Baumkuchen: the German cake that’s big in Japan

06 Apr 2018 in Food Culture

How did a German cake become more popular in Japan than in its home country? We explain all!

baumkuchen

Baumkuchen is a ring-shaped layer cake that’s a household name in Japan. Prestigious shops sell it in fancy boxes. Cafés serve it as an afternoon delicacy. And if you visit a Japanese person’s home, you may well be served a slice along with green tea.

baumkuchen-japan

Making baumkuchen is a time-consuming business, with layer upon layer of batter brushed on and slowly cooked on a rotating spit. As a result, the cake has multiple concentric rings, resembling a tree trunk (baumkuchen means “tree cake” in German).

baumkuchen-matcha

For the Japanese, this makes it a symbol of prosperity and longevity. And, as it’s hollow in the middle, it resembles a ring – which is why it’s the ultimate wedding “return gift” in Japan.

baumkuchen-japanese

So, why is a German cake so famous in Japan?

It all started in World War I, when German Karl Juchheim was captured by the Japanese army. While still a prisoner of war, Juchheim baked baumkuchen for an exhibition fair in Hiroshima in 1919.

The cake proved such as hit that when he was released, he opened his own pastry shop in Yokohama. Today, the Juchheim company is still Japan’s most famous producer of baumkuchen.

Fancy making your own baumkuchen?

how-to-make-baumkuchen

At Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu, you can bake traditional baumkuchen by layering batter onto a stick and turning it over a wood fire until each layer is crisp and golden.

baumkuchen-recipe

Your reward for all that hard work? Your own light, moist, spongy baumkuchen!

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