It’s the reason for the season.

It’s become pretty widely known that Japan celebrates Christmas with some fried or grilled chicken, often from KFC. But in addition to that another beloved custom is to eat “Christmas cake,” which is really just Japanese shortcake…which is really just regular sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream.

▼ A Christmas cake

It’s a simple treat, but with the right ingredients and amount of love put into it a slice of Christmas cake can be an exquisite delicacy. That being said, one would also need a palate sophisticated enough to notice the difference between luxury and run-of-the-mill Japanese shortcake.

Luckily, here at SoraNews24 we have buttloads of sophistication and often like to put it to the test with a periodic Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check in which our staff tastes foods from different ends of the price spectrum and tries to guess which one is a taste of the high life.

And seeing as Christmas is just around the corner, our team has decided to take on two slices of Christmas cake this time. The first is the New Super Amaou Shortcake sold at luxury chain Hotel New Otani’s Patisserie Satsuki for 1,404 yen (US$10), and that’s just for one slice! A whole Super Amaou Shortcake, which has been ranked as the best in Japan, will run you between 11,340 and 32,400 yen ($85 – $244) depending on the type.

▼ A slice of New Super Amaou Shortcake

In the other corner, is the Special Strawberry Short that sells for 324 yen ($2.50) a slice from Chateraise, a chain of pastry shops with about 600 locations six factories across Japan.

▼ Super Amaou Shortcake (left) and Special Strawberry Short (right)

They’re both probably very tasty, and some may even prefer the cheaper cake. However, this test isn’t for each writer to choose the cake they preferred, they have to determine which one is worth more based on their ability to detect the singular skill and select ingredients that went into it.

And because the deeper color and delicate dusting of sugar on the strawberry of the Super Amaou Shortcake could be giveaways, we had each writer blindfolded while tasting “Cake A” and “Cake B.” First up was P.K. Sanjun, who was terribly wrong about Japan winning the World Cup with penalty kicks but could be right about cakes…

P.K. Sanjun: “B”

P.K.: “Oh, this is hard… Okay, so, I thought B had more elegant whipped cream but only by a little. And if I had to say, the strawberry on B was firmer. I mean, if it’s called “Super” it must have really plump strawberries, right? I’m not really confident about it, but I’ll go with B.”

Yuichiro Wasai: “A”

Yuichiro: “A is delicious! Crazy delicious!!! Ah, but I guess you already know that. Just considering the richness of the cream I was like ‘Is it A?’ But the strawberry of B was also kind of watery too. A is rich and Chateraise usually sells moderately sweet stuff, so they probably wouldn’t serve this… Yeah, this time I’m really sure – like 90% sure.”

Ahiruneko: “B”

Ahiruneko: “A is really delicious, but is it “THE” shortcake? Maybe it’s the Chateraise one. I have no complaints and it’s a very good shortcake, but it doesn’t quite taste like something from a patisserie…

Wait a minute! B tastes normal too?! Neither one tastes like it came from a patisserie. I can forgive Chateraise for that, but I’d be angry if I paid 1,400 yen for it. Alright, well, A tasted too normal and Hotel New Otani shouldn’t serve something like that. B is a little less sweet so I choose B for being more original. This one is really disappointing.”

Seiji Nakazawa: “B”

Seiji: “Shortcake, eh? I’ve never eaten one from Chateraise. No, this is hard…super hard. I somehow feel like I’m just eating the same cake. However, when I took the first bite of B, I felt the sponge cake had a slightly stronger egg flavor. I mean, that was pretty much the only difference. I would buy the Chateraise without hesitation though. It’s pretty much like choosing between Mario and Luigi.”

▼ Masanuki Sunakoma: “A”

Masanuki: “A is the better one. Somehow B had a taste like ‘this is something Chateraise would make’ to it. The difference was in the aftertaste in which one was very delicate and had a feeling of something from a luxury hotel. B had a sweet aftertaste and a blander overall taste. I often eat Chateraise and it’s very good, but it felt like they were trying a little too hard with B.”

Takashi Harada: “B”

Takashi: “I rarely buy sweets for myself – probably like a few times a year only. A was certainly delicious…but I feel like I ate it somewhere before. On that note, B felt new and unknown. I can’t say much about it without experience, but the sponge cake of B felt more like a cloud. I don’t know much about cream either. Well, I guess it’s B because it tasted the most exotic to me.”

Mr. Sato: “A”

Mr. Sato: “A is delicious! That’s it. The answer’s A. There isn’t any specific reason why. I mean, I just kind of know I ate a luxury cake. A had a certain unity between the sponge cake and the cream and Chateraise doesn’t work on that level. Honestly, it was a little hard, but I’ll go with my gut and say it’s A.”

Yoshio: “A”

Yoshio: “Oh, this is hard. But A is the more expensive one? The cream on A didn’t have a milky scent somehow and the sponge cake was soft. On the other hand, B’s sponge cake felt a little dry. The strawberry on B also felt hard. I don’t know if I felt the difference between 1,400 and 300 yen though… I’d pay 680 yen for A. Anyway, A is more delicious, so I chose A.”

And with that, our writers were evenly split, with four having chosen Cake A and four siding with Cake B as the classier of the two. But who was correct?

Mr. Sato’s sweet tooth is legendary and shouldn’t be ignored. On the other hand, Mr. Sato’s inability to choose the right item in past Gourmet Writers’ Rating Checks is also legendary and he stands among the lowest ranked of all our staff with a sub-50-percent correct rate. In fact, most who choose A had poor track records overall.

And so, the Super Amaou Shortcake that would cost almost as much as a Nintendo Switch is…

▼ A!

That probably shouldn’t be such a surprise since everyone who chose A did so with a lot of conviction. Still, the Chateraise Special Strawberry Short put up a good challenge and was tasty enough to easily fool our less experienced cake eaters.

Here’s a rundown of the current rankings based on today’s performance from first to last place along with some final thoughts from each writer.

Seiji: 16 wins/4 losses (80 percent correct rate): “B’s sponge cake tasted like egg!”

P.K.: 20 wins/6 losses (76.9 percent correct rate): “B’s strawberry was firm!”

Masanuki: 16 wins/9 losses (64 percent correct rate): “B is totally a Chateraise thing!”

Ahiruneko:13 wins/9 losses (59 percent correct rate): “A should not be at Hotel New Otani!”

Yoshio: 12 wins/10 losses (54.5 percent correct rate): “A’s cream wasn’t milky!”

Yuichiro: 10 wins/9 losses (52.6 percent correct rate): “A was richer!”

Takashi: 12 wins, 11 losses (52.1 percent correct rate): “B’s sponge cake was like a cloud, wasn’t it?”

Mr. Sato: 11 wins. 11 losses (50 percent correct rate): “No reason. It’s just A.”

It looks as if Christmas came early for our lower-ranked writers as the rankings have narrowed leading into the new year. But will bottom dwellers like Mr. Sato and Yuichiro be able to capitalize on this momentum? Find out next time on Gourmet Writer’s Rating Check!

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]