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Tokyo Cake Show: So Gorgeous, So Japanese

How can you tell a professional baking conference is in Tokyo? Because among the fantasy wedding cakes, there’s a Shinto shrine wedding, complete with marzipan bride and groom.

From the roof tiles, to the torii gate tunnel, it’s pretty clear that this loving couple isn’t getting married in Winchester Cathedral
That pink cake is 100% Girls’ Day themed, right down to the the traditional orders of the Imperial Court: emperor & empress at the top, shrine maidens next, musicians below them, and household goods on the bottom
And as if that wasn’t enough, the frosting and piped chocolate mimic the folded silk flowers used in hair ornaments and the dangling stuffed toy mobiles that fancy up the house for Girls’ Day
The tsumami zaiku (folded silk flowers) make another appearance on the cake that’s third from the left, beyond the shrine wedding
Feast your eyes on this gorgeous handiwork, and marvel at the perfection of the delicate airbrush shading

And then there was the “marzipan cake” category.

Basically, the cake is just an excuse for the decorations to exist
A jolly work of edible art for Childrens’ Day (which used to be called Boys’ Day), the holiday that’s famous for flying traditional koi nobori flags
And here’s one that manages to capture every aspect of partying with the gods at the annual neighborhood shrine festival

But the Japanese themes didn’t stop with the cakes – check out these king-sized decorations made of chocolate. And when I say they’re big, I dare you to find the normal-sized cake layer included in the design so these could remotely qualify as something you’d expect to see at a cake show. Makes those birthday cake roses I always coveted (DON’T JUDGE) look positively restrained.

A samurai rider sculpted from a boatload of, yes, pure chocolate
Even weirder, a nine-tailed fox menacing all who might seek to allow the bad luck confined in the collection of ritual shrine amulets to escape their protection
The universal comfort food was, of course, also represented in the competition for the most want-worthy chocolate box sets, which each had their own mini-sculpture. This one is a bake-neko, like the ones famously cosplayed in the annual Cat Ghost parade

And then there were the pure, unadulterated sugar sculptures. These didn’t even bother with the cake, so you can’t tell how big they were from the photos. I’ll tell you, though: these weren’t no dainty knick-knacks. They were, like, over a foot tall. Or more. And if you’ve ever tried (and failed) to make the world’s most beautiful lollipops, you’d be boggling at how perfectly (and speedily) these artists pulled and rolled and snipped and spun the hot melted sugar in the few short moments before it hardens.

From ribbons & roses…
…to koi & chrysanthemums…
…to an homage to the hedgehog cafe fad…
…and an ode to Japanese-style pasta. So many things I did not know you could do with sugar
And just in case you thought those were too much of a muchness, they were dwarfed by the grandest category of sugar sculptures, which could only be called outrageous. How many kilos of sugar went into this Eve being tempted in the Garden of Eden? Judging by the size of the token cake layer at the bottom, A LOT

And finally, there was this odd ugly stepsister competition category, which actually might be the most poignantly Japanese of all. These desserts were all made with rice flour.

These look kind of earnest and drab, but if you ignore the over-the-top frippery all around, they look more like something you’d actually want to eat

In the West, this would be the “gluten free” category, but that’s not the major reason for encouraging Japanese patissiers to bake with rice flour. The gig economy has come to Japan, along with long working hours, two income households, and no time to cook. The sad truth is, rice consumption has been falling precipitously as people opt for bread instead, so there’s a national push to support the rice farmers by using rice flour to bake with, instead of wheat.

There were two more floors of the show, but they were given over to cooking demonstrations (on the 7th) and trade show booths (on the 4th).

Vendors selling everything from flavored chocolate to cookie pressing machines have booths on the 4th floor, so professional bakers can order everything they need to make these
And now, of course, there’s nothing I want to do more than run to the nearest department store food hall and EAT CAKE

This is the first time I’ve been to this show, but move over, Tokyo International Quilt Festival, I’m adding the Tokyo Cake Show to my list of fabulous, surprisingly Japanese, eye-candy events.

Lucky Tokyo peeps: you can still catch the Tokyo Cake Show through today (October 17, 2019.

Its on the 4th-7th floors of the Tokyo Metropolitan Industrial Trade Center Taitokan. 4th floor: trade show booths; 5th floor: Wedding cakes, chocolate sculptures, sugar sculptures, rice flour cakes; 6th floor: Marzipan cakes; 7th floor: baking/decorating demonstrations, cake & coffee set cafe

Address: 2 Chome-6-5 Hanakawado (it’s about a five minute walk from the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa)

Admission: ¥1500

And by the way, don’t miss all the amusing stuff that you’ll only see in

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

11 thoughts on “Tokyo Cake Show: So Gorgeous, So Japanese Leave a comment

  1. Oh My Glory ! I saw a Japanese soap opera series once that featured patisseries. the ART that goes into their candy making is INCREDIBLE and gorgeous !

    • I know, right? I noticed that a couple of the showcases were just full of broken shards, which reminded me how fragile they are, and how hard it must be to build something dramatic out of FOOD.

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed! (And forgive me for not commenting as much as I’d like on your blog – for some reason, WordPress on my mobile isn’t letting me like or comment on other blogs, and I haven’t found the fix for it yet +_+. I am, however, reading with pleasure every time you post!)

      • I’m glad you like my blog too, and that’s OK I hve the same issue with some blogs on wordpress, have reported it…not sure why. I have bookmarked your calendar of quirky events – this is really going to come in handy for us next year when we come.

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