Ho ho…huh?

After testing some of the country’s best convenience store pizzas and beef stews, Mr Sato, our resident found hound — yes, hound — felt it was his duty to test out a seasonal specialty — convenience store Christmas cakes.

In Japan, Christmas cakes are traditionally strawberry shortcakes, adorned in the red-and-white colours of Christmas, which are conveniently viewed as auspicious colours. You’ll find them at stores around the country, where sales peak on Christmas Eve, the traditional time to eat Christmas cake in Japan.

So, on the afternoon before Christmas, when Mr Sato headed out to grab a cake from each of the country’s top three convenience store chains – Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-Eleven — he found the shelves were fully stocked in preparation for the last-minute rush.

▼ 7-Eleven

▼ Lawson

▼ Family Mart

Mr Sato felt like Santa Sato by the time he returned to the office with his big boxes, and all of them were own-brand varieties, and evenly sized for a fair tasting.

▼ First up for Santa Sato’s perusal was 7-Eleven’s “Gateau Fraise“, priced at 2,180 yen (US$19.06).

This one came with three plump strawberries on top and a small Christmas decoration — all good elements of a traditional Japanese Christmas cake.

▼ Next up was Lawson’s Uchi Cafe Strawberry Shortcake (2,760 yen).

This one also ticked all the boxes for a traditional style cake, with four strawberries and a Christmas tree decoration.

▼ Lastly, we have Family Mart’s Christmas White (1,690 yen).

Santa Sato shook his head in disappointment. No strawberries, no real decoration…it was pure white, like a frigid snow field.

He lined all the cakes up next to each other, and the difference between the Family Mart offering compared to the others was stark. Without the bold brightness of a red strawberry, it was like Christmas without the joy. Sure, it was a lot cheaper than the other two, but Santa Sato wished they could’ve at least put one strawberry on top for some added festive cheer.

Still, he decided to reserve judgment until the tasting, but that’s when Santa Sato’s boss Yoshio stepped in to tell him the Family Mart cake does come with strawberries — two of them — which are packed separately.

▼ For some reason, though, this pink-and-white box of strawberries wasn’t on the box at the store Santa Sato went to, and the staff didn’t tell him about it either.

Well, that made this an even playing field, then, because a two-strawberry topped cake for 1,690 yen is nothing to sneeze at. With that in mind, Santa Sato cut into each cake to reveal their different cross-sections and take a bite out of every one of them.

7-Eleven’s cake (left in the image below) looked like a model cake, with perfectly even layers. With a good dollop of strawberry paste nestled in between sponge and cream, it had a lovely taste. A good, standard Christmas cake.

Lawson’s (middle) was elaborate for the price. The fresh cream was delicious, the sponge light, and the cream pillowy soft. An excellent Christmas cake.

Family Mart’s (right) was a bit of a surprise as it had a dollop of peach jam in the cream. This was definitely unorthodox, but for Santa Sato, the thin layers and disproportionately large cream topping here let it down, as it left his taste buds crying out for more flavour.

So there you have it — in the world of Japanese convenience store Christmas cakes this year, Lawson takes the number one spot, followed by 7-Eleven and then Family Mart. Santa Sato’s verdict is only valid until next year, though, when a new batch of cakes will appear in stores to entice him, and that’s when he’ll go all out and celebrate properly in true Japanese style — with a side of convenience store fried chicken!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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