which gave it a lovely fragrance and flavor, and a pleasant light green hue.
We also got food-grade indigo powder which we tried with the custard, but ended up really enjoying as a flavor and coloring agent in the meringue, which sometimes is too one-note in sweetness. The indigo added a pleasant earthiness, while the meringue softened the natural bitterness of the indigo.
We made the custard with black sesame milk, which we made by soaking roasted black sesame seeds in milk and then straining. Instead of candied violets and raw pistachios, we made an Ottolenghi black and white sesame brittle mixed with hemp hearts and topped with roasted, chopped pistachios. We recently bought Ottolengthi's book "Sweets" and really like everything we've made from it--his techniques are very beautiful, but also approachable, and the flavor combinations are unexpected but very satisfying! Anyway, we were pleased to come in second place this year, and had a lot of fun making our cake!
Why did you decide to incorporate a Japanese-theme?
We have been inspired by Japanese food for a long time. The flavors and preparation are so delicate and unique. My mom's family is Taiwanese, but my grandparents lived in Japan for over a decade, so I think the family's interest in Japanese culture and cuisine began there. In our own trips to Japan, we try to eat something different every time to learn more. Also, many of our friends in New York are Japanese, and we enjoy surprising them with Japanese specialties that remind them of home!
And we always like to ask, what's your favorite Japanese food?
Ah, this is the most difficult question! I love Japanese desserts. Sakura mochi, wagashi candy... the light, delicate flavors and texture are so good! But we also love good sushi, tempura restaurants in Tokyo, chicken yakitori... I don't know if I can pick just one!
You can learn more about Lilly and her equally as delicious fashion line, Blluemade, at www.blluemade.com and on IG at @blluemade