When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind? Snowflakes, twinkling lights, and beautifully adorned trees? While these are common holiday associations in many parts of the world, Japan has its unique take on Christmas traditions. One of the most delightful and beloved customs is the Japanese Christmas cake or kurisumasu keki (クリスマスケーキ).
Christmas cake in Japan is sold in every street corner during the Christmas season. What’s surprising is that only about 1% of the Japanese population identify as Christians, but the country has some strong Christmas traditions that make the season one of the best times to visit Japan. In this article, we'll focus on the Japanese Christmas cake, exploring its history, significance, and the mouthwatering flavors that make it a festive favorite.
The story of the Japanese Christmas cake dates back to the late 19th century when Japan opened its doors to the Western world and adopted some of its customs. The concept of Christmas cake was introduced by European settlers and missionaries who celebrated the holiday with traditional Western dishes, including fruitcakes. Back then, it was hard to come by these cakes because the ingredients to make them were not always available, so having cake was a sign of wealth.
It wasn't until the mid-20th century, around the mid-1950s to the 1960s, that cakes truly gained popularity in Japan. This change came after World War 2 when Japan opened its doors to trade with Western countries. Another thing that made the cake popular was a marketing campaign launched by Fujiya Co, a confectionery company in the early 1900s. Fujiya began selling a cake named "Gâteau Fraise" (Strawberry Shortcake), and it quickly became associated with Christmas festivities. Originally, the sponge cake was iced with buttercream because it lasted longer, but technology made the latest whipped cream recipe possible when houses started owning refrigerators, the classier whipped cream and strawberries were used.
The flavor profile of Japanese Christmas cake is a harmonious blend of sweetness and freshness. The classic version is a soft and airy sponge cake with a hint of vanilla layered with generous amounts of whipped cream and strawberries. The whipped cream is sweet but not overly so, providing a perfect complement to the natural sweetness of the strawberries.
Japanese Christmas cake is more than just a delectable dessert; it's a symbol of joy, hope, and togetherness. In Japan, Christmas is not a religious holiday but a time for spreading cheer and love. Families come together to exchange gifts, enjoy special meals, and share in the warmth of the holiday season. Here are 3 facts that make it a cherished part of Japanese culture.
Check your phone for the cake emoji. Does it look familiar? It looks exactly like the Japanese Christmas cake, and there are two versions. There's the cake slice and the full cake emoji. You don’t need to wait for Christmas to use them, though.
Japanese Christmas cakes are not just delicious; they are also visually stunning and symbolic. The cake's appearance is as important as its taste. It is usually a mix of red and white to represent Christmas colors and the colors on the Japanese flag.
The cake itself is round and white, which can also be associated with Japanese shrines. The strawberries themselves are carefully arranged on top, often forming a round shape to represent the red circle on the Japanese flag.
If you don’t have the time to make your own Christmas cake in Japan, don’t panic because many confectionery stores sell the classic Japanese Christmas. You can even find them in popular supermarkets like 7-Eleven in Japan. If you’re in the mood for some cheap cake, you can wait until after December 25th, when the cakes are heavily discounted.
In addition to the strawberries, the cake may be adorned with other decorations like chocolate ornaments, edible gold leaf, or festive greetings written in chocolate letters. The result is a cake that's not only a feast for the taste buds but also a work of art that embodies the spirit of Christmas.
While the classic Japanese Christmas cake remains a cherished tradition, there's room for innovation and personalization. Bakeries and home bakers have explored new flavors and designs to put a modern twist on the holiday dessert. Contemporary versions of Christmas cake might feature flavors like matcha (green tea), chestnut, or even unique creations like tiramisu. These cakes offer a departure from tradition while still retaining the essence of celebration.
For those who enjoy a culinary challenge, baking a Japanese Christmas cake from scratch is a rewarding task. To make your own Japanese Christmas cake, you'll need the following ingredients.
Sponge Cake Ingredients
How To Make The Japanese Sponge Cake
How to Decorate the Cake
The Japanese Christmas cake is not just a dessert; it's a celebration of love, togetherness, and hope. Whether you opt for a classic strawberry shortcake or explore innovative recipes, this delightful tradition will surely bring a new taste to your Christmas meals.
Satisfy your cravings with authentic Japanese snacks. Don't miss out on a snack pack from Japan this festive period – to start your ZenPop subscription today!
This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem, and edited by us.