Cakes in Asia: A Guide to the Most Popular Desserts in the Region
Cakes are delicious and there’s a lot of them in Asia. But there’s something special about the ones from Asia.
The cakes in Asia are special because they’re different from cakes in other countries. They’re made with different ingredients and have different shapes and sizes. Some of them are even steamed instead of baked.
Let’s look at the cakes in Asia and why they’re so special.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Let’s Talk About Cakes in Asia
- 2 China’s Sweet Delights: Popular Cakes in the Land of the Red Dragon
- 3 Discovering the Sweet and Unique World of Japanese Cakes
- 4 Indulge in the Sweet World of Korean Cakes
- 5 Discovering the Delectable Cakes of Thailand
- 6 Indulge in the Sweetness of Popular Cakes in the Philippines
- 7 Conclusion
Let’s Talk About Cakes in Asia
Yes, Asia definitely has cakes! While it’s true that some Asian countries may not have a strong tradition of baking cakes, there are still plenty of delicious cakes to be found throughout the continent. In fact, many Asian cakes are quite unique and different from the cakes you might find in Western countries.
What Makes Asian Cakes Unique?
Asian cakes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Here are some of the key characteristics that make Asian cakes stand out:
- Ingredients: Asian cakes often use ingredients that are not commonly found in Western cakes, such as rice flour, sweet bean paste, and pickled vegetables. Some cakes also use cane sugar or other sweeteners that are more commonly used in Asian cooking.
- Cooking Methods: Asian cakes are often steamed rather than baked, which gives them a unique texture and flavor. Steaming also allows the cakes to retain more moisture, which can make them extra delicious.
- Design: Asian cakes often have a unique design or shape that reflects the culture or traditions of the country where they originate. For example, Chinese egg cakes are traditionally served in a small, round shape, while Japanese mochi cakes are often shaped like small balls.
What Are Some Examples of Asian Cakes?
Here are just a few examples of the many different types of Asian cakes you might come across:
- Chinese Egg Cakes: These simple, steamed cakes are made with eggs, sugar, and flour. They are a staple in many parts of China and are often served as a sweet treat.
- Japanese Mochi: Mochi is a type of cake made from glutinous rice flour. It is often filled with sweet bean paste or other fillings and is a popular snack in Japan.
- Vietnamese Rice Cakes: These cakes are made from a combination of rice flour, tapioca starch, and water. They are often combined with meat or vegetables and are a popular street food in Vietnam.
- Korean Steamed Rice Cakes: These cakes are made from a mixture of rice flour, water, and sugar. They are steamed until they are soft and chewy and are often served with a sweet or savory sauce.
Are Asian Cakes Worth Trying?
Absolutely! If you’re a fan of cakes and other sweet treats, then you definitely need to try some Asian cakes. They may be different from what you’re used to, but they are often super delicious and definitely worth adding to your list of must-try foods. So next time you’re in an Asian country, be sure to seek out some of the local cakes and give them a try!
China’s Sweet Delights: Popular Cakes in the Land of the Red Dragon
When it comes to traditional Chinese cakes, there are a few that stand out:
- Mooncakes: These cakes are round, and they are usually eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. They are filled with sweet bean paste or lotus seed paste, and they often have a salted egg yolk in the center.
- Red Bean Cake: This cake is made with red bean paste and flour. It has a soft and fluffy texture, and it’s often enjoyed with a cup of tea.
- Wife Cake: This cake is a flaky pastry filled with a sweet paste made from winter melon, almond paste, and sesame. It’s said to have originated from Guangdong province and is a popular snack in Hong Kong.
Where to Find Chinese Cakes
If you’re looking to try some Chinese cakes, here are a few bakeries to check out:
- 85°C Bakery: This Taiwanese bakery chain has locations all over China and is known for its wide variety of cakes and pastries.
- BreadTalk: This Singaporean bakery chain has locations in major cities throughout China and offers a mix of traditional and modern cakes.
- Holiland: This Chinese bakery chain has been around since 1997 and is known for its high-quality cakes and pastries.
Discovering the Sweet and Unique World of Japanese Cakes
Japan is a country that is famous for its remarkable influence on the world of food, and its cakes are no exception. Japanese cakes are unique, unlike any other cakes in the world. They come in different shapes, sizes, and flavours, and they tend to be more on the sweet side. Japanese cakes can be divided into two types: traditional and western.
- Traditional Japanese cakes, also known as wagashi, are made with basic ingredients such as rice flour, sweet bean paste (anko), and soy sauce. They tend to be small, bite-sized, and come in various shapes and colours that are related to nature. Some of the most famous traditional Japanese cakes include dango, daifuku, dorayaki, and mitarashi.
- Western-style cakes, on the other hand, are more modern and tend to dominate the cake market in Japan. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the ingredients used depend on the type of cake. Some of the most common types of western-style cakes in Japan include sponge cakes, chiffon cakes, and cream cakes.
The Popular Japanese Cakes
- Anko: This is a sweet bean paste that is used in many Japanese cakes.
- Daifuku: This is a type of wagashi that is made with mochi (a type of rice cake) and filled with anko.
- Dorayaki: This is a type of wagashi that is made with two small pancakes and filled with anko.
- Ice Cream Cake: This is a western-style cake that is covered with a thick layer of ice cream.
- Mitarashi Dango: This is a type of wagashi that is made with steamed rice flour and covered in a sweet soy sauce.
- Namagashi: This is a type of wagashi that is made with a soft outer layer and filled with anko. It tends to be more seasonal.
