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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweets from Hawaii's history

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Making mochi at home is surprisingly simple. The fresh cakes make good New Year's gifts, too.

Shuzo Uemoto

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Two recipes from "Kau Kau: Cuisine and Culture in the Hawaiian Islands," by Arnold Hiura (Watermark, large-format, $32.95) are perfect for this season.

Cakes like this would have come to the Islands with the missionaries and mariners from New England. Such moist and long-keeping cakes, well-flavored with warm spices, would have been kept in a tin and brought out for company. This is a rather sketchy recipe as it appeared in a newspaper in Royalton, Vt., home of missionary Sarah Lyman of Hilo; her family continued to make this cake after emigrating to the Islands.


• 1/4 cup butter

• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

• 1 teaspoon soda

• 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves and allspice

• 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, according to the richness of the buttermilk

• 1 1/2 cups brown sugar

(Editor's note: Here's how I'd put this cake together in the modern world.)

Bring the butter out to let it soften.

Combine soda, spices and 2 1/2 cups flour in a large bowl; whisk well to combine.

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add dry ingredients alternatively with buttermilk to achieve cake batter consistency (neither runny or thick). Add additional flour if needed, up to 1/2 cup.

I'd be inclined to a couple of pinches of salt and an egg, as well.

Bake in a greased loaf pan or in rounds. May be decorated with a scattering of sifted confectioners' sugar or a lemon glaze — 2 cups confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, grated zest and juice of 1 lemon and a few drops of milk.

Makes 12 servings.

• Per serving: 250 calories, 5 g fat, 3g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 28 g sugar, 4 g protein

Homemade mochi cakes make a lovely New Year's Eve host or hostess gift. And it's a LOT easier than you think. The most important thing is to work with the batter while it's still piping hot, and to work delicately and quickly, not overhandling the mochi.


• Katakuriko (potato starch; may use cornstarch in a pinch)

• 2 cups water

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1 (10-ounce) package mochiko (rice flour)

• 1 can tsubushi-an (sweetened red bean paste)

Sprinkle a cutting board or countertop liberally with katakuriko. In a saucepan, boil the water and sugar together. Remove from heat and whisk in mochiko. Mix until well blended. Return to stove over medium heat and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour hot mixture out onto prepared board or counter. Allow to cool slightly; when it's just cool enough to pick up without burning yourself, coat your hands with katakuriko, pinch off a golf-ball size ball of batter, quickly and gently flatten and place a small spoonful of tsubushi-an in the center. Pinch up edges to form a plump, round cake. Place on serving tray, pinched side down. Cool well before packing. Best when fresh.

Makes about 8-10 mochi cakes.

• Per mochi cake: 230 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 53 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 4 g protein

Variations: You may make mochi in a lozenge shape. A few drops of food coloring can be used to tint the mochi. Other fillings can be used: peanut butter, jam, fresh strawberries, kushi-an (the smoother red bean paste).