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Ready For Japan! Vol. 15 - Inspiration For Making Japanese Sweets At Home

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Japanese sweets, from matcha cakes to dorayaki and daifuku, are known for their deliciousness and unique flavors, and delight all in Japan. With the right ingredients, these desserts can even be made at home, too. Read to learn about six regional treats that can be recreated in the kitchen.

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6 Desserts from Japan That You Can Make in Your Kitchen

making mochi

Photo by Pixta
From matcha chiffon cakes and red bean paste-filled dorayaki to traditional mochi treats and fresh soft-serve ice cream, Japan is a country that fills us with many delicious memories. Anyone with a sweet tooth will be in paradise in Japan. While these indulgences often taste best when sampled at cafes and dessert shops, however, some of these sugary indulgences can be recreated in kitchens abroad or anywhere, with determination and the right ingredients.

This article introduces six regional desserts and sweet snacks in Japan that you can bake and create in your own home, and the necessary ingredients, and where to obtain them internationally. Read below to learn how to satisfy your sweet tooth and hone your confectionery skills.

1. Zunda Mochi - A Unique Edamame Snack from Sendai

zunda mochi

Mochi, made from pounded glutinous rice, is a staple of both sweet making and savory cooking in Japan. One famous variety that originates in Sendai, in northern Japan, is zunda mochi. Bright green in color, this classic dish is made from steamed edamame, that is sweetened, then grounded into a paste to cover soft mochi cakes.

Sticky and sweet, this is a satisfying, one-of-a-kind dish that pairs deliciously with green tea during a quick break from work or study. The recipe for making zunda mochi is simple and can be recreated outside of Japan with the correct ingredients. It is also a nutritious dessert that is suitable for those on vegan diets, or with allergies to dairy products.

Below are the necessary ingredients for making this dish at home.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Mochi (pre-cut rice cakes) Asian/Japanese supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Edamame, sugar, soy milk Supermarkets
Soy sauce to taste Supermarkets

For step-by-step directions on making zunda mochi, please see this Japan Centre recipe.

We highly suggest using pre-cute mochi cakes (find on Amazon Japan) for convenience, which can be prepared by boiling on the stovetop until soft. For those wanting to make mochi from scratch: there is a labor-intensive method to make mochi from short-grained mochi rice (Amazon Japan, and at Japanese/Asian supermarkets). A recipe on how to make mochi from rice is available on Just One Cookbook.

2. Kawagoe Sweet Potato Chips - Sweet and Healthy Crisps

sweet potato chips

Kawagoe in Saitama is a popular day trip spot from Tokyo, located about 30 minutes from Ikebukuro. This charming area is best known for its Edo era townscape, sake distilleries, and sweets.

Japanese sweet potatoes, or satsumaimo, in particular, are found in all varieties in snacks and desserts here due to the region's production of the high-quality spuds. Japanese sweet potatoes contain high levels of fiber and vitamins C, E, and A, making it a nutrition-filled addition to a balanced diet.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy the healthy satsumaimo in Kawagoe is with sweet potato chips. This simple but tasty street food can be prepared at home, too, with the correct ingredients and patience!

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Japanese sweet potatoes (satsumaimo) Japanese/Asian supermarkets
Maple syrup, honey and/or sugar Supermarkets
Soy sauce to taste Supermarkets

To make the sweet potato chips:

1. Carefully cut thin slices (around 2 mm) to produce the best potato chip-like texture. The chips in Kawagoe are cut lengthwise, but cutting classic circle-shape chips is an easier, safer option.
2. Then, fry the sweet potatoes for about 5 to 6 minutes in a well-oiled pan, until golden.
3. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and sugar according to preference as soon as they are cooked and crisp. Enjoy!

The potato chips in Kawagoe come in a variety of flavors––from sweet to savory. For dessert, use honey, maple syrup, or granulated sugar of choice to make a dipping sauce or to drizzle over the freshly-cooked chips. Add in a splash of soy sauce to add a delicious salty accent to the sauce or coating for the chips.

3. Dorayaki - Classic Red Bean Pancakes from Tokyo


Dorayaki has been part of wagashi (Japanese sweets) for many years. There are several theories surrounding the origins of this pancake-like dessert with a red bean paste filling, but the shape and variation of dorayaki popular today developed around the Taisho era (1912 - 1926). This treat can be enjoyed in all regions of Japan, but some of the best cafes and confectioneries of dorayaki, like Usagiya in Ueno and Kameju in Asakusa, are in Tokyo.

