He swears the company took a hint from his own eating preferences.

Our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato can never seem to have enough carbs. One product that has maintained constant popularity in his book since its debut in 1999 is the Hokkaido Cheese Steamed Cake from manufacturer Yamazaki Baking. Despite its name, he’d always thought of it more like a steamed bread or a pancake when eaten on its own rather than a dessert cake. In fact, sometimes he’ll even intentionally try to sweeten it up by adding a dollop of whipped cream and maple syrup for an especially luxurious treat. His fellow coworker Go Hatori prefers to slice it open, toast it, then drizzle it with honey–another approach that he can get behind.

That’s why Mr. Sato was so excited to learn about the new Hokkaido Cheese Steamed Cake–Milk Cream Sandwich (180 yen [US$1.22]) that was released on September 12 at Family Mart convenience stores throughout Japan, excluding branches in Okinawa Prefecture. While this one was called a sandwich, it should definitely be sweeter from the start with the cream inside. It was almost like the company had heard his wishes that the steamed cake should be just a little bit more dessert-like!

He excitedly rushed to a Family Mart on the release date and found a bunch of them front and center in the dessert display.

He was also curious how the new product would compare to the classic one, so he got one of each and lined them up side by side.

▼ New version at the top, classic one at the bottom

Interestingly, their shapes were quite different. The classic one was the familiar elliptical shape, while the new one was circular.

The imprinted shape of Hokkaido appeared to be about the same size on both of them at first glance, but when the images were lined up, it was bigger on the classic version.

He even overlayed the images to see definitive proof.

Next came the best part: taste-testing the new version. A generous helping of milk cream beckoned him enticingly from within the steamed cake.

The packaging for the original version recommends heating the cake for two minutes for the ultimate tasty treat. However, the new version’s packaging takes the opposite approach and recommends chilling it before eating.

The taste of the cake part was no different than that of the beloved regular one, but the addition of rich cream seemed to enhance its subtle cheese flavor. Mr. Sato felt justified, that he had indeed always been on to something by adding a touch of sweetness to the original version.

He also noticed something about the products’ naming for the very first time. The label on the back of the original version clearly stated that it was a “fresh Japanese-style sweet” (wanamagashi/和生菓子).

If that were the case, would the new version be called a “fresh western-style sweet” (yonamagashi) since it was packed with milk cream and called a sandwich? Oddly, nope–this one was also referred to as a fresh Japanese-style sweet.

At this point, Mr. Sato has decided to stop trying to figure out why things are called the way they are and simply enjoy their taste.

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