3 Western Desserts That Japan Made Their Own | CoolJapan

Japan is known for its fair share of delightful and unique desserts. However, the country has also taken some famous western-style sweets and modified them to local culture and tastes, allowing these desserts to enjoy a resurgence internationally and creating their own unique spin. Curious to know what they are? Here are some of our favourite western-style desserts that Japan has made their own. 

Castella / Kasutera

Castella Japanese dessert

Castella is usually served as a neat rectangular block (Photo from © JNTO)

Castella is a simple rectangular sponge cake made out of just flour, sugar, and eggs. While it is recognised as a Nagasaki speciality today, this cake was actually introduced to Japan by Portugese missionaries in the 16th century as a derivation of a Portugese pastry known as Pão de Ló. The name Castella is believed to be a mishearing of ‘Castile’, an old state made up of land found in modern day Spain.

Typical Castella is a neatly sliced yellow rectangular block with a browned top crust and sugar crystals in the base. But these days you can get reinvented Castella with flavours like matcha and chocolate as well. Well-known Castella brands to check out include the storied Fukusaya which first opened in 1624 or Bunmeido with over 130 stores throughout Japan.

Baumkuchen / Bamukuhen 

Baumkuchen Japanese dessert

Typical Baumkuchen is made up of 15 to 20 layers 

Translates to ‘tree cake’ in German, this dessert is callback to the distinct layers of concentric circles that look like the rings you find in a tree trunk. The origin of Baumkuchen in Japan is attributed to a German baker Karl Juchheim, who was sent to Hiroshima as a prisoner of war during World War I. He showcased Baumkuchen during an exhibition fair in 1919 and it became such a hit that he set up his own store that grew into a company that still makes Baumkuchen in present day. Interestingly, Baumkuchen is more famous and widely available in Japan than it is in Germany today.

Making Baumkuchen isn’t easy — there are usually around 15 to 20 layers that have to be painstakingly brushed on, layer by layer, as the cake is cooked over a rotating spit, and later glazed with icing to keep moist. The ring shape symbolises longevity and prosperity, making it a popular cake at weddings in Japan. Get your Baumkuchen from the original Juchheim brand or Ginza Nenrinya which makes a modern wave version as well.

Mont Blanc / Monburan 

Mont Blanc Japanese dessert

Mont Blanc’s spaghetti-like strands of chestnut puree give it a very distinct look 

This classic French dessert is named after a mountain in the French Alps because of the way it is most commonly presented — with long noodle-like strands of chestnut puree artfully piled up on a slice of sponge cake and topped with whipped cream and a whole chestnut, resembling a snow-capped mountain. Introduced to Japan in the early 1900s, Mont Blanc really only caught on in the latter half of the century when western ingredients like processed sugar and cream became more prevalent in Japan.

Chestnut or kuri is key to the Mont Blanc taste, though these days you can find many creative versions that utilise the colours and tastes of ingredients such as sweet potato, yam or fruits. Mont Blanc is a popular menu item during autumn and winter seasons and a favourite of high-end patisseries and dessert cafes. Some recommended stores to try Mont Blanc include the simply named Mont Blanc shop with 70 years of history to its name and the chic Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris.