Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cake Puffs

"Do you know if you can cook cake mix in the takoyaki pan?" my daughter Christina asked me.  I said, "I don't know, so why don't you look into it?"

I thought she would promptly forget about it the next day.  But she didn't.

While she mixed the cake mix, I found myself digging out the takoyaki pan, which I hadn't used for years.  It was given to me by the Inadas, my husband's boss way back when, when they moved back to Japan.  Can it be that this was twenty years ago already?  I don't know how I got so old.

In Japan, a takoyaki pan is used to make little savory balls filled with octopus.  Street food along with yakisoba (fried noodles) and ramen, takoyaki used to hit the spot after a long night out at the bars with my friends.  I can still remember the smell of sizzling batter and the sweet-salty smell of okonomiyaki sauce that hit me when I emerged from the subway station near my apartment -- ahh, good times. A few years later, the Inadas taught me how to make takoyaki using this very pan.

Beautiful takoyaki picture from here
Of course, some enterprising individual repurposed the takoyaki pan in the U.S. and made it into the Pancake Puff Pan (As seen on TV!  Only $19.95! Order yours today!).  This is probably where Christina got the idea years ago as a small child being seduced by toy, cereal, and of course, the Pancake Puff Pan commercials.

She used to point at the tv and say "I want that!"  But that's another story.

Our takoyaki pan is "old school," made of cast iron and very well-seasoned.  I imagine that it was passed from one transplanted Japanese family to the next, as one family was transferred back home and a new one came in, finally to be passed on to me.  The handle fell off, so my husband drilled a hole into a piece of scrap wood and shoved it onto the pan.  It's bulky, but it definitely works, as long as you don't set it on fire while cooking.

We preheated the pan, brushed each mold with oil, and then did a couple test balls.  As with pancakes, it takes a few test runs until the pan reaches the right temperature.  Also, it doesn't hurt to practice the technique through cooking a few test balls -- how much batter to put in (2/3rd of the ways up), how high the heat should be (medium-low), when to start trying to turn the ball, and how to flip it the most neatly, with a deft turn of the wrist.

It's about 3 minutes before you start trying to detach the balls from the sides, using a little metal pick, but your eyes work best here.  Like pancakes the batter will start to look cooked and dried on the edges and the top will start to form the slightest of skins.  When it gets near that point, you start using your pick to pull the ball away from the edges.  When it's able to move, you flip it over and let it cook until it's cooked through and is browned, another minute or two.  Depending on your heat source, the balls will cook at different rates.  In our case, the middle ones cooked a lot faster than the edges.

Cooking the puffs takes patience.  Try to flip them too soon and the pick will tear the edges and the batter, if it's not cooked enough, will ooze out when you try to flip them.  If you wait just long enough, however, flipping is a breeze.  Cooking a whole cake mix also equals a LOT of batches, so patience is a virtue.

Christina kept hugging me and saying, "Thank you, Mommy, for helping me" and "Isn't this a nice thing to do together?"  If I had gone away, she would have gotten bored to tears.  But we finished all the cake batter working together, and she had plenty of cake puffs to take to school the next day for a school party.

Half of the balls she drizzled with chocolate.  She melted chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate melted, added oil until the chocolate was thin enough to drizzle, and then dipped a fork in the chocolate mixture and drizzled away.  It was fun to flick the fork and let the chocolate strands fly from the fork and land on the balls in abstract patterns.

The other half she kept plain and simple.  Yummy both ways.  But boy, do I have a craving for takoyaki now!

P.S.  Fellow blogger and Kulinarya Cooking Club member Jacqui wrote me and let me know that these are like Danish ebelskivers, which she has written about here.  Tiny Urban Kitchen writes about the similarities between the two dishes on her blog.  Williams-Sonoma sells an ebelskiver pan. I'm glad I learned something new today.  Thanks, Jacqui!


jacqui | happyjackeats said...

Oh I've totally had these before, except they were called ebelskivers. Apparently it's also a European thing? Either way, delicious!

Federica said...

che buoniiiiiiiiiiiiii!baci!

La Table De Nana said...

They look good..they look really good..I have made some..not as nice:)

Joy said...

I used that pan to use pancakes. I got to try this. it looks great.

Skip to Malou said...

I love loVE lOVE mom and daughter stories! Reading your stories about your daughters make me miss mine. (oh btw, thank you for giving the compliment of saying that i don't look like i have a college daughter-hihihi but well mind you i have two.. izzy is my second and the oldest is now 22 my third one is a boy--17!) sorry i digress a lot when i talk haha.. but yeah hug on these moments with your daughters while they last.. they slip by fast!


Pam said...

I've never had them before but I know I would love them.

Anonymous said...

I love these cake puffs! So fluffy and soft. And drizzled with chocolate :)

cusinera said...

why bite size things are so cute and moreish...they look so good, when we make them at home, we usually pipe in some cream or strawberry jam inside=) Lovely post!

Table Talk said...

I know these as ebelskivers. My neighbor makes them and shares them with me :)
I don't remember chocolate with them though...a nice touch.
Merry Christmas to you and your family, Ninette!

Lori said...

I just bought an ebelskiver pan. Love it. I guess it was my Christmas present to myself. It would be wonderful to learn some Japanese recipes for the pan. Do you know of any?

Kitchen Belleicious said...

Oh your blog is so much fun! Love the cake puffs- probably because i am obessed with sweets! LOL! Just found ya and so glad I did. Will be coming back often! Hope you have a fabulous day! XO Jessica

Come visit if you can! I have a recipe challenge for 2011 posting tomrorow!

Anonymous said...

We bought an ebelskiver pan when my daughter returned from Denmark and we wanted to make a food that she missed from there. I wouldn't have thought of using cake mix, but I think it's a great idea!
Your daughter's cake puffs look so nice and it's great that she's going to have such a wonderful memory of making them with you.

Justin said...

i can't believe you own your own takoyaki pan!

Kitchen Belleicious said...

Hey just wanted to stop by and tell you about my recipe challenge. Would love for you to join me!

Spencer @ Moo-Lolly-Bar said...

Looks delicious! I reckon I could polish off about 100 of them in one setting!

Dana said...

What a great use for a kitchen gadget that probably didn't seem to have many other uses than for making takoyaki. Isn't it good to repurpose things and have it work out well?

Jess said...

Wow, those look awesome!! Patience is definitely a virtue in general when it comes to baking-- surprising because this is something I have a very low amount of.
It's awesome that you and your daughter could do that together! I really think food brings people together!