Moist, light, and fluffy Japanese Strawberry Shortcake recipe for all occasions, made with lightly sweetened whipped cream, sponge cake, and fresh strawberries in each layer.
Christmas is coming!!! Finally, 2020 is going to end in less than a month. It’s probably fair to say that this year has been a tough year for most of us. It’s just the year of ambient anxiety with some changes in fundamental routines that we’ve built for ourselves because of the pandemic. But let’s end the year well with the sweetness.
For me, a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake is the perfect choice to celebrate the occasion. It is nice to have a light dessert after Christmas dinners. The cake looks simple, but the flavor combination is heavenly. The sponge cake layers are very light and moist, the cream is not that sweet, and the tangy strawberries balance well with the rest of the cake.
What is Japanese Strawberry Shortcake?
Strawberry Shortcake is probably one of the most popular cakes in Japan. Apparently, it is also commonly sold as a “Christmas cake” and often the cake of choice for birthdays and the Christmas holiday. In Japan, Strawberry Shortcake refers to layered sponge cake filled with whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries, unlike the western style strawberry shortcake which is typically made with a sweet biscuit-like cake/scone. As a result, Japanese Strawberry Shortcake is much softer and lighter in texture in comparison to the western version.
The History of Japanese Christmas Cake
In Japan, when people talk about Christmas cake, it most often refers to this whipped cream sponge cake decorated with strawberries. The history of the Christmas cake in Japan started in the waning days of the Meiji period. The founder, Fujiya, started producing the very first Japanese Christmas cake more similar to the ones we see today. The base of the cake was a rich, liqueur-soaked fruitcake in the European style. Earlier sponge cakes use with buttercream frosting since it did not require refrigeration. This cake began to spread among the Japanese high-class citizens who could afford it.
After World War II, the economic growth came hand in hand with Western influences brought over by the American occupation. The idea of celebrating Christmas took hold in Japan during the 1950s, a period of renewal and reconstruction. A Christmas is stripped of its religious meaning, the cake was seen as a moment of celebration, a dish to be shared together with the family in a convivial and joyous moment.
The inexpensive sugar was readily available in Japan thanks to the world market, and Western sweets became accessible to everyone. In addition, most households began owning personal refrigerators. The cake began to use fresh cream as the frosting. As for the strawberries, they were rare, expensive commodities until after World War II, when greenhouses and new agricultural technology made them available in the colder winter months. Like with the cream and sugar, strawberries symbolized economic advancement.
The Christmas cake happened to fit into this narrative. At the same time, it presented some elements of Japanese traditional dessert that people would be accustomed to. The round shape and white color resemble the mochi rice cakes, while the same red seen in the strawberries is often used in ceremonial and lucky food as a repellent against evil spirits.
However, while the cake has become firmly entrenched in Japanese culture, Christmas itself is not a national holiday in Japan. In fact, the day is very similar to Valentine’s Day is in America. Couples give each other presents, go out to eat at nice restaurants, and take walks to look at winter illuminations on Christmas Eve. Many Japanese will likely have special Christmas cakes and fried chicken, along with champagne and sparkling wine, several surveys show.
Components in Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
These are four components you need before assembling the cake: sponge cake, simple syrup, whipped cream, and strawberries.
- Sponge Cake. Japanese sponge cake is very moist, airy, light, and not overly sweet. I use a basic genoise cake for this recipe. Beat the whole eggs together with sugar, over warm water until the sugar is no longer grainy and the mixture is light. Then, add melted butter to make a more tender and flavorful crumb. The cake is also firmer and studier, perfect for making layers cake because it holds the structure.
- Simple Syrup. It is simply the solution of sugar in water. Brust this on top of the sponge cake layers to make the cake moist. You can also add a little bit of liquor, such as rum or brandy for extra flavor.
- Whipped Cream. You can simply make the whipped cream frosting by whipping cold heavy cream and sugar until stiff peak. But since I live in a tropical country, I literally need frosting that is stable enough to withstand heat and humidity. Therefore, I add gelatin into my cream to make stabilized whipped cream.
- Fresh Strawberries. Of course, the cake needs fresh strawberries to live up to its name.
Ok, now we are ready to assemble the cake. Do not forget to cool the sponge cake completely after baking. I also like to chill the cake for at least an hour in the fridge to speed up the process. It is important to let the cake fully chill before you start to frost the cake because any residual heat will melt the frosting.
More Cake Recipes
If you do not know, I have tons of cake recipes on my blog. Check some of them now!