Why I Love Squishy Cake (and You Should Too)

March 12, 2015

Would you like a piece of cake right now? For Goodness Cake is here for you. Every week, we'll be sharing recipes that prove why cake should be its own food group.

Today: Why we should all be eating squishier cake and leaving the dense quickbreads and the light chiffon cakes for another day. 

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If you were to cut yourself a slice of the deep chocolate, shatter-topped, brownie-like cake pictured above, how big would you make your piece? Most of us would be fairly conservative, if not in an act of modesty than in one of prudence -- no one likes to be caught halfway in the middle of a sea of too-rich cake without a life preserver.

But what you don't know about this cake is that as dense and rich and indulgent as it looks -- as much as it could pass for a nearly-flourless chocolate cake -- it is none of those things.

I'd like to make a case for why this mochi cake -- more squishy than gooey, more subtle than sweet -- is better. And it starts with the fact that, with its surprising spring and spryness, it is inhalable. 

See, on the chart of Words Often Used to Describe Cake, "squishy" -- the most apt description for mochi cake -- is overlooked ("soggy" appears twice because it is particularly offensive). We talk about light cake -- the angel food "cake" you'll eat and eat and feel nothing at all, making you question your humanness. We talk about dense cake -- the loaf that sinks straight to the bottom of your stomach and lives there for some time, during which you'll want to nap.

What we don't talk about is squishy cake -- the kind that gives a little when you press a finger in it and then bounces back, recovering from your violation. Squishy cakes are light enough to snack on and chewy enough to distinguish themselves from air. You can eat a lot of it (yes, with your hands) and, more importantly, you'll want to. In 2015, I'm going to make more squishy cakes. I'm going to describe cakes as squishy and people are going to nod in understanding and ask to share. I'll probably say no.

It's glutinous rice flour -- ground from the same grain used to make sticky rice -- that makes this cake chewy, gummy, and a little bit gelatinous (in the greatest possible sense). If you've ever had Japanese mochi or Filipino palitaw, you'll understand this cake's playful stretchiness and light stickiness. For an even more intense textural experience, leave out the tablespoon of baking soda that gives the rice flour a major boost and you'll come away with something even more closely resembling a giant sheet of mochi

If the texture of the cake isn't what you were expecting from the photos, neither is the taste. The chocolate flavor tips more towards mild than dramatic, reminiscent of chocolate Teddy Grahams, which, after the chocolate chip grahams, were always the best in the variety box. If you're unsatisfied with that subtlety, bake with flavored sugars. I made this cake for the first time using Mexican chocolate-flavored sugar because I was out of plain, and it added dimension to the cake. 

A note on mochi: I love mochi. I love mochi so much, I named my cat Mochi. But not all people like its smushy texture and delicate flavor. I do not understand these people, but they do, indeed, exist. There are even some people who love me very much and who respect my love for mochi but who do not love mochi themselves. This is okay. I will be at peace with this. If you know you do not like mochi, I fear you will not like this cake. It's worth a shot, but do not say I didn't warn you.

Chocolate Mochi Snack Cake

From The Polynesian Cultural Center by way of Use Real Butter

Makes one 9- by 13-inch cake; serves 12 to 16

cups (9 1/4 ounces) glutinous rice flour, like Mochiko brand

cups (16 ounces) white sugar

tablespoon baking soda

cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter

cup (6 1/2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

ounces evaporated milk

teaspoons vanilla extract

eggs, beaten

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


Ana B. April 4, 2015
I am going to try this on my chocolate loving niece and nephew tomorrow..
Jennifer M. March 18, 2015
Who doesn't love a Venn diagram, chocolate and mochi? And where else but Food52 would they all be together?
Fatemah R. March 15, 2015
Is regular rice flour ok to use in this recipe?
Author Comment
Sarah J. March 15, 2015
It's important to use sweet glutinous rice flour! It's much stickier and allows the cake to hold together. I'm not 100% sure about the results you'd get from using regular rice flour.
Sarah M. March 14, 2015
As a dedicated lover of mochi (both the cat and the cake variety), I cannot wait to make this cake. Looks amazing SJ!
taxidog March 14, 2015
Laura- where are you writing from? In the US you can find evaporated milk in cans in the baking aisle. If not, try 2/3 c. nonfat dry milk mixed with 3/4 c. of water (makes 1 cup). Or, even better, slowly simmer 2 1/4 c. whole milk until reduced down to equal 1 cup. The latter will taste more like the canned version and would probably be better in the recipe. Hope this helps.
Laura B. March 14, 2015
I'm writing from Brazil hahaha there's no such a thing as evaporated milk here, so I'm looking for something to replace it. And thank you SO much, this really helps! I thought it would be much harder to find a substitute ;)
Jerry March 15, 2015


1-1/4 cups Water
1 cup Dry Milk Powder

Stir together.

Yup, that’s it for the directions. Just measure out your water and stir in the powdered milk. Powdered milk dissolves almost instantly in water so with very minimal stirring you’ll have your DIY evaporated milk ready to go.

The measurements in this recipe will equal a 12 oz can of evaporated milk.

Laura B. March 15, 2015
ooh than you very much! you both saved my life haha
I_Fortuna March 15, 2015
Only Instant Dry Powder milk mixes instantly. Regular dry milk it more difficult and can lump. : )
Cristina T. April 6, 2015
Leite evaporado no Brasil é da nestlé vem numa lata azul e se chama Leite Ideal. Na verdade é leite moça sem açúcar. Difícil encontrar, talvez falando com o SAC da Nestlé te informem.
Laura B. April 6, 2015
Cristina, não brinca!! nunca vi isso na vida hahaha nossa, muito obrigada pela dica, vou sair procurando haha
taxidog March 14, 2015
I love mochi. I love chocolate teddy grahams. I love Venn diagrams. I am happy today because all these things have somehow gloriously come together. I will be happier still when I get to the asian market to get my rice flour.
Laura B. March 13, 2015
hey Sarah, do you have any substitute for evaporated milk? I can't find it around here.. March 13, 2015
I also have a cat named Mochi-- and I am freaking out about this cake! Not because of the cat, because it looks and sounds fantastic.
Author Comment
Sarah J. March 13, 2015
Amanda S. March 13, 2015
This diagram is my everything and this cake is my FAVORITE (and I'm a cake hater).
Atsuko S. March 13, 2015
We Japanese use an adjective word "mochi-mochi" for squishy!
carlito March 12, 2015
I'm going to cry. Squishy gummy chewy foods are my favorite things in the whole wide world. Could not have imagined it more eloquently put into words. "Playful stretchiness" indeed!!!!!
Jane K. March 12, 2015
wow, I really want to make this cake tonight.
Cristina S. March 12, 2015
Sarah, this cake looks gloriously squishy. Also, the venn diagram is pretty great too. So nice to finally meet you today!
Author Comment
Sarah J. March 12, 2015
So great to meet you, too!! I've already put date on my calendar to go to Burger Fi (and then make your version!).
Kenzi W. March 12, 2015
This venn diagram makes me over-the-moon happy. I can hardly contain it.
Cynthia C. March 12, 2015
C March 12, 2015
Matilda L. March 12, 2015