Bento Cakes Are The Cute And Aesthetic Way To Celebrate Anything

It's hard not to love a bento cake. The mini-cakes that are sweeping the nation are beautiful in a way a cupcake can never be. But despite their exploding presence on Instagram, bento cakes aren't new. In fact, by some accounts, they originated in Japan during the 12th century. The miniature cakes weren't widely known or available on a worldwide level until recently — an international presence some observers connect to the 21st-century pandemic lockdown and the associated quest for comfort foods, which also triggered a rise in the popularity of Korean cuisine in general.

Regardless of their origin story or recent rise to the top of social media, bento cakes are now firmly embedded in our collective consciousness. And it's not just the cake. It's also the manner of delivery. Bento cakes are packed in — you guessed it — bento boxes. In case you're wondering, the term "bento" comes from a Southern Chinese word meaning "convenient." You may be familiar with classic bento boxes, the Japanese single-serving convenience meals packed lunchbox-style for easy transport. Bento cakes just replace the usual rice, dumplings, and vegetables with an adorably sweet confection.

Any occasion or special occasion

Gifting someone a bento cake to mark a special occasion is considered a show of love and appreciation. It's more meaningful than, say, picking up a box of Little Debbie Birthday Cakes en route to a party. Commonly topping out at a maximum of 4 inches in diameter, bento cakes often feature a personal message written atop buttercream frosting surrounded by intricate decorations and floral designs.

They are small, perfect for one serving or maybe just enough to share with a friend. Modern bento cakes are similar to American-style cakes made with sugar, flour, eggs, and dairy. The specific recipes and flavors are limited only by your imagination. Lemon, spice, and matcha are among the variations gaining traction. When it comes to frosting, buttercream holds the top spot. Whipped cream has a following, but it's tricky because it requires refrigeration. We've also seen recipes that call for a chocolate ganache topping. In terms of shape, circular is traditional, but some bakers are playing around with alternatives like heart-shaped bento cakes. When it comes to decorating your jewel of a cake, let your imagination — and the occasion — be your guide. Consider the cake your canvas and create your own work of edible art.