- Tsukimi Dango: This is a type of wagashi that is named after the moon-viewing festival and is made with three small balls of mochi.
Personal Criteria for the Best Japanese Cakes
If you want to buy the best Japanese cakes, you need to know what to look for. Here are some personal criteria to consider:
- The type of cake: Do you want a traditional or western-style cake?
- The flavour: Do you want something sweet or savoury?
- The size: Do you want a large cake or an individual portion?
- The filling: Do you want a cake that is filled or unfilled?
- The season: Do you want a cake that is seasonal or available all year round?
Indulge in the Sweet World of Korean Cakes
If you’re looking for a popular Korean cake that’s both sweet and chewy, then chapssaltteok is a must-try. This cake is made from glutinous rice flour and filled with sweetened red bean paste. It’s then rolled in a mixture of sesame seeds and sugar to give it a crunchy texture. You can find chapssaltteok being sold as a street snack, and it’s perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth cravings.
Mochi: A Soft and Delicate Dessert
Mochi is a Japanese dessert that has become popular in Korea. It’s a soft and delicate cake made from glutinous rice flour and filled with sweetened red bean paste. Mochi is often served with a cup of green tea, and it’s a perfect dessert to enjoy after a meal. You can find mochi being sold in Korean bakeries and cafes.
Filled Bean Cakes: A Classic Korean Dessert
Filled bean cakes are a classic Korean dessert that has been enjoyed for generations. These cakes are made from a mixture of glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water. The dough is then filled with sweetened red bean paste and steamed until it’s cooked through. Filled bean cakes are often served as a snack or dessert, and they’re perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth cravings.
Street Snacks: A Delicious Way to Experience Korean Cakes
If you want to experience the full range of Korean cakes, then you need to try the street snacks. Korean street vendors sell a wide variety of cakes, including chapssaltteok, mochi, and filled bean cakes. These snacks are perfect for when you’re on the go and need a quick and delicious treat.
Discovering the Delectable Cakes of Thailand
Thailand is a country known for its delicious cuisine, and its cakes are no exception. If you’re on the hunt for the best cakes in Thailand, start by checking out the following:
- Local markets: Thailand’s markets are a great place to find traditional and local cakes.
- Specific areas: Certain areas of Thailand are known for their particular cake-making art, such as Bangkok for its mango desserts.
- Restaurants: Many large restaurants in Thailand include cakes on their menus.
Popular Cakes in Thailand
When it comes to cakes in Thailand, there is a wide variety to choose from. Some of the most popular include:
- Mango Sticky Rice Cake (Khao Niao Mamuang): This tempting cake is made with ripe mango slices, sticky rice, and coconut milk poured over the top.
- Fried Mung Bean Cake: This classic Thai cake is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It’s made by frying mung bean grains until they’re opaque and then sticking them together with a sweet syrup.
- Coconut Cake: This delectable cake is made by sprinkling coconut flakes on top of a bed of sweet, sticky rice.
Where to Find the Best Cakes in Thailand
If you’re looking for the best cakes in Thailand, there are a few spots you won’t want to miss:
- Local markets: Thai markets are a great place to find authentic and delicious cakes.
- Street vendors: Many street vendors in Thailand prepare classic cakes that are perfect for enjoying on the go.
- Triple Mango Tour: This tour takes you to some of the best spots in Bangkok for mango desserts, including cakes.
Thailand’s cakes are a must-try for anyone visiting Southeast Asia. Whether you’re a fan of mango or coconut, there’s a cake in Thailand that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Indulge in the Sweetness of Popular Cakes in the Philippines
If you’re a fan of unique flavors, then the Ube Cake is a must-try. Ube, also known as purple yam, is a popular ingredient in Filipino desserts. The cake is made from ube puree, which gives it a distinct purple color and a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. It’s usually topped with whipped cream or cream cheese frosting and is perfect for those who love a light and fluffy cake.
Bibingka: A Traditional Treat
Bibingka is a classic Filipino cake that’s often eaten during the Christmas season. It’s made from rice flour and coconut milk and is cooked in a clay pot lined with banana leaves. The cake is then topped with salted egg, cheese, and butter, giving it a savory and slightly sweet taste. It’s usually served warm and is perfect for those who love a hearty and filling cake.
Mango Float: A Refreshing Dessert
Mango Float is a no-bake cake that’s perfect for hot summer days. It’s made from layers of graham crackers, whipped cream, and fresh mangoes. The combination of the sweet and tangy mangoes with the creamy whipped cream and crunchy graham crackers is simply irresistible. It’s a popular dessert in the Philippines and is perfect for those who love a light and refreshing cake.
Polvoron: A Crumbly Treat
Polvoron is a crumbly cake that’s made from toasted flour, powdered milk, and sugar. It’s a popular snack in the Philippines and is often given as a gift during special occasions. The cake is usually shaped into small rounds or ovals and is wrapped in colorful paper. It’s perfect for those who love a sweet and crumbly cake.
Ensaymada: A Cheesy Delight
Ensaymada is a sweet bread that’s topped with butter, sugar, and grated cheese. It’s a popular breakfast pastry in the Philippines and is often paired with hot chocolate or coffee. The bread is soft and fluffy, while the topping is sweet and savory, making it a perfect combination for those who love a cheesy and sweet cake.
As you can see, there are many delicious Asian cakes to try. They’re unique and different from Western cakes, but worth a try.
So, don’t be afraid to explore the delicious world of Asian cakes and discover a new favorite!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.