When Campanile restaurant and its adjacent La Brea Bakery closed in Los Angeles in 2012, I admit I shed a tear.
After all, Chef Mark Peel and Pastry Chef Nancy Silverton (then a married couple) together had created two of the most landmark establishments in the city, with the Wolfgang Puck-proteges turning out stupendous California cuisine, and extraordinary artisan breads and baked goods. In fact, the bakery was always my last stop, where I loaded up on pretzel bread and ginger scones before flying or driving home to the Bay Area.
But the iconic Spanish building that Charlie Chaplin supposedly built couldn’t have gotten better new tenants than Walter and Margarita Manzke. The couple lovingly remodeled it, maintaining its spirit, to open their Republique in 2013. It even features a bakery in the exact same spot that La Brea Bakery once operated, only now it is fully connected to the restaurant.
If you’ve ever visited the bakery, you know it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off the front-and-center glass case overflowing with cookies, tarts, cream puffs, breads and assorted pastries of about 50 varieties. And if you’ve had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into any of them, then you know just how skillfully they are made.
Margarita Manzke grew up cooking at age 7 in her mom’s tiny restaurant in the Philippines. She studied to be a cook at the Culinary Institute of America, and can still work any position on the line in a kitchen.
Surprisingly, she had little formal training in pastry. But she always watched intently what went on in the pastry department. After working as a sous chef in Los Angeles restaurants, including Patina, where she met her husband, the couple moved to Carmel to open Bouche, Cantinetta Luca, and L’Auberge Carmel. It was in Carmel that she started making breads and desserts.
You can get a taste of her creations in her new cookbook, “Baking at République: Masterful Techniques and Recipes” (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed Press) written with Betty Hallock, former deputy food editor of the Los Angeles Times.
The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, will simply make your mouth water. There’s a mix of simple and more challenging recipes, including “The Best Easiest Baked Dessert: Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp,” “Fig-Hazelnut Scones,” “Bacon and Gruyere Cheese Brioches,” and “Salted Caramel Croissant Knots.”
I am a sucker for any kind of mochi cake made with Japanese glutinous rice flour. Its chewy, bouncy texture is just delightfully fun to bite into. Best yet, it’s gluten-free for those who have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity.
I couldn’t resist Margarita’s “Raspberry-Mochi Butter Cake with Matcha Glaze.” It’s a simple one-pan cake that gets its richness from butter, coconut milk and evaporated milk in the batter.
What makes it more special is that fresh raspberries are hidden inside. Not only that, but the cake gets adorned with a brilliant pale green glaze made with matcha. More fresh raspberries garnish the top, so you get this pretty and festive contrast in colors.
Scented with vanilla, this buttery cake is denser than regular all-flour cakes yet possesses that intriguing and thoroughly addictive gummi-bear-like chewiness.
The slightly bitter-grassy taste of the matcha helps counteract the sugary-sweetness of the glaze just a tad. If you prefer your desserts less sweet, you could always skip the glaze all together, and instead dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar mixed with matcha, then position the fresh strawberries on top in a pile at the center.
It’s a cake that will make you smile with every bite.
And it’ll sway you to make Republique your last stop on any trip to Los Angeles — to pile your car backseat or carry-on with loads of goodies to take home.
Raspberry-Mochi Butter Cake with Matcha Glaze
(Makes one 9-inch cake)
For Butter Cake:
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon glutinous rice flour (preferably Mochiko)
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 1/4 ounces raspberies
For Matcha Glaze:
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha powder
To make the butter cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and coat the sides of the pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, coconut milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place 1 1/2 cups of the raspberries randomly on top, pushing each one down into the batter until submerged.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the center of the cake is firm, 50 to 60 minutes. (Don’t underbake or else the cake will have a gritty texture. The center should be very firm, not at all jiggly and not even springy.) Transfer to a cooling rack. After the cake has cooled slightly, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and invert it onto the cooling rack.
To make that matcha glaze: Put the confectioner’s sugar, milk, and matcha powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Put the cake on a serving plate or cake stand, bottom-side up. Pour the glaze on top and spread it with a spatula so it drips down the sides. Garnish the top with the remaining 1/2 cup raspberries. Slice and serve immediately. Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
From “Baking At Republique” by Margarita Manzke
More Mochi Cake Fun: Brown-Butter Mochi
And: Butter Mochi