If you’ve ever been to Japan during the Christmas holiday, you know the beauty of it all. Christmas lights dazzling through the city streets, couples walking hand in hand, and the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken filling the air. What could possibly make the last wintry moments of Christmas Eve any better? The answer is, Christmas cake.
Japan’s popular red and white dessert is eaten by families and friends all across the country on Christmas Eve. Its spongy cake layers are filled with strawberries and covered with whipped cream. The cake is then topped with even more whipped cream and fresh strawberries! The dessert is so popular that there has even been two different emojis created for it!
Before World War II, Western sweets, including Western-styled cakes, were a sign of wealth. These confections were quite hard to come by since there was not an abundance of these ingredients on the island of Japan. Therefore, the only way to get these sweets was to pay a lot of money for them. Luckily, that ended along with the war. Western-style desserts became widely available and the Japanese Christmas cake we know today began to make its way into the homes and hearts of the Japanese people.
Fujiya, a company that began over 100 years ago in Yokohama, is credited with making the Christmas cake as popular as it is today. They were the first company to create a nationwide cake shop in Japan and though they had been selling Christmas cakes since 1910, they began their special Christmas season sales in 1952. With now over 1,000 cake shops across the country, they still continue their Christmas cake traditions.
Technological advancements also helped push the cake further into the line of sight. When the refrigerator came into play, it became popular to use whipped cream with fresh strawberries on top. Before, it was common to just use buttercream icing since it didn’t need to be refrigerated.
Today, you can buy a Japanese Christmas cake everywhere across the country. They’re so popular that you can even buy them from your local convenience stores! While the typical Christmas cake is round and mimics the Japanese flag with the red strawberries in the center, the cakes have been increasing in their intricacy and designs over the years. Hotels, department stores, restaurants, supermarkets, and other places all over Japan will begin releasing their Christmas cake line-up early for people to reserve and order their cakes ahead of the Christmas season. It is most common to buy an entire sponge cake. It’s not often that you see the Christmas cake offered by the slice because this is a tradition that is rooted in togetherness–a tradition focused on sitting down with family and friends. In the end, it’s not really about the cake at all. It’s about who you share it with.
Feature Photo by Kaori K on Unsplash