How to Make the Perplexing Raindrop Cake

This year's answer to the cronut is an edible breast implant. Well done, humanity.

OK, it's actually called a raindrop cake and it's essentially a half-sphere of colourless, flavourless jelly that's supposed to look-and taste-like a large, freshly fallen raindrop. It's jiggly, smooth and delicate. When bitten, the raindrop yields a soft, melty texture that falls apart rather than giving off a chewy, bouncy, Jell-O-like texture. After 30 minutes or so, the whole thing is supposed to disintegrate. Yum!

The dessert has been making the rounds across international media outlets for the past two months, spurred on by New Yorker Darren Wong , who started selling it for $8 a pop at a Williamsburg (of course) food market called Smorgasburg in April. Since I refuse to spend $8 on flavourless jelly, I sought to make my own.

But first, a backgrounder. The cake first went viral in 2014 when Japan's Kinseiken Seika Company made a clear version of its shingen mochi, a soft mochi rice cake topped with roasted soybean flour and syrup. Wong, who works at a digital marketing firm, got the idea to bring it to the States. This month, Australian Japanese restaurant Harajuku Gyoza got into the action by making their own sweetened version.

By now you can find online recipes on how to recreate the raindrop cake at home but I wanted to get some local help. I asked chef John Placko, a molecular cuisine instructor, for some raindrop cake tips.

He says the key is getting the right balance of water and agar, a jellylike substance derived from seaweed, to achieve that delicate effect so that when you tap it with a spoon, the cake collapses rather than bounces (much like a raindrop). "Gelatin gives a more elastic texture whereas agar will provide a more crumbly texture, which I think is the effect it's going for." Too little agar and the drop won't hold its shape, too much and it becomes cloudy and more silicone than raindrop. At his home kitchen in Mississauga, Placko made a version that uses 1/8 tsp agar, and added sugar and rosewater for flavour. He also topped a bunch of the cakes with gold leaf, mango puree, mint leaves and dehydrated avocados and raspberries. "It's a blank canvas. A very blank canvas," he says of the original raindrop cake.

Agar can readily be found at Asian grocers (it's a staple in southeast and east Asian desserts) in the form of dried strips or powder. Opt for the powdered stuff as it's easier to measure and dissolve. Kitchen supply stores will also have silicone moulds to achieve the raindrop shape. If you don't want to buy a mould, a small rice bowl with a round bottom works wonderfully (the raindrop slides right out). Use distilled rather than tap water to achieve a perfectly clear cake-I realized this six cloudy cakes in.

If you still can't find the necessary components, Placko himself has a retail line of equipment and powders used in molecular cuisine.

Keep this recipe in your archives so future generations can wax poetic about grandma's homemade raindrop cake.

Raindrop cake 1 cup (250 mL) distilled water 1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) agar powder 1/2 tsp (2 mL) superfine sugar, optional 1 or 2 drops clear extract like peppermint, orange blossom or rosewater, optional In a small saucepan over low heat, pour in water and sprinkle in agar. Stir until agar has completely dissolved. Sprinkle in sugar and add extract, if using. Stir. Bring to a gentle simmer, stir and let cook for one minute.

Pour mixture into silicone hemisphere moulds or a small round rice bowl. Chill in fridge for one hour, or until mixture has set. Carefully remove from moulds and place on serving plates.

Top with desired toppings like sesame seeds, fruit puree or maple syrup. Serve immediately.

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