Over the past year, I have been working to improve my baking skills, and I think one of the pinnacles of baked goods is cake. I have always wanted to make a cake for myself and eventually for other people. This matcha cake is my first foray into cake baking, and it is definitely not my last. To be honest, it was definitely a labor of love but so worth it in the end because what’s not to love about a matcha cake?! This one is super special because it is topped with toasted meringue and coconut flakes.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
These ingredients provide something different in terms of taste and texture to the matcha cake, so there are not that many substitutions for this recipe. Changing the ingredients could change the taste and texture.
- All purpose flour – All purpose flour provides structure to the cake. You can substitute cake flour for all purpose flour which will give the cake a lighter, more airy texture. Substitute 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of cake flour for every cup of all purpose flour.
- Baking soda & baking powder – Both provide lift to the cake, creating an airy texture.
- Salt – Brings out the flavor of the other ingredients.
- Matcha powder – Adds the green color and a slight bitterness to the cake.
- Granulated sugar – Adds sweetness to the recipe. I would highly recommend sticking to granulated sugar and to the volume specified. Increasing or decreasing the amount of sugar will change the liquid content in the cake which will affect the texture.
- Eggs – Adds richness and fluffiness to the cake. I used large eggs for this recipe.
- Canola oil – Any kind of neutral oil should work for this recipe.
- Vanilla extract – Adds flavor to the recipe. A good substitute for vanilla extract is vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean.
- Buttermilk – A tangy milk that adds flavor and a moist texture to the cake. Buttermilk is acidic, so it works to activate the baking soda. See below for a more detailed explanation.
This is the first ever cake recipe I’ve developed, so I did a lot of research on the different components to make sure I got the taste and texture just right. I wanted to share what I learned in case you had similar questions.
Baking soda vs baking powder
Baking soda and baking powder are very similar. They both act as leavening agents for baked goods which means they help them rise. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is inherently basic. It becomes activated when it is combined with a liquid and an acid. In recipes that use baking soda, some acidic ingredients you will find are cream of tartar, buttermilk, cocoa powder, and citrus juice. When activated, it produces carbon dioxide which helps the baked good rise. Baking powder on the other hand has both an acid and base, so you don’t need to add an acid to activate it. Like baking soda, it produces carbon dioxide to help baked goods rise. Baking powder also includes a little bit of corn starch to prevent the acid and base from activating while in storage.
So the question is which one do you use? I think the answer is well it depends on the other ingredients you use. Most cake recipes use a combination of both. The benefit of using a little bit of baking soda over 100% baking powder is that baking soda is stronger than baking powder, so you can use less of the latter. A good rule of thumb is to substitute 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for every 1 teaspoon of baking powder. If you do use baking soda, make sure to add an acid to neutralize the bitter taste. In terms of cake, use 1 cup of buttermilk for every 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
Regular milk vs buttermilk
This topic is the perfect addition to the above topic. Both are great additions to a cake recipe, but they do make a difference in taste and overall chemistry of the cake. Regular milk adds richness and fluffiness to the cake. Buttermilk is slightly thicker than regular milk and has a slightly tangy flavor. Recipes that call for buttermilk usually include baking soda. Buttermilk is acidic, so it works to activate the baking soda. If you choose to use regular milk, make sure to use only baking powder or else your cake will have a bitter taste. Personally, I love the tangy flavor buttermilk adds to cake, so I would go with buttermilk 90% of the time.
Cake flour vs all purpose flour
Great cakes can be made with cake flour or all purpose flour, but there are definitely differences in texture when using one over the other. Cake flour is a fine flour that is about 7-9% protein. All purpose flour is a harder flour that is 10-12% protein. The protein content is important because that is what creates the gluten. You can think of gluten as the thing that allows bread to have that soft, springy texture. As you can probably guess, bread flour has the highest protein content among the 3 types of flour. Going back to cakes, the type of flour you want to use depends on the texture you want your cake to have. All purpose flour will make for a slightly denser cake than cake flour which is why a lot of recipes used cake flour. Cake flour forms less gluten when the cake batter is mixed. That’s why it’s crucial you don’t over mix cake batter because the more you mix it, the more gluten will form.
