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I like Christmas. I get that some people feel it’s over-commercialized, but for me, I’m happy to see some nice decorations and have an excuse to get together with family and friends. Really, the only complaint I’ve got is the cake.

See, in Japan, you can’t celebrate Christmas without a cake. Ordinarily, adding cake to just about anything makes it better, with “a mug of beer” being the sole exception I’ve found so far. But almost every Christmas party here features the exact same “Christmas cake.” It’s basically a strawberry shortcake, which, by my criteria, is sorely lacking in the three most important ingredients of a really good cake, which are, in no particular order, chocolate frosting, chocolate sponge, and chocolate filling.

So if you’ve also got a beef with the standard Christmas cake, maybe you’d prefer one that’s made out of chicken.

Tokyo restaurant Zenyaren is always looking to push the envelope of yakitori (chicken skewers) until it clucks. We’ve stopped by their branch in the Otemachi neighborhood before to take on the massive one-meter (three-foot, three-inch) Mega-Yakitori, and we were tempted to cool off this summer with some of their chilled chicken skewers encased in blocks of collagen.

Now, Zenyaren is offering a Christmas cake, but at first glance, it’s pretty disappointing.

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Crowned with strawberries and a marzipan Santa, it doesn’t look any worse than the shortcakes you can find at hundreds of other restaurants across Tokyo, but where’s that signature Zenyaren madness we’ve come to both fear and love like a slasher flick villain?

Well, just like a crazed maniac, it’s hiding. Slice into the top of the cake, and you might notice it feels just a bit too firm for whipped cream. Cut a little deeper, and inside you’ll notice that instead of the snow white sponge you expected, the cake has a brown hue.

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That’s because instead of being made out of cream and sponge, this cake is actually made out of mashed potatoes and chicken. Specifically, it uses tsukune, ground chicken that’s usually wrapped around skewers, grilled, and slathered with sauce.

▼ Zenyaren’s normal tsukune

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While most bakeries will let you reserve a Christmas cake, and many companies will also deliver them to your home, Zenyaren’s tsukune cake is only available for customers at the restaurant. 2,200 yen (US$19.10) gets you a whole cake, which isn’t such a bad deal if you consider that it includes protein, carbs, and even a little dessert in the form of the strawberries and confectionary topping it. If your fellow diners aren’t up for the culinary adventure, though, you can also get a one-eighth size slice for 300 yen.

▼ Don’t forget to sprinkle on the Cayenne pepper!

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The tsukune cake is on sale now, and will be sticking around until December 25, which makes sense, really. After all, eating a chicken cake after Christmas would just be silly.

Restaurant information
Zenyaren / 全や連
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Otemachi 1-7-2,Tokyo Sankei Building, Basement level 2
東京都千代田区大手町1-7-2 東京サンケイビルB2F

Top image: Zenyaren
Insert images: Zenyaren (1, 2, 3)
[ Read in Japanese ]