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Is 2016 the Year of the Not-Cake Cake?

April  5, 2016

Until this point, we've understood the following desserts—made of flour, sugar, butter, eggs—to be "cakes":

And we held this truth to be self-evident. Until 2016, that is.

We're just over 3 months into the year and already, our conception of cakes has been taken on a (somewhat nauseating?) roller-coaster ride.

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The two most talked-about cakes of the year, both of which originated in Japan, are made of vegetables and... raindrops.

Are these REALLY tiny tomatoes or is it a REALLY huge cake? Photo by Vegedeco Salad / Mitsuki Style

The first is salad cake, from the mind of Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu who has put them on the menus of two restaurants in Nagoya, Bistro La Porte Marseille, and Vegedeco Salad Café.

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Top Comment:
“Both look good to me. And the sandwich cake is nothing new. Swedes have been doing it for years - called smörgåstårta.”
— Cheri T.

The icing is made not of confectioners' sugar and butter, but of tofu and vegetables; the "cake" is made of a blend of whole vegetables and soybean flour; and the layers are raw vegetables. According to an article in Marie Claire titled "Salad Cakes Might Just Be The Best/Worst Thing To Happen To Cakes Ever," Moriyasu came up with the idea "while working in another restaurant as a way to make vegetables more appealing customers."

But do these cakes make vegetables more appealing? Or do they make cakes less appealing? "This is why I have trust issues," wrote Jemima Skelley at Buzzfeed.

And yes, there is a birthday salad cake available (if you reserve in advance) for ¥6048, or about $55 U.S.D, but for now, you'll have to go to Japan to get it.

It could be good—if you swapped the soybean cake for sponge cake, the veg for chocolate, and the thing on the side for ice cream... Photo by Vegedeco Salad / Mitsuki Style

The second cake (if you can call it that) is the Raindrop Cake and is poised to cause a craze so big that some have already compared it to the Cronut®.

"Mizu shingen mochi" generated excitement in Japan back in 2014, and is made, according to Grub Street, from mineral water gathered from the southern Japanese alps (so not exactly raindrops) and agar powder.

It's being introduced to New York City by Darren Wong, who debuted the dessert at Smorgasburg outdoor market this past weekend and spent months figuring out the right ratio of mineral water to agar.

The "dessert" is fragile and easily-broken; it has no calories and melts into a puddle within 30 minutes. "It's not about flavor or nutrients; it's about the texture," Wong told Grub Street. (Luckily, it's served with a heavily-roasted soybean powder called kinako and a brown sugar syrup called kuromitso to make up for that.)

Just watch it wiggle:

So what does it taste like? According to the official website, "It's [sic] tastes like eating a giant raindrop duh!" The cake itself "is very mild and very much about the delicate texture the melts in your mouth. Together with the toppings it has a strong sweet kick with a tinge of molasses and roasted nutty flavor."

Is this the future of cake? Is watermelon pizza the future of pizza? Is it a scary world, or a delightful one?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • amysarah
  • Donna Hayes
    Donna Hayes
  • Cheri Tuttle Callis
    Cheri Tuttle Callis
  • jenella slade
    jenella slade
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


amysarah April 6, 2016
The silly raindrop one bears a striking resemblance to something a plastic surgeon might implant. Ugh.
Donna H. April 6, 2016
Donna H. April 6, 2016
Trust issues indeed. Cake is cake. That other stuff, nonsense. Just call it what it is. Salad ?
Cheri T. April 5, 2016
Both look good to me. And the sandwich cake is nothing new. Swedes have been doing it for years - called smörgåstårta.
jenella S. April 5, 2016
I always loved sandwich loaves slathered with cream cheese. The veg cake has great potential.
nancy E. April 5, 2016
That vegetable cake looked fantastic and delicious. The teardrop not so much.
Teresa P. April 5, 2016
That's very sad. I may have to bake a cake now to remind myself (and others) that the world is still a good place.
Sarah J. April 5, 2016