I chose to use all purpose flour in this recipe because I thought it produced a great texture, and it made the recipe more accessible. I also simply just couldn’t find cake flour at my grocery store which I imagine is what a lot of people are going through right now. If you want a lighter cake, definitely substitute all purpose flour for cake flour. Substitute 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of cake flour for 1 cup of all purpose flour.
The importance of room temperature ingredients
A lot of cake recipes specify room temperature ingredients, and like many other people, I used to think that was just a suggestion, so I would throw in cold ingredients. But I now have a different perspective. In my first recipe test, my cake batter was very clumpy. First off, if you do get a clumpy batter, that is perfectly okay. The cake will just be a bit denser. The biggest reason for a clumpy batter is cold eggs. Cake batter is made by emulsifying fats and liquid, and when ingredients are at different temperatures, it’s hard for the batter to come together smoothly. To prevent this from happening, make sure to bring your eggs and milk up to room temperature before using.
Making my matcha cake
First prepare a 9 inch round cake pan. Grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the top of the parchment paper. Next move your oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Now you’re ready to prepare your dry and wet ingredients. Mix all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder together until well combined. Set aside. In another bowl, mix eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, canola oil, and buttermilk until well combined. Sift your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients. Whisk until a smooth batter forms. Pour batter into your prepared cake pan and tap on the counter a few times. This will get rid of some of the air bubbles. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool fully at room temperature before topping with meringue. This can take up to an hour.
After your cake has cooled, make your meringue. Use a hand or stand mixer to whisk your egg white until soft peaks. First start on the lowest speed to break up your egg whites and slowly increase your speed. Add the cream of tartar and whisk a few times to incorporate. Next add sugar a little bit at a time until fully incorporated. Whisk until stiff peaks form (see above picture). Top the cake with meringue, and use a kitchen torch to toasted the meringue. Top with toasted coconut flakes and serve.
Tips on how to make the perfect matcha cake
Sift matcha powder to prevent clumping – Matcha powder tends to clump easily, so sifting it reduces instances of clumping.
Don’t over mix the batter – Over mixing the batter will create more gluten in the cake which will make the cake denser.
Invest in an oven thermometer – This is a tip that applies to every baking project. Most ovens, even nice ones, don’t have accurate temperatures. For example, there is about a 50 degree difference between what it says on my oven dial and the actual temperature of the oven. That’s why my oven thermometer has been a huge life saver. After I got one, I started getting better results from my baking projects.
Did you make this matcha cake?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Matcha Cake with Meringue and Coconut Flakes
- 4 egg whites room temperature
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp coconut flakes toasted
- Move oven rack to the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prep a 9 inch round cake pan. Grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the top of the parchment paper. Set aside.
- Mix the all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder in a bowl and set aside. Sift matcha powder to prevent clumping.
- In a separate bowl, mix sugar, eggs, canola oil, vanilla extract, and buttermilk until well combined.
- Sift the dry ingredients from step 3 into the wet ingredients. Mix until a smooth batter forms. This will be a thin batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan on a flat surface to get rid of some of the bubbles.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake completely at room temperature. This can take up to an hour.
- After the cake is done cooling, make your meringue (see below for instructions).
- Use a spatula to top your cake with the meringue. Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue.
- Sprinkle coconut flakes on top and serve.
- Use a hand or stand mixer to whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. It should look foamy with small bubbles. Start on a low speed to break up your egg whites and slowly increase your speed.
- Add the cream of tartar and whisk a few times.
- Lastly, add about 1/3 of the sugar. Whisk to incorporate. Repeat this process a few times (~3 times) until all the sugar is incorporated. Whisk the meringue until stiff peaks form.