What Makes An Asian Fruit Cream Cake Unique?

Even though the U.S. National Library of Medicine says as many as 70 to 100 percent of East Asians are lactose intolerant, per Livestrong, a light sponge cake smothered in what looks like copious amounts of whipped cream and decorated with fruit is the traditional go-to dessert served at just about every occasion, including birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even Christmas in the case of Japan (per NPR) and Korea (per Food 52). 

No one knows quite how the Asian fruit cream cake, a bakery item which, per Eater, is seen as Asian in the West, but Western in Asia, came to be. One Los Angeles bakery said it has been making its version of fruit cream cake, a sponge tarted up with strawberries and slivered almonds for close to 100 years now, and that an uncle had shared the recipe with his family business when he moved to the U.S. from China. "None of us really know how [the cake recipe] came about," the baker told Eater, adding that the treat didn't pick up any fans until the 1960s. Another bakery across the country and in New York makes its fruit cream cake with a chiffon cake recipe developed in Taiwan after the owner's father worked for a chef at a U.S. Army base. Per the bakery manager's father, cream cakes of that type have been around since the 1960s. 

Fruit cream cakes are popular because they aren't sweet

Most cream fruit cakes start with a sponge cake, although in some cases, a chiffon cake is used too. Instead of a buttercream icing, the cake is smothered with what Eater calls "a vegetable oil base similar to Cool Whip in lieu of heavier traditional whipping cream." Other recipes call for actual whipping cream, like those served up in Korea, per Food52.

Regardless of where it came from or how it started, perhaps the most unique quality of the fruit cream cake for those that enjoy it most is that it isn't too sweet. The sugar aversion is so strong, it has influenced pastry making at luxury hotels in Asia, where chefs like the Four Seasons' Ringo Chen says (per the South China Morning Post), "When I was making desserts for the buffet line at Blue Bar, we continually got feedback that the desserts were too sweet ... Because sugar was not part of Hongkongers' diet when they were growing up." 

As Baker Polly Chan explained on Instagram, "Lightest Chinese sponge cake, delicately sweet fresh cream, juiciest strawberry jam and fresh fruit all over. In Asian culture, we celebrate with light cakes for birthdays or events as we usually eat/prepare so much food for mains! So dessert has to be light!"