Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Matcha and Azuki Buttermilk Pound Cake 抹茶小豆パウンドケーキ

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The first pound cake I’d tasted was a Sara Lee, and I’m pretty sure its the same for many of you. I remember having cravings for it when I was young, often picking up a loaf which was baked in tin foil from the frozen food section of a local supermarket and pestering my mum to put it into her shopping basket. This usually proved futile as the loaf mostly got sneaked back into the chiller compartment, but once in a very blue moon, my mum’s stance would soften and accede to our persistent pleads and protests and concede defeat. Then it is up for us to bicker on which flavour to bring back home. Our default choice  is chocolate swirl, as we get the best of both worlds, i.e. rich buttery layers interlaced with ribbons of chocolate. A single loaf would usually last us over a couple of days, and sometimes a week if my sister and I have enough “determination” to prolong the “days of savouring pleasure”.

Over the years, we eat it less and less, probably weaned off the craving or perhaps because the spectrum of choices broaden over time. But Sara Lee pound cakes earned a special place in our hearts, being a “childhood delight” and often the central theme of several acts of child’s play, signing makeshift pacts and treaties to restrain each other from stealing bits of cake from the refrigerator without the knowledge of the other, drafted from torn out pages of school exercise books, to lil’ games like whose cake slices contained the most streaks of chocolate swirls. Totally silly and bewildering now in retrospect but its these little moments of pleasure that help fuel and formulate the most powerful memories which we cherish as time goes by.

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Recently, I saw Shirley post a recipe from Tish Boyle’s cake book for her “Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake” and it was met up with very good reviews and raves. Oddly, having eaten pound cakes all my life, I’d never really gotten round to bake one myself! Butter cakes yes, sponge cakes yes, swiss rolls yes and chiffons yes yes yes!!! But pound cakes… a glaring no! And all these years of baking, there had never really been a pressing urgency to fill that empty page of my lil’ black book of bakes and makes. Looking back, it must have been due to the unnerving proportions of ingredients required for a pound cake that made me shudder and shelve the idea for the longest time til now. Known aptly as “quartre-quarts” in French, these little plain looking slices of confectioneries are composed of 4 basic ingredients, flour, butter, sugar and eggs, all in more or less equal proportions. Seemingly innocent yeah, but the sheer amount of butter and sugar required are definitely not for the weak-hearted, quite literally. The concoction of this quartet seemed like a sure ticket to diabetes and and coronary heart disease! No this is not a lecture on medical science but a mere “gentle” reminder to myself. Oh well, one way or another we all have to die yeah? *cue sinister laughter with rolling thunder in the background*

The first thing that struck me when I’d read Tish Boyle’s recipe on Shirley’s blog is the sheer amount of sugar the original rendition called for. A whooping 400g which to me, is WAAAY overdoing it. Its pure madness if you ask me. Shirley, a very experienced baker she is, most surely sensed something amiss and scaled it down to 340g. But still, the amount of sugar is still WAAAY over what I find acceptable. But it is a matter of preference in taste which is entirely personal. So I took a bold move to axe another bulk of it, to a mere half of what Boyle’s original recipe called for.

To add a slight variation to the original cinnamon and cardamon version, I’d decided to do a matcha flavoured one instead, having tasted a fairly good one from a local patisserie some months back. I’ll blog on that in a while to come so bear with me! But I vividly remembered the richy buttery aroma that lingered long on, accompanied by the fragrance of matcha, even after the last crumb was expended. The slight bitterness from the Japanese green tea powder helped balance the piece, bringing it all back to reality amidst all that “sugariness” and “butteriness”. Now that is an experience which I’m eager to replicate.
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Matcha and Azuki Buttermilk Pound Cake (adapted loosely from Tish Boyle’s Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake posted by Kokken69)


2 cups (242g)            All purpose flour
1/2 cup (57g)            Cake flour
1 tsp                           Baking powder
1/4tsp                        Baking soda
1/4 tsp                       Salt
2 tbsp                        Matcha powder
1cup (227g)              Unsalted butter, softened
200g                         Castor sugar
3 large                       Eggs
1 cup                         Azuki beans, cooked in syrup and drained
1 cup                        Buttermilk (from 1 cup of full-cream milk + 2 tbsp lemon juice)


1. Cook azuki beans a day before (see below)

2. Preheat oven to 170C / 325F. If using a bundt pan, grease the inside of a 10inch bundt pan with butter  and dust it with flour. I used a loaf pan and lined it with baking paper.

3. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and matcha powder into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

4. Using a paddle attachment, cream butter for 2 mins at medium speed in a mixer until very creamy. (2mins) Gradually add in the sugar and continue beating at medium high speed until pale and light. (4mins)

5. At medium speed, add in eggs one at a time and mix to incorporate eggs well.

6. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with buttermilk (2 additions) as well as azuki beans (after 2nd buttermilk addition) until just combined.

7. transfer batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Create an indented line on the batter that runs parallel to the pan.

8. Bake the cake for 65 to 75mins, until the cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

9. Cool the cake for 15 mins before turing out the cake to cool completely. Leave to cool overnight, wrapped with clingfilm.

10. Cut and serve accordingly.
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Personal Modifications and Reflections

1) Azuki beans aka red beans is a pain-in-the-arse to cook, taking forever to go soft. The way they do it in wagashi making, is to put the rinsed beans in a saucepan/pot and cover it with just enough water to allow all the beans to stay submerged. Heat over a stove and when the water begins to boil, drain the beans and plunge them immediately into a bowl of tap water. This is repeated 3 times, with a purpose to loose the membrane by repeated thermal expansion and contraction. And it works! I am a bit lazy, so intead I add a couple of ice cubes into the pot the moment the water begins to boil, rapidly lowering the temperature. Still, I find the best way to cook red beans is to leave them in a thermal pot overnight. Almost always guarantee soft beans the next morning without wasting too much gas. The level of sweetness for the azuki beans can be adjusted to personal preference.

