Friday, November 12, 2010
This pair of tables looks good enough to eat. Eve spotted them -- giant slabs of Castella cake realized in lacquered wood -- the other day when we visited Gallery Do's Design Tide spin-off exhibit. At first I thought the tables resembled Japanese puring aka custardy pudding. Nothing to get excited about in my book. But when I realized they are Castella cake my mouth began to water. Perfectly proportioned, the tables are a little darker than the real thing but the caramelized yellow color sandwiched between top and bottom layers of brown is actually more appealing than the cake's normal hue.
The tables are the product of a young designer who hails from Nagasaki. He also made the little model boat sitting on top. The boat is a bit finky and detracts from the main event. That said, I certainly appreciate his hometown pride.
There used to be an ancient Castella store in Azabu Juban. Dimly lit, the shop sold only Castella but in a wide variety of shapes and styles, most displayed in their old-fashioned, glass-fronted cases. Though Abby was quite fond of their big seller, a light spongy cake that the proprietor cut from a big slab, it never really floated my boat. Simply put, the cake lacked definition. But during a Golden Week trip to Kyushu a few years ago, I revised my opinion.
One of our main stops was Nagasaki, the birthplace of Castella. Centuries ago Portuguese missionaries introduced the cake (and a few other things, like tempura) to Japan. During our trip we encountered many Castella speciality shops. This inspired us to do a cake rating. I was really surprised by the range -- some were definitely more palatable than others. I gave my highest mark to one with a crunchy, sugary topping. If you used your imagination, it almost evoked the essence of caramel. Though I would not go out of my way to find Castella, I have a certain fondness for the confection as I look back on that wonderful holiday.