Incredibly fluffy and light Japanese strawberry shortcake made with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. This delicate and delicious shortcake is perfect for all kinds of parties and celebrations. Traditionally made across Japan during Christmas.
Looking for an elegant and delicious cake that you can take to all celebrations? Look no further because this Japanese strawberry shortcake has it all.
Japanese Strawberry Shortcake is one of the most popular cakes in Asia, specifically Japan, Korea and China. Also known as “Japanese Christmas cake”, this delicate strawberry shortcