Ningyo Yaki: Traditional Sponge Cake from Tokyo
The other day, I placed an order with Amazon Japan for a traditional Japanese confection, and yesterday, I received it.
And here is what I purchased this time.
These are sponge cakes called “Ningyo Yaki (人形焼)” modeled after the faces of some characters and are famous as a Tokyo souvenir.
Ningyo Yaki (人形焼)
When removing the plastic wrapper, you can clearly see the outline of the face. These are a wagashi sweet called “Ningyo Yaki (人形焼)”.
In its name, “Ningyo (人形)” means “doll” in Japanese, while the suffix “Yaki (焼)” stands for the cooking method “bake”.
Ningyo Yaki vs. Taiyaki
So the dough is made with hen’s egg, wheat flour, and sugar or starch syrup.
Like Ningyo Yaki, the traditional Japanese pancake “Taiyaki (たい焼き)” is filled with Anko.
The cake actually can be made with the same ingredients as Ningyo Yaki, but it is definitely shaped like the red sea bream “Tai (鯛)”.
Traditionally, Ningyo Yaki is modeled after the faces of “Shichifukujin (七福神: Seven Lucky Gods)”, like these, or “Bunraku Ningyo (文楽人形: Bunraku Puppet)”.
But today, the wagashi comes in various character shapes, which include anime/manga characters like Doraemon and Hello Kitty.
Asakusa Ningyo Yaki
If you have a plan to visit Asakusa and stop by “Sensoji (浅草寺)”, the oldest temple in Tokyo, you will see some shops in the precincts baking Ningyo Yaki.
The cake is known as one of the specialties of Asakusa where it is as popular as “Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし)“.
Where to Buy in Tokyo
Originated in Ningyo-Cho, Nihonbashi, Ningyo Yaki is one of the sweets that Tokyo prides itself on.
Therefore, you can find it in various places in Tokyo, including Ningyo-Cho, Asakusa, and souvenir shops in train stations.