Even though Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, it is still celebrated cheerfully with traditions of their own. Christmas is a time to gather with friends and family, put up lights and decorations, and of course they have their favorite foods to celebrate the season with.
As I have learned more about the Japanese culture and cuisine over the years, I am always intrigued by their unique foods. Recently, I have been captivated by yuzu citrus. I guess one reason for this is that I had never heard of it before. As I dug in deeper to research it, I realized it is really hard to find in the U.S. That was a huge bummer. This Japanese lemon, so to speak, is in season around the winter solstice and the New Year which is one of the reasons it is popular around Christmas time.
When it’s in season, yuzu flavored tea, snacks, cakes, sauces, and cocktails are readily available. Some say this citrus is fruit is a cross between a lemon and an orange. Yuzu is a sour fruit, so it is rarely eaten on its own. The peel is often used as a garnish for various dishes and adds some vibrant color, while the juice is used in cooking, similar to how we use lemon juice.
In addition to containing more vitamin C than lemons, yuzu is high in calcium and potassium. Yuzu is not only reserved for eating. On the winter solstice, a special hot bath known as the yuzuyu, is taken and believed to ward off colds and other viruses, as well as being very healing to the skin. When yuzu is placed in the bath, the hot water helps to release a pleasant aroma from the fruit. It is said to be relaxing and to help improve circulation. This practice is very popular at certain hot spring resorts in Japan. If you are planning a visit, this is something worth looking into.
Since the yuzu lemon is a bit rare, unless you live in Japan, you might be wondering how you can get a taste of this citrus gem. Yuzu essence is much easier to find, and is similar to using an lemon extract. You should be able to find yuzu essence at your local health food store or Asian grocery store. Of course buying it online is always an option.
Japan is near and dear to my heart, so I created this yuzu lemon cake just in time for Christmas. I knew my family would enjoy adding a Japanese tradition into our celebration. It is topped with a black sesame glaze, another Japanese favorite. You know how I love my black sesame! This cake was a big hit with us and I hope you will enjoy it too.
1 & 1/2 cup almond or cashew flour
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs coconut flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown butter ghee, vegan butter, or grass-fed butter, softened
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup yuzu essence
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs lemon zest
Black Sesame Glaze:
1/4 cup coconut butter, softened
1 tsp black sesame paste
1 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs coconut oil, melted
black sesame seeds
1) Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together the almond or cashew flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt.
2) In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, ghee, coconut milk, yuzu, lemon juice, and zest.
3) Combine the flour mixture with the wet ingredients and stir together until just combined. Do not over-mix.
4) Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Test with a toothpick to ensure it is done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
5) To make the glaze, soften the coconut butter. Stir in the black sesame paste, maple syrup, and melted coconut oil. You don’t want the glaze to be too thin, so if yours ends up that way, stick it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to thicken it a little. Then, drizzle the glaze over the lemon cake and sprinkle some black sesame seeds and lemon zest on top. Once the glaze has hardened, slice and enjoy! For an extra special treat, make a batch of my black sesame ice cream and enjoy it with a slice of yuzu cake!