Japan takes its cakes seriously, combining French pastry technique with lighter sweetness, seasonal fruits and sometimes Asian flavours. We check out six of Shanghai's best Japanese cake shops.
This beautiful shop is like a little slice of Japan fallen out of the sky, right into Gubei. A chandelier hangs over the entry and chrome trays display the cakes available. The glass counter is filled with exquisite pastry art from the open kitchen, led by a Japanese pastry master. The bright red heart-shaped Coeur de Bois (30RMB) hides an interior of stunning raspberry coulis, while a Bande aux Fruits (28RMB) slice is heaped with shining berries, kiwi, orange and banana.
The house speciality is La Venus (46RMB), a complex masterpiece with layers of chocolate and custard studded with berries and crunchy chips, all encased in dark crimson cocoa powder. It's outrageously good, as is the Neo Anana (28RMB), a pineapple and meringue tart with a burnt sugar top. Cakes can be ordered in sizes from 15-48cm, running from 125RMB-1,068RMB. If you get cakes to go, the friendly staff will pack your treasures in elegant blue and white boxes and glue them to the base so that they won't get ruined on the way. This might just be the best cake shop in town.See Chez Shibata address details
This little shop (there's another branch in Tokyo) does one thing alone: adorable pastries shaped like sea bream fish and filled with everything from red bean paste to chocolate to bacon and cheese. Taiyaki were invented in the early 1900s in Japan and have become a ubiquitous snack in shops across Japan. It's said they've become popular in China thanks to anime. It's fun to watch the staff pour the batter into the intricate fish-shaped moulds. The chocolate version (10RMB) is particularly tasty: the thin, crispy wafer collapses into the liquid chocolate centre to create a delicious crunchy-gooey bite.See Taiyaki address details
Mr Choi Patisserie delivers their simple but high-grade French-style cakes 24 hours a day. The shockingly black charcoal sponge roll (110RMB), with charcoal imported from Japan and a light banana cream filling is a subtle and unique dessert – but the top offering is the cheese fondue (30RMB small cup; 188RMB large cake), which is like a fluffy cloud version of a luxurious creamy cheesecake on a thin biscuit base. A variety of large cakes can be made to order, from a 6x12cm black forest gateau (100RMB) to opera cake (120RMB/6x12cm), blueberry cheesecake (198RMB/6 inches) and a giant Napoleon (880RMB/28x28cm).See Mr. Choi Patisserie address details
Though a cosy neighbourhood café rather than a cake shop per se (the 15-18RMB coffees are a steal), Japanese-owned Honey-B Coffee is a delightful destination for gorgeous fruit pies (a rare find in Shanghai) topped with fresh seasonal fruits, which are mouth-wateringly displayed at the counter. From blueberry and raspberry (35RMB) to peach (topped with loads of juicy fresh peach, 27RMB) and chocolate and banana (35RMB), the generous slices are fresh, tart with ripe fruit flavours and notably light in texture. They're all baked in fluted buttery shortbread pie crusts.
The chocolate and banana pie is a highlight, with cloudy-light sponge, fresh banana and vanilla cream sprinkled with cake crumbs. There's also a charming outdoor space out the back of this understated spot; an ideal place for an afternoon on the laptop with coffee and pie.See Honey B Coffee address details
This simple cake counter is renowned for its caramel pudding (10RMB), which comes in a cup with a layer of liquid brown sugar at the bottom. The caramel mousse is simple, smooth and not too sweet, but when the spoon hits the bottom, the brown sugar liquid surges to the surface to create a delicious sweet mush. The rest of the cakes aren't up to the same standard – a beer jelly (10RMB) which looks like a pint (complete with white froth on top) is a fun idea but tastes foul, while the sponge cakes (15RMB) are bland and topped with fruit that has seen better days.See Sakaeya address details