Ningyo Yaki: Traditional Character-Shaped Sponge Cake
The other day, I placed an order with Amazon Japan for a traditional Japanese confection and yesterday received it, and here is what I purchased this time.
Actually, 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)
Once removing the plastic wrappers, you can clearly see the outline of the face. These are a traditional Japanese confection called “Ningyo Yaki (人形焼)”.
“Ningyo (人形)” literally means “doll” in Japanese, while the suffix “Yaki (焼)” stands for the cooking method “bake”.
Ningyo Yaki vs Taiyaki
Featuring its character shape, Ningyo Yaki is a baked Castella cake filled with “Anko (餡子)” sweet Azuki red bean paste, so the dough is made mainly from hen’s egg, wheat flour, and sugar or starch syrup.
Meanwhile, similar to Ningyo Yaki, the traditional Japanese pancake, “Taiyaki (たい焼き)” also has an Anko filling. It can actually be made with the same ingredients as Ningyo Yaki but is definitely shaped like the red sea bream that the word “Tai (鯛)” means.
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 in recent years, Ningyo Yaki is also available in various Manga or Anime character shapes like Doraemon and Hello Kitty.
Ningyo Yaki in Asakusa, Tokyo
If you have a plan to visit Asakusa in Tokyo for sightseeing and stop by “Sensoji (浅草寺)”, the oldest temple in Tokyo, you will see some shops in the precincts baking Ningyo Yaki.
Actually, Ningyo Yaki is known as one of the specialty foods of Asakusa, together with “Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし)“.
Where to Buy Ningyo Yaki in Tokyo
Since Ningyo Yaki originated in Ningyo-Cho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, the character-shaped sponge cake is one of the traditional sweets that Tokyo prides itself on.
Therefore, you can find Ningyo Yaki in various places in Tokyo like souvenir shops in train stations.