Hanzo couldn’t say what made him click on this particular video. Maybe it was the gorgeous thumbnail shot, maybe it was the large view count. Maybe it was curiosity at what a channel called ‘CookingCowboy’ could possibly do when it came to matcha cake. He settled back in his recliner with a cup of tea, his laptop perched on top of the latest copy of a contract that he was supremely disinterested in translating.
Like one would expect from any cooking show, it started in a kitchen—specifically, at a small breakfast bar.
“Alright, now a month back, I asked y’all to send me recipes you thought would stump me. And hoo boy, did y’all come through!” The video cut away to a title card—‘The Cooking Cowboy, with Jesse McCree’, with suitably twangy guitar music.
“Now, lotta my followers an’ fans know that I’m worse at bakin’ than a one-legged rodeo clown, so I got me a whole heapin’ bushel o’ dessert recipes—why d’ y’all want me to get fat?” The man grinned roguishly and winked at the camera.
“So I figured I’d fish out a recipe that’s sweet an’ healthy to boot. Can’t have y’all feelin’ guilty over dessert now! Today, we’ll be kickin’ off the Chuckwagon Challenge Month by makin’ a matcha cake roll with strawberry mousse. Sounds good, right? Let’s get started!” The video cut to an absolutely delectable looking roll cake with pale pink crème filling; it made Hanzo feel inexplicably homesick.
“Matcha-flavored sweets are real popular in Japan, ‘cause the bitter taste of the green tea contrasts with and pairs well with the sweetness of a lot of spring fruits. You can get matcha cakes, matcha ice cream, matcha candies, even matcha frappucinos and milkshakes! Daggum, makes me wanna hop on the first plane t’ Tokyo! An’ to top it off, matcha’s got a ton of health benefits, too—one cup of matcha’s got ten times the nutrients, antioxidants an’ amino acids as one cup of regular ol’ green tea. But it’s pretty bitter on it’s own—better to put it in sweets!”
One thing was certain, Hanzo thought as watched, transfixed, the production value on these videos was quite high. And the host was unreasonably handsome—so two things were certain. Fine. The video stopped showing delectable flybys of the cake and transitioned smoothly to a gorgeous, if rustic looking kitchen.
“Now, to make this nice sponge, we’re gonna need a cup o’ cake flour, two tablespoons of matcha—be sure ya get the good stuff, it’s a little pricey, I know, but your body will thank y’ when yer pocketbook won’t—teaspoon of bakin’ powder, a quarter teaspoon of sea salt, jes’ a tiiiiny bit, five eggs, three quarters cup sugar, an’ a quarter cup o’ whole milk. Check the recipe in the description box, unless you jes’ like rewindin’ the video over an’ over again an’ watchin’ me say numbers all day,” McCree winked.
Watching Jesse McCree cook was mesmerizing. His casual banter with the camera was so relaxed and poised—not a single awkward pause. He whisked, he whipped, he poured, he baked, he bloomed gelatin and pureed strawberries and folded cream and carried on all the while, as if he were an old friend with whoever was watching. Hanzo glanced down at the view count—over 200,000. Impressive…
“Alright, now that we’ve got our sponge cooled off an’ our mousse is ready, it’s time t’ put ‘em all together. Now, I got these big ol’ meaty hands, so I ain’t so great with puttin frostin’ an’ such on cakes, but I’m gonna give it my best shot—don’t be afraid if’n it ain’t picture perfect, ‘cause it’ll still taste good either way,” he smiled, carefully spreading the pale pink strawberry mousse across the sponge. It’s true—his application wasn’t the prettiest, but he still got a fairly even layer. “Y’all can take yer time with this, ain’t no rush. ‘Sides, the longer yer cookin’, the more calories yer burnin’, right? Haha, s’what I tell myself every time,” he winked, licking the spatula. “Makes me feel a little less guilty, anyway.
“Now, we gotta roll it up real careful-like. I like t’ use a sushi mat anytime I gotta roll somethin’, keeps you from breakin’ the sponge or gettin’ yer fingers covered in mousse. Jes’ roll it on up,” he said, working as if he had been born making cake rolls, “An’ make sure the end goes on the bottom, so y’ don’t end up with an unrolled cake. Ain’t quite the effect we’re aimin’ fer. Now, wrap it up nice an’ snug with some plastic wrap, an’ we’re gonna put this little dogie in the fridge fer ‘bout half an hour, so the mousse sets.”
He walked the plate over to his enormous fridge, popping one plate in and pulling another out. “Here’s one I made earlier with my camerawoman, producer, tech guru an’ all-around cheerleader, Hana,” he smiled, winking and pointing a finger gun slightly off camera. “Wave t’ the folks at home, darlin’,” he said, and a hand with neon pink fingernails waved in front of the lens for a moment. “She’s got way steadier hands than me when it comes t’ frostin’ things, which is why this here matcha cake looks so gosh darn purdy,” he smiled, pulling the plastic wrap off and revealing the pre-made cake. It did look quite nice—it reminded Hanzo of the sort of cakes he’d see in pâtisserie windows back home.
“Now y’ jes’ slice it up, say, maybe two centimeters wide, like so,” he said, slicing the cake with precision and care, “An’ there ya have it, ladies an’ gentlemen! Matcha roll cake with strawberry mousse. The perfect treat fer a spring day—an’ a perfect reward fer me fer bakin’ something!” he grinned, cutting into the slice with the edge of his fork and taking his first bite. The way his whole body reacted to the flavor was perhaps a little theatrical, but the way he tipped his head back and moaned made Hanzo’s mouth go a bit dry.
The video cut again to the front porch, presumably; McCree relaxed in a rocking chair, a tall glass of iced tea next to him and a plate of matcha cake slices in hand, already half-eaten.
“If’n y’ liked this recipe an’ wanna see more like it, check out these videos here an’ here,” he said, pointing to the corners of the screen with his fork where links obediently appeared. “Wanna keep up with the Chuckwagon Challenge Month? Can’t get enough o’ my beard? Pop on down t’ that subscribe button, an’ come on back on Tuesdays, Thursdays an’ Saturdays fer more Cooking Cowboy. If ya got a recipe y’ think I might enjoy, or a request t’ have me hunt down somethin’ special for y’all, go ‘head an’ shoot an e-mail my way. ‘Til next time, I’m Jesse McCree, yer Cooking Cowboy,” he signed off with a wink.
Hanzo had no need for a recipe for buttercream frosting, but he still watched his ‘Buttercream Bonanza’ video, then continued on to homemade ice cream, banana bread, ‘Blue Ribbon Hamburger Recipe’, ‘Cooking Cowboy’s Sushi Fail!’—admittedly hilarious—‘Five Tips for Improving Your BBQ’, ‘Not Your Mama’s Mother Sauces’…
Hanzo glanced down at the clock with a start. How had an hour and a half already gone by?
…How had he not subscribed yet?