Last night I was watching a Japanese TV program showcasing a wildly popular item sold at a convenience store chain in Japan. It’s a cafe-style roll cake: a ring of fluffy, moist sponge cake loaded with real whipped cream.
Now, let me take a step back and explain the concept of the konbini, or Japanese convenience store. You can start with an image of your typical neighborhood ampm or 7-11 store … open 24/7 selling snacks and basic sundries. But the similarity stops right there. In a konbini, you can find anything from fresh produce to makeup to bento (lunch) boxes; you can even print photos, ship packages, or pay your bills. And there are a couple of them on every block.
Japanese convenience stores brand their own snacks and other products, so it’s not surprising that one of them has come up with a “premium” dessert to cater to the sophisticated palate of their clientele … what IS surprising is that they decided to tackle the roll cake, the Holy grail of konbini desserts. You see, the roll cake is difficult to mass-produce: from slicing single-serving portions without squishing the creme to making a creme that maintains its light, luscious texture on the shelf, it comes with more than its share of challenges.
But one company has apparently succeeded, and the product has won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Monde Selection – something like a Nobel Prize for confectionery.
The thing that struck me the most watching this show – asides from how I would love to live within walking distance to a konbini – was that this dessert, sold at one of the top convenience store chains in Japan, is actually made by hand. The cake gets mixed and cut by a machine, but the rest is done manually to achieve optimum quality. Now that is a dessert I would like to try!