2) As mentioned above, the amount of sugar is halved from the original quantity stipulated in Tish Boyle’s recipe. Truth be told, I still find the level of sweetness on the heavy side when I sampled a slice the next day. Oddly, the taste became more acceptable on the third day after baking, which incidentally is when I found the flavours fully developed and the cake tasting the best. While the exterior had a hard and crusty edge on the second day, it mellowed and softened as the butter and moisture in the cake begin to work their way around. That’s why I had it wrapped in clingfilm right after the cake has cooled down completely, in order to seal in the moisture and flavour.

3) Buttermilk is another difficult ingredient to work with, with the unused portions going sour or rancid rapidly. Hence, I’d used a substitute of fresh milk with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Not quite the real thing I know. But good enough to activate the baking powder and soda I guess. But please do yourself a big favour and go for full-cream milk.

4) As you can see, the colour of the cake is rather drab and hideous. And this is entirely my fault, having used matcha powder which had been in my pantry for some months now. The tea had oxidised and deviated from the grassy green we are accustomed to seeing into a somewhat more yellowish-brown hue. Not wanting to waste the old batch, I mixed it with a new batch from another can. The taste is not compromised, just the colour. I wonder if a little Wilton green coloring would help. And the beans do not add anything value to the aesthetics of the cake at all. Taste wise, I think it did very little. Would probably omit it completely when I remake the cake again. Oh well… now we know.
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Two cans of matcha powder, an older as well as a more recent batch. Now we know that we should use up opened portions of green tea powder asap to prevent them from becoming oxidised too rapidly.
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Echire butter. I attribute the wonderful buttery flavours of the cake to this. Not cheap but most certainly worth it!
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Mélanging all the ingredients together until just combined.
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Just before going into the oevn!
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Ugly color! So drab looking! And slightly undercooked in some places I might say! But the flavour and texture is good!
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The crumbs are not quite  as tight as I’d anticipated them to be. Wonder where the problem lies. I’d noticed that the bits of batter which borders the red beans tend to be a bit undercooked or appear denser compared to the rest of the cake. I wonder if it has to do with the extra bits of moisture from the cooked beans.

Would I try the recipe again? Yes I most certainly would. But I stick to the modifications I’d made, especially with the downscaling of the sugar. Hopefully that would also help to accentuate the cinnamon streusel swirls and cardamon added into the batter. Perhaps I would go for the real buttermilk next time!

Related posts:

Sakura Roll Cake 桜の花ロールケーキ

Hojicha & Kuromame Roll Cake ほうじ茶黑豆ロールケーキ


14 responses

  1. How original! I love both matcha and adzuki, so would love to try this pound cake! Thanks for sharing!

    February 18, 2012 at 1:51 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi Assia! Thanks for dropping by!

      Matcha and adzuki (azuki) is actually a very traditional combination. It is a very commonly used pairing of flavours in Japanese traditional sweets (wagashi) making.But I’m glad it worked for the poundcake. Just not very aesthetically-pleasing. :/

      February 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

  2. it’s a real nice pound cake am glad me and Cathy got to try it! thank you!

    February 18, 2012 at 3:45 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      No problem! I like the texture and taste too. Just not the colour 😦

      February 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

  3. It is about time you make your first pound cake! I can’t believe you’ve not baked it before – you churn out some of the most complicated stuff I have come across!

    Wow, you are being very indulgent…. that butter! Great variation and thanks for the mention!

    February 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha yes! Not baked one for the longest time and I’m glad I did it. About the butter… the taste is really lovely! Now I know why certain patissiers like Sadaharu Aoki swear by it!

      February 23, 2012 at 8:46 am

  4. I am a happy recipient of your cake. Very buttery & nice cake! Cut down on sugar somemore next time, will ya? 😉

    February 19, 2012 at 7:23 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      I’d already chopped the sugar from the original recipe by half! But I think you are probably right! Perhaps we could bring down the sugar level a bit lower to accentuate the flavours of the matcha. I like it to be slightly bitter actually… so 150g now?

      February 23, 2012 at 8:48 am

  5. I’m not sure if it’s a thing with matcha and adzuki but i find that most of my cakes/cupcakes which use such a combi tend to have rather loose crumbs, and yes, the taste fully develops after a few days, which is such a pain cos I can’t stand waiting!

    February 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha but the wait was well worth it, Janine! I’m glad I didn’t hastily give away all the slices after my initial tasting when it was freshly baked.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:49 am

  6. The first (and only) time I baked a pound cake at my mother’s house, I overfilled the loaf tin and it ‘exploded’ all over the oven. The house smelled of smoke the whole day. 😀

    I love Sara Lee’s plain butter cake. Had a lot of those with vanilla ice cream before I started cooking and baking. Your post brought back memories!

    February 20, 2012 at 11:40 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Yeah! another Sara Lee fan! Maybe you can have another shot at baking another poundcake! Do let me know if you managed to find a recipe which could churn out textures close to Sara Lee’s!

      February 23, 2012 at 8:51 am

  7. Pingback: Mrs Ng SK’s Butter Cake… an Échiré Extravaganza « travellingfoodies

  8. I would love to make this cake! Do you think the matcha would be a little too bitter if I omit the azuki beans?

    October 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm

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