(CNN) – Japan has long been internationally renowned for its varied and delicious eats, from sushi to ramen, with such staples appearing on menus around the world.
Unlike Japanese sweets – called wagashi – Western-style confectionery, called “yogashi”, is made mostly of flour and sugar. But the Japanese versions are generally less sweet than their Western counterparts.
Many of the classic yogashi that are popular in the West came to Japan centuries ago and have since been adapted, perfected and popularized. Some of the big dessert brands have already opened chains in other cities across Asia, from Bangkok to Taipei.
“I think the point of trying to create new things while incorporating[classic methods]is what drives further development,” Akabame says.
“Japanese customers like to taste as much as they can, and know their favorites. Through these competitive markets, some chefs rise to a well-known position and create popular products,” Kawamoto tells CNN Travel.
Given Japan’s status as a major travel destination before the pandemic, a successful new take on a cake often quickly becomes trendy in other Asian countries.
Here are some popular cakes and desserts made by Japanese chefs.
Strawberry Crispy Cake
Strawberry Shortcake from Japan has become a popular winter cake across Asia. Here’s the version of Hong Kong bakery Good Good.
After establishing a confectionery shop in Yokohama in 1910, Fujii went to the United States to hone his pastry skills and knowledge. There he tried Strawberry Shortcake for the first time and fell in love.
A year later, Fuji returned to Japan to create his own version: an airy and fluffy layered sponge cake coated with velvety cream and topped with candied strawberries.
Considered a luxury on special occasions, festively colored sweets are now synonymous with Christmas in Japan. Hotels, department stores and bakeries all promote their versions of Strawberry Shortcake during the holiday season.
Japan’s tradition and popularity on the iconic cake has gone beyond its limits.
“I put this on my menu every winter because, despite its simplicity, this is the kind of cake that makes you feel so blissful. It’s basic but there’s a lot of room to explore and improve.”
Japan’s Juccheim Group recently invented an AI oven that bakes Baumkuchen over a spit.
Baked on a spit-like rotisserie, Baumkuchen is a round German cake with golden circular lines resembling a tree’s growth ring (see image at top of this story).
“Baumkuchen in Germany is defined by the Confectionary Handicraft Association of Germany. Japanese, on the other hand, is not defined and there are many versions made by many chefs,” says Kawamoto when asked to compare the two.
Although it is now a symbol of peace, longevity and everlasting love, Japan’s Baumkuchen had a grim beginning.
According to legend, in 1909, Carl Juchim, the founder of the Juchem Group, opened a cake shop in the Chinese city of Jiaozhou, which was under a German concession.
As World War I broke out, Juchheim – who served as a private in the German Army – was sent to internment camps in Japan with his wife. It was there that he began baking and selling the first Baumkuchen cake in Japan in 1919. After the end of the war, the couple lived in Japan and in 1922 in Yokohama, E. Juchheim opened.
Baumkuchen became popular in subsequent decades for a variety of reasons – a boom in wedding cakes in the 1960s, followed by increased demand for local gourmet cakes in the 1980s, and the rise of Japanese sponge cakes in the 2000s.
Today, Juchheim Group has shops throughout Asia and Baumkuchen has become a staple in Japan’s dessert menus.
Bunmeido is one of Japan’s most famous Castella brands.
Castella’s origin story combines miscommunication and a 500-year-old business history.
In 1543, some Portuguese merchants became the first documented Europeans to reach Japan when a storm blew up their ships. In later years, the Portuguese established trade relations with Japan.
It soon became known locally as “castella” and became a popular dessert throughout the country.
Nowadays, castella is made in a variety of flavors – from chocolate to matcha – and the thick sliced pound cake with caramelized top matches perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee.
Bunmeido and Fukusaya are two popular Japanese brands selling these cakes.
Namashibori Montblanc is a specialty chain that serves Mont Blanc with freshly squeezed chestnut topping.
IMM Food Services Inc.
Mont Blanc may show up frequently in bakeries around the world, but few countries have shown as much affection for this chestnut vermicelli-blanket dessert as Japan.
There are also specialty shops for different styles of Mont Blanc – from the six-seat Waguri (Japanese chestnut) Mont Blanc store, which offers limited tickets every morning at 9:30 to Namashibori Montblanc, a chain store that has its own chestnuts to ensure maximum freshness. To squeeze machine.
In 1933, when the founder experienced an amazing growth in the real Mont Blanc in France, he sought permission from the mayor of Chamonix (where Mont Blanc is located) as well as the then president of the Hotel Mont Blanc in the city, before naming it. His Tokyo sweet shop in honor of the delicious treat.
Beard Papa is one of the largest Japanese cream puff range.
Akabame says that despite the development of so many wonderful desserts, his absolute favorite is a classic dessert – the cream puff.
The pastry chef is not alone.
In the 1850s, Yokohama was a designated foreign settlement and was open to foreigners living and working there. It was there that a French baker introduced Japan to its first cream puffs.
The dessert soon became a hit, with pastry chefs from Japan traveling to Yokohama to learn the craft.
The bakery shop Morozoff is believed to have created the first Japanese-style cheesecakes in 1969.
Founded in 1931 by a Russian confectioner in Kobe, Morozoff started out as a chocolate shop. But it wasn’t until 1969, after then-President Tomotoro Kuzuno sampled a cheesecake in Berlin, that the brand was inspired to make a Japanese version.
Japanese cheesecakes are often praised for their light and fluffy texture—a marked departure from the dense versions that many people know and love.
Souffle cheesecake, also known as dancing cheesecake, is the fluffiest version of all the types of Japanese cheesecake. It is so light and airy that it shakes when you move.
It is usually made by folding cream cheese into meringue – the froth made from beaten egg whites, resulting in its crumbly texture.
Japanese pancake restaurant Flippers specializes in fluffy soufflé pancakes with scrumptious toppings.
Similar in idea to soufflé cheesecakes, Japanese soufflé pancakes are hotcakes made from meringue, resulting in an extremely airy texture.
The origins of these delicious and highly photogenic treats are unclear, but most would agree that the trend began in Japan over the past five to 10 years.
Now showing up in Instagram feeds around the world, these stacks of fluffy, flaky pancakes – eaten all day long – not just at breakfast – with colorful fruits and creams are available in many specialty stores around the world.
Top Image Credit: Juchheim Group