With basic ingredients like flour, egg, honey, and red bean paste, dorayaki can also be delicious homemade.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Red bean paste Japanese/Asian supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Sugar, honey, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking powder Supermarkets
Neutral-flavored oil, water Supermarkets

To make basic dorayaki, you will create a pancake-like batter and cook fist-sized pancakes on a pan. After the cakes are thoroughly cooked and golden brown, apply red bean paste (Amazon Japan) in between two pancakes to create the classic dorayaki. Getting the right shape and thickness of the pancakes requires practice.

For a step-by-step recipe on how to make this treat, please see Just One Cookbook.

4. Soy Sauce Ice Cream - A Salty and Sweet Kanazawa Treat

soy sauce ice cream

Photos by Pixta
Ice cream and soft serve in Japanese and regional flavors, from matcha to cherry blossom, to wasabi and even soy sauce, are common in Japan. Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, is known in particular for Yamato, a soy sauce and miso brewery with over 100 years of history. The brewery has a small cafe and eat-in space where visitors can, surprisingly, savor their delicious soy sauce in frozen form: a sweet and salty soy sauce soft serve.

Although it may be difficult to precisely recreate the soft-serve ice cream texture and delicate balance of soy sauce at home, you can make a version inspired by this treat. Making ice cream is easy to create at home with ice cream makers, and also possible by hand. The basic ingredients for ice cream flavored with soy sauce are below.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks Supermarkets
Sugar Supermarkets
Soy sauce Supermarkets, Amazon Japan

For those with an ice cream maker, heat and mix up the ingredients in a pan on the stovetop. After each ingredient is incorporated (see recipe below) and the mixture is chilled, pour it into the ice cream maker. After that, you can enjoy the delicious Japanese flavors of homemade ice cream.

The recipe from The Japanese Pantry provides a basic recipe for those with an ice cream maker. You can also make ice cream without a machine, by pouring the completed mixture into a freezer-safe glass container and covering it with plastic wrap, then freezing it for 4-6 hours.

Another fun and time-saving option is to use soy sauce as a topping for vanilla ice cream. The sweet and salty flavors compliment each other well and will make you feel like you're in Japan.

5. Matcha Swiss Roll Cake - Green Tea Sweets from Kyoto

matcha swiss roll

Matcha and sweets are synonymous with Kyoto. From traditional wagashi to parfaits and baked goods, there is no limit to the creativity and delicious green tea flavors in the ancient capital. The beautifully-presented Japanese matcha swiss roll is on the menus at many Kyoto cafes, containing aromatic matcha powder inside fluffy, light spongecake, surrounded by layers of rich, silky cream.

Baking this decadent dessert outside of Japan requires matcha powder and other basic swiss roll ingredients. See the list below for details:

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Whole milk, flour, baking powder, eggs Supermarkets
Matcha (powdered green tea) Supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Sugar Supermarkets
Heavy whipping cream Supermarkets

Swiss rolls in Japan are light and fluffy, so recreating this baked good at home requires practice and good technique. We highly suggest reading the recipe on Just One Cookbook for an in-depth recipe and baking tutorial so you can make the best possible swiss roll!

6. Castella Cake - A Buttery, Rich Nagasaki Dessert

castella Nagasaki recipe

Another famous baked dessert in Japan is castella, a buttery, moist spongecake treat that originated in Nagasaki. As an international port city that remained the only region in Japan open to trade for around 200 years, Nagasaki has a rich, multicultural-infused cuisine that extends to sweets. Castella is thought to be inspired by Portuguese confectionery from the 16th century.

With four simple ingredients, castella can be baked anywhere in the world.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Bread flour Supermarkets
Eggs Supermarkets
Honey Supermarkets
Sugar Supermarkets

Similar to the matcha swiss roll mentioned above, baking castella that is the right texture, height, and color, requires patience and practice. A thorough recipe and instructions are available on Just One Cookbook.

Treat Yourself to Japanese Sweets

There's nothing quite as comforting as homemade desserts in times of stress. Take this opportunity to practice your confectionery skills to connect to Japan through your tastebuds!

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Main image by Pixta

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