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Baumkuchen at Waffle Kunugi (ワッフル櫟), Nishi Hiroshima

  • E Eto Feb 2, 2010 07:47 PM
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Last week, my relative took me to a place near her place around Yokogawa station, claiming they made these great waffle treats. I wanted to get some treats for the family gathering so went in to get a bunch. However, I noticed through the window looking into the back room, a baker baking baumkuchen cakes. Along the walls were stacks of finished cakes, looking like big cocoons on a rotisserie. I was mesmerized by the baking process since I've never seen it being made before. I made sure to get a slice to take home, and finally tasted it. And WOW. I've always like baumkuchen cakes, but the ones I've had were packaged versions, or made by some other large Japanese operations, like the ones at Minamoto Kitchoan. But this one from Kunugi really opened my eyes. Maybe it's because I'm not such a sweets aficionado, but I felt like I was tasting a real baumkuchen for the first time. Buttery, sugary, a little eggy, rich, moist. It was as close to a perfect sweet as it gets for me. While there might be other wonderful artisanal baumkuchen cakes around, I was more than ecstatic with the one from Kunugi. Oh yeah, and those waffle sweets are pretty awesome as well.

Waffle Kunugi website: http://waffle-kunugi.com/

Kunugi's cakes can be found at their 3 locations in Hiroshima, in the Sogo depachika, near Nishi-Hiroshima station, and the one that seems to be the main bakery along the river a little north of Nishi-Hiroshima station (linked here
)http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid...

And here's an interesting ranking of baumkuchen cakes from what looks like a baumkuchen otaku: http://blogranking.net/blogs/17781/er...

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  1. Hi E Eto,

    Thanks for the great report on this. I'm jealous. :) Now if only it wasn't so far from Tokyo. (Still I've bookmarked it for when I head south. Thanks. :)

    1. It's pretty amazing how they're made isn't it?
      I saw it on BS TV last week and was shocked - I kind of want to try it myself someday.

      1. A little while ago, I met up with a friend visiting NYC from Tokyo who came bearing gifts. In some earlier email exchanges, I probably mentioned something about really enjoying the baumkuchen cakes in Japan. So of course, he presented an entire round of a baumkuchen cake about 4 inches tall, and a circumference of about 10 inches. He's a bit of a sweets otaku (actually a general food otaku too). He was explaining (in his excited otaku way of telling me way too much) that he really wanted to go to another place across town because he thinks their baumkuchens are some of the best in Tokyo (of course I didn't catch the name), but since he didn't have the time and works near Nihonbashi, he got one from Club Harie (クラブハリエ) in the Mitsukoshi department store. This cake from Club Harie, unlike the one from Kunugi I enjoyed earlier, was softer and fluffier and had a more pronounced vanilla flavor. Kunugi's cake felt more dense, while these were light and slightly airy by comparison. But delicious nonetheless. Apparently, at Club Harie, they have a few lines of baumkuchen cakes, among which they differentiate between "firm" or "fluffy" (I'm not sure what words they use exactly), but even though he (and I think the other otakus) prefer the firm cakes, he went with the "fluffy" one for us, because who doesn't like a fluffy cake? With some help, I did a pretty good job finishing off the cake within the 4-5 days before the expiration date.

        Like most fresh items in Japan, the expiration date marked is about a week after it's made (expiration dates in Japan doesn't mean that the food will spoil, but that the taste/flavor/texture of said item will be less than optimal; if you go to an gourmet shop and find jidori eggs, for example, you might find an expiration date of only 1 or 2 days later on the package since they define optimal as really really really fresh).

        Anyway, Club Harie cakes seem to be wildly popular in Tokyo, and I was a bit surprised to see the pages and pages of blog and info results from a Google search for クラブハリエ (Club Harie in katakana). They have locations at many department stores with a wagashi and confectionery operation called Taneya (たねや) originating in Shiga prefecture, with shops all over Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama, and outlets in Nagoya and Kobe.

        Japan is really something with their sweets. The baumkuchen blog I mentioned in the OP ranks over 500 different cakes (which I assume all are hand made in Japan). In the US, there are only 5 operating baumkuchen makers (as it was revealed in a Nov 09 New Yorker piece about baumkuchen cakes: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20... ). My advice is to go get some while you're in Japan. Or have some otaku bring you some.

        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4065/4...
        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4048/4...

        There's some great food porn shots at the Club Harie website: http://clubharie.jp/

        1 Reply
        1. re: E Eto

          There's more than five in Ginza, alone!

        2. My personal favorite is Jiichiro, from Shizuoka Prefecture. Their specialty, aside from having a subtly complex taste, is the amount of moisture in their Baumkuchen.

          In Tokyo I like Matsuzakaya because of their harder sweet frosting.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            Sorry, I may be talking to myself here but in the name of good information, Jiichiro is actually from Hamamatsu City.

            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              Funny, I was just talking to my cousin in Hiroshima on Skype and they finally tried the baumkuchen from Kunugi and were pretty blown away. They live nearby and have always had the waffles but never the baumkuchen. Good to have some confirming opinion on it. As for Jiichiro (治一郎), I'll take a mental note as I pass through Hamamatsu occasionally, as it's my mother's hometown, and I have some relatives there as well. Here are some sites with some info on Jiichiro:
              http://saikido.at.webry.info/200907/a...
              http://item.rakuten.co.jp/yataro/jiic...

          2. Tried Juchheim's Baumkuchen. Found the outer icing a bit waxy in taste and texture. Cake was a bit dry. Not too sweet, with more emphasis on a rich eggy flavor.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              Baumkuhen actually has a long tradition in Japan, whereas I don't know if anyone in the US even knows what that is. I've never seen it in the US.

              I haven't had baumkuhen in probably over 10years and never thought anything of it when I did used to get them as gift or whatever way back when. But then I saw this hour-long TV program recently (in Japanese) about the original German couple (Juchheim) who introduced baumkuhen to Japan. They were at first in Yokohama then moved to Kobe. Then the OP's post intrigued me even more. Now I want to try it again.

              1. re: chowmouse

                Oh yeah, it's been around for almost a hundred years in Japan no?

                I've seen it occasionally in NY but it only seems to come out seasonally during the Christmas holidays. You can get it at Minamoto Kitchoan at Rockefeller Plaza year round though I think...

                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                  Well, according to this TV program I saw, that guy Juchheim (the founder of the current Juchheim brand) arrived in Japan as result of him having been taken as prisoner of war from an outpost in China. He stayed on in Japan after being freed and actually unveiled baumkuhen at an event held at the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima (obviously before it was bombed), so that must've been about 85-90 years ago.

                  1. re: chowmouse

                    Yeah, I have that New Yorker article on Baumkuchen's popularity in Japan which mentions Juchheim's origin's here. Interesting read.

            2. I received a care package from Hiroshima with the small packaged pieces of Kunugi's baumkkuchen, a few of the Peace-kuchen that I had originally, a couple of the donguri baum, and a few of their limited edition matcha-baumkuchen. I didn't care so much for the donguri, but the matcha was terrific. It had the right balance of sweet, buttery, and matcha flavor. Can't wait to go back to get a full slice of this stuff.

              1 Reply
              1. re: E Eto

                Matcha, sounds great. I want.

              2. You should try NENRINYA who specialize on baumkuchen.
                The top ranked from the baumkuchen otaku that you mentioned. It's very good.

                http://www.nenrinya.jp/lineup/index.html

                Also, try HAKUJUJI from Okayama. I love the green tea flavor too.

                http://www.hakujuji-g.co.jp/2007/07/p...