Thursday, December 24, 2009
Japanese Christmas Cake
Earlier this week, I was remarking to my husband that we have lived in Japan for 20 years, and never once purchased a Christmas cake. For those who are not aware of what it is, the Japanese have carved out their own unique way of celebrating the holiday in a secular manner which involves the purchasing of a birthday-cake-style cake and eating it on Christmas Eve or Day. The history of this cake is not clearly known, but the idea seems to have come from a combination of buche de noel cakes from France with their whipped cream decorations and sponge cake and the British Christmas cake shape and style.
Of course, the cakes also have been modified to suit Japanese people's tastes. In general, that includes the use of whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries. There are some beautiful pictures of the most common type of Christmas cake on the Shibuya 246 site. There are a vast number of cake types though, and you can get nearly any type you like.
Getting back to my Christmas cake, my husband said that he'd like to, "just once", go the KFC chicken route for Christmas (fried chicken is the other half of the traditional Japanese Christmas custom) and I said we should try a cake as well. Fortunately for me, my little wish came true without my having to ponder whether I'd reached an alarming degree of cultural assimilation by diving in and buying a Christmas cake. One of my students gave me a beautiful chocolate cake last night as a gift.
The cake is quite small (but perfect for 4 satisfying, but not diet-killing, servings) and I'm sure cost an insane amount of money. It's got 6 layers. From top to bottom, it is: bittersweet chocolate syrup, chocolate mousse, dark chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, crunchy chocolate ganache (possibly mixed with corn flakes?), light chocolate sponge cake. This was fantastic. Most of the cake you get in Japan is fatty, but not sweet enough to enhance the chocolate flavor (or uses too little chocolate). This one had high quality ingredients and great flavor. It was also very light. The mix of textures and flavors was impressive.
Wherever you are, I hope you're having a great holiday and enjoying whatever Christmas goodies your culture has to offer. Thank you for reading!