“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” – Ernestine Ulmer
Always one to follow quotes from famous authors literally, I tend to spend a lot of my time perusing Tokyo’s bakeries and sweet shops to find hidden treasure in the form of sugary treats. Japan may not traditionally be known for its fluffy, baked concoctions but has adopted and seemingly mastered the confectionary art.
Whether you love crumbly scones and muffins or are a chocolate and custard aficionado, dessert should never be skipped – especially not in Tokyo. Here are some of my favourite sweet spots in Tokyo.
Daily Desserts: Deli Baking & Co.
Tucked down a side street in the midst of the maze Shimokitazawa, Deli Baking & Co. offers a vast selection of cakes and baked items, each seemingly more mouthwatering than the last: ricotta cheesecake, blueberry and apricot muffins, apple rhubarb pie, fig cheesecake, caramel banana cake and Oreo muffins, are just a few favourites.
The raspberry and white chocolate muffin is fragrant and moist, while the chocolate scone is absolute perfection, with a light and fluffy interior and crisp exterior. With a crisp white wooden decor, this is a perfect place to relax and enjoy a few minutes of calm. (Cakes from ¥450, scones from ¥230)
1F, 2-29-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku; tel. +81 (0) 3 5453 1313. Open daily 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Station: Shimokitazawa.
Fresh homemade: Rose Bakery
Hailing from Paris, this stylish French bakery serves an impressive array of exquisite homemade cakes, in true Western style. I’m highly disinterested in fluffy, airy creations, as I like my cakes to be rich, dense and more savoury than sweet.
Rose Bakery definitely caters to my picky taste buds and the vast display of cakes is enough to make my head spin: think walnut and amaretto, coconut lime, banana pecan, matcha and raspberry.
Don’t leave without trying their famous cylinder-shaped carrot cake, or their “Zucchini and Carrot” variation – and thank me later. (Cakes from ¥550)
Atre Kichijoji 1F 1-1-24 Kichijoji Minami machi, Musashino-ku.
Rose Bakery website (other locations in Tokyo)
Live baking: Toshi Yoroizuka
Head to swanky Midtown to get your sweet tooth fix in a rather unusual way. With bar seats facing an open kitchen, you can watch chefs conjuring up elaborate creations, all from scratch and before your eyes. Cake guru and famed pastry chef Toshi Yoroizuka spent several years training in Europe before returning home to open up shop in Roppongi.
The desserts are seasonal and, even though the menu is limited to a handful of items, the quality and attention to detail in the preparation could send you to a chocolate ganache or fruit coulis heaven. (Desserts from ¥1200)
Cupcake heaven: Tokyo Sweets Factory
This Jiyugaoka treasure chest boasts one of my favourite yet sadly often not-as-good-as-they-look indulgences, the cupcake. Following exposure in some American TV drama (Sex and the City, perhaps?), the cupcake craze has reached a peak in the Western world.
Still a bit difficult to find in Tokyo, I can easily see why this tiny bite of heaven, when done well, is so popular: it’s simple, small, and the frosting creates the perfect balance between crumbly texture and sugary fix. Tokyo Sweets Factory presents a selection of cupcakes from ‘London style’ Notting Hill Cake Shop. Try the pistachio cupcake for a slightly bitter and nutty taste or take a huge bite of the vanilla cupcake, complete with a dollop of perfectly rich, buttery frosting.
158-0083 Tokyo-to, Setagaya-ku, Okusawa 5-28-1 B1F
Notting Hill Cakes website
BEST OF THE REST
Kyle’s Good Finds (Nakano) : As American as apple pie, the chef whips up comfort goodies such as pumpkin pie, brownies, carrot cake, banana bread and custom-made character birthday cakes. And, of course, apple pie.
Sweets Paradise (various locations): How many sweets can you eat in 90 minutes? For a reckless sugar spree, run around to try the dozens of cakes, ice cream flavours, a chocolate fountain surrounded by colourful, psychedelic decor to match your sugar high.
Bella’s Cupcakes (Daikanyama): Check daily Twitter updates to find the location of the Bella’s Cupcakes truck, as it could be in your neighbourhood. Or find their scrumptious, handcrafted cupcakes and cookies every weekend at the Hillside Pantry in Daikanyama.
Mixture (Shimokitazawa): Start the day with their famous espresso bread made with beans from neighbour, Bear Pond Espresso, or snack on gooey chocolate croissants and cinnamon French toast with a crumbly, jam-filled rock cake for the road. http://www.cafe-mixture.com