We try eight of the new Omusubi sweets that people in Japan are going crazy for right now. 

One of Japan’s most well-known foods has to be the humble onigiri rice ball. Nutritious and easy to eat on the go, these triangular-shaped snacks can be found at supermarkets and convenience stores around the country, filled with a wide selection of savoury fillings and wrapped up in unique packaging that opens in the middle with a convenient pull-tab.

Using the pull-tab to unwrap a rice ball, or “omusubi“, as they’re also known, is a fun and exciting experience at any time of the day, but now there’s a whole new reason to get excited about the world of rice balls, because they’ve just started appearing as delicious cakes.

Called Omusubi Cake, these sweet little morsels come from the Tsukiichi pattisserie in Osaka. After a year in development, the Omusubi Cakes made their debut in August this year and quickly became a hit with locals, selling in excess of 60,000 in just a few months. 

The sweets have been so popular that they even made an appearance in Tokyo, selling out at a pop-up shop in Shinjuku’s Lumine department store from 18 November to 12 December. That’s where we picked up eight out of the nine flavours in the collection (the chocolat variety had sold out when we visited) and brought them back home for a taste test.

Starting off with the Grapefruit Omusubi Cake, we lifted the pull tab on the packaging and tore it down the middle, just like we would do on a regular onigiri.

Lifting it out of its packaging, it had the same shape and colour as a rice ball, only it was covered in a black cocoa-flavoured crepe instead of seaweed.

We couldn’t wait to see what lay inside, so we cut it in two and found that instead of rice, this triangular morsel contained a creamy centre sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake. Carefully laid out on the bottom was a long piece of flaky pastry, which added a delightful crunch to the sweet. It was fruity, refreshing, and absolutely delicious!

We moved on to try the Green Tea variety, which also looked like a rice ball from the outside.

Inside, though, things looked very different, with a thick, airy serving of matcha-flavoured cream, a few sweet adzuki red beans, and two layers of green tea cake. Perfectly balanced, every mouthful of this tasted like a traditional Japanese dessert, with the chocolate crepe adding a dark richness to the bittersweet flavours.

The Cookie and Cream omusubi was up next, enticing us with a seductive glimpse of what lay inside when we lifted it out of its packaging.

This one did not disappoint, delivering the familiar flavours of cookies and cream in the filling, paired with a slice each of plain and chocolate sponge cake.

The Mont Blanc variety was filled with the earthy, mellow flavour of a chestnut cream cake, and while this is a popular choice for autumn, it’s a cake we’d happily enjoy any time of the year.

The Earl Grey omusubi had all the same flavour and aroma of a good milky cup of tea, with earl grey in both the filling and the sponge.

The Cheese Cake is one of the stand-outs in the collection, looking very different from all the others with its pale, plain crepe mimicking a thin layer of egg omelette.

This was absolutely delicious, with tiny pieces of raspberry baked into the cheesecake for a fresh and fruity accent.

The Tiramisu was equally impressive, with coffee-flavoured sponge and gorgeous little chunks of coffee jelly scattered throughout the cream to create the distinct flavour of the Italian dessert.

The Strawberry omosubi also contains little bite-sized pieces of strawberry jelly, adding even more freshness to the very fruity cream centre.

This one in particular tasted just like strawberry ice cream, and the creators of the cakes say that all the varieties can be enjoyed cold from the fridge or slightly thawed after freezing for a short time to make them taste just like ice cream sandwiches.

And with their onigiri design, these cakes can be eaten without a fork, making them perfect for eating outdoors, especially during the hanami cherry-blossom-viewing season.

▼ With so many tasty fillings, it was impossible for us pick a favourite from the lineup.

Whether you prefer fruit, coffee or western or Japanese-style desserts, there’s a flavour here to please everyone.

The new cakes can be purchased in packs of three online for 1,296 yen (US$11.84), or at the Tsukiichi patisserie in Osaka for 432 yen each, which is slightly more expensive than a store-bought onigiri but infinitely more unique and enjoyable.

Store information
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Nishi-ku, Minamihorie 1-11-1 Sankyo Yotsubashi Building B1
大阪市西区南堀江1-11-1 三共四ツ橋ビル B1
Open noon-7 p.m.

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