• Japan In Focus

Buttercream Cakes Sell Out Like Hotcakes at Tokyo Cafe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman shows Tamuracho Kimuraya’s popular buttercream cake.

Close to the Nishi-Shimbashi crossing in Minato Ward, Tokyo, there stands a dessert cafe with a charming red awning. On a recent trip to the spot, called Confectionery Tamuracho Kimuraya, I found some 20 kinds of cake in the showcase to my right upon entering. Each one looked delicious. But at the moment, the star attraction seems to be the buttercream cakes.

As I looked at the white cakes — the sheen of buttercream icing over the sponge cake, the beautiful pink roses piped out on top — memories from childhood enveloped me. During the Showa era (1926-89), fresh cream was expensive because it was difficult to keep fresh. Instead buttercream was used on fancy cakes — cakes that parents would buy for their delighted children on their birthdays or Christmas.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
“Buttercream has been very popular since seven or eight years ago,” says shop president Hiroshi Otsuka.

In France, unsalted butter is used when making buttercream. But Tamuracho Kimuraya follows its own tradition and uses salted butter.

“Salted butter brings out a more natural and simple flavor,” said Hiroshi Otsuka, 58, the fourth-generation president of Tamuracho Kimuraya, which opened for business as a bakery in 1900.

The shop’s first president split off from Kimuraya, the Tokyo bakery famous for inventing anpan (buns with sweet bean paste inside). Tamuracho Kimuraya later added a cafe that attracted famous authors, such as horror and mystery writer Edogawa Rampo. When public broadcaster NHK had an office nearby in Uchisaiwaicho, renowned playwright Hisashi Inoue, who was working as a radio and TV scriptwriter at the time, became a regular. He would often sit near the entrance and drink a cup of coffee.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
This card is autographed by famous visitors to the cafe such as horror and mystery writer Edogawa Rampo.

The bakery started serving cakes in 1964, the year of the first Tokyo Olympic Games. Buttercream cakes were, of course, a customer favorite. However, the patisserie stopped serving them after the start of the Heisei era (1989-2019).

Better refrigeration made cakes with fresh cream the standard, and buttercream cakes no longer sold well. The cakes fell further out of fashion as some bakeries mixed cheap fat into their buttercream.

However, about 20 years ago the buttercream cakes returned to Tamuracho Kimuraya, as the shop catered to older people who were fans of the delicacy. Whenever an old patisserie closes, its regulars will often come to Tamuracho Kimuraya in search of buttercream cakes. Today, when staff put the cakes in the cafe’s showcase, they sell out immediately.

Buttercream cakes are popular among the young, too. They seem to enjoy the novel taste and look.

“They tell me it’s delicious,” Otsuka said happily.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pastries and cakes fill the showcase at Tamuracho Kimuraya in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tamuracho Kimuraya

Address: 1-18-19 Shimbashi, Minato Ward, Tokyo

Access: In front of the A2 Exit at Uchisaiwaicho Station on the Toei Mita Line, or a four-minute walk from JR Shimbashi Station

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.