In Japan, the winter holidays cannot exist without cake—it’s as ubiquitous during the Japanese Christmas season as LED illuminations and Mariah Carey. Cake’s status as a holiday staple means that, during the season, whole cakes are nearly impossible to find at the usual stores; many opt to reserve them months in advance. If you’re going to jump on the cake bandwagon but want something a little more unusual than a strawberry shortcake, Maplies is the place to go.
Located in the underground labyrinths of Shinjuku Station, the cake shop has a simple and rather unassuming appearance, with its red banners and displays showing off a wide array of pristine treats. From cheesecakes and cream puffs to baked chocolate cakes and tiramisu, all the items on display are mouth-watering, luxuriously creamy, and reasonably priced.
However, upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the display carries dishes not normally seen among pastries—omelettes, ramen, and gyoza, to name a few. As with the store, appearances can be deceiving.
Maplies’ special series called “ekimae shokudo”—the Japanese term for food stalls parked outside stations—features cakes in disguise, each taking the form of savory dishes beloved by train commuters nationwide.
The most eye-catching of the selection is the ramen cake (¥1,020), whose resemblance to an actual bowl of noodles is uncanny—but the lack of steam being emitted by what should be a near-boiling pot of soup should tell you something’s up. Served in a plastic bowl, the cake’s thin, ropey icing mimics the noodles, covered with a layer of brown jelly, giving the impression of soup. There are biscuits masquerading as condiments, fish cakes, and nori on top, too. But stick a fork into the bowl and you’re instantly greeted by the squishy texture of sponge cake, with whipped cream and fruit.
Another of the store’s bestsellers is the omelet cake (¥1,040), whose exterior promises a hearty, protein-packed meal. But dig in, and you’re treated to a fluffy cheesecake mousse, with strawberry sauce in the ketchup’s stead.
Other staples on the menu are the unagi-don (“eel rice bowl,” ¥1,020); gyoza (¥810), which is apple pie undercover; and the katsudon (“pork cutlet bowl,” ¥1,020), a refreshing mélange of custard and citrus.
Like restaurants, Maplies’ cake selections change periodically. Their new lineup introduces the coffee- and caramel-flavored yakiniku-don (“Korean beef barbecue bowl”) cake (¥1,020) and the pizza cake (¥1,280), which looks like a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but is in fact a cheese soufflé with a white peach and raspberry sauce. The Ninja Turtles may approve.
If you’d like an element of surprise with your holiday cakes, Maplies reigns supreme.
B2 Shinjuku Chikatetsu Bldg., 1-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Open 10am-11:30pm. For reservations, call 03-3342-6227 (Japanese). http://maplies.wix.com/maplies