Christmas Eve in Japan is celebrated more like Valentines Day is in America and Europe. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, and on the day itself, young couples bask in all things lovey-doveylike taking arm-in-arm city strolls to see theilluminations, wandering around the Christmasmarkets, sharing a romantic meal atexpensive restaurantsand eating obligatory Christmas cake.
However, Japanese Christmas cake is not rich, fruit-laden or even spiced with ginger. Instead, it is a light sponge cake, covered in whipped cream and decorated with fresh strawberries. And its delicious.
Double the size and then were talking.
Though seemingly plain, theres much to be said about the infamous Japanese Christmas cake. Heres fivefestive facts (and some great alliteration) to enjoy while youre scoffing your face with cake! Go on, its Christmas.
1. Its everywhere
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Christmas cake is so dominant in Japanese culture that during the festive season, it is literally sold onevery corner. Dont believe me? Just visit your nearest 7-Eleven. During the month of December, I guarantee you will find various Christmas cakes frosted with mounds of fresh cream, ruby red strawberries and a variety of chocolate or plastic holiday ornaments including Santas, snowmen, angels, wreaths, and holly at each location. The range is usually sponsored by a celebrity or idol group. This years offerings are endorsed by Jonnys idol group King & Prince. Say kakkoiiiiii.
2. Theres an emoji for it
Not once but twice the Japanese Christmas cake features as the only cake emoji in our smartphone emoji selection. Yes, those are no ordinary shortcakes! Youre free to use them all year round, though.
3. It has vulgar connotations
Who run the world? Girls (especially those over 25).
Once December 25 rolls around, Japanese Christmas cakes become heavily discounteda fact thatstarted the awful Japanese slang term, Christmas cake. Itscornfully refers to unmarried women past their 25th birthday (*shakes head*). Basically, once youre over 25, youve reached your best before date.(If thats the case, weve gone moldy. Ed.)
4. The color and shape are symbolic
Whats red and white and round? If you said Japanese Christmas cakewell done for reading the above, but what Im actually referring to is the national flag! The white icing topped with strawberries alludes to the white background and red circle (representing the sun, not strawberries) that make up the Japanese emblem.
Japans Christmas colors are red and white instead of green.
5. Its a status thing
According to David W. Plaths inThe Journal of American Folklore (yes, theres a whole academic discourse around the Japanese Christmas), the cake was a way for Japan to emulateAmerican post-war prosperity, encapsulated by the image of a family sit-down Christmas dinner. But the main attraction isnt the turkey, its the cakea sugar-laden, cream-filled representation of everything that Japan was trying to achieve in the years following WWII when food, especially luxury items like sweets and cakes, was scarce.
Let them eat cake.
Want to try it?
To be honest, I havent tried baking one myself. When it comes to fancy cakes, Im more of a buy it, throw it on a cheap plate, Instagram it and pretend-you-made-it-yourself kinda girl. But if you did want to give it a go yourself,there are lots of recipes here on Savvy, including a healthier take on traditionalChristmas Puddingand this gluten, dairy and sugar-free holiday White Christmas treat.
For cakes of the ordinary does-the-job variety, try your local supermarket (or even convenience store, if youre in a hurry). To push the boat out, department stores and boutique patisseries design their own celebration cakes that look almost too good to eat (almost). Check out our recent list of unique seasonal cakes for the best picks on offer this year. Oursaliva-inducing guide to Tokyos Top 8 Dessert Shopsis a good place to start your search, too.
Have a very happy cake-eating holiday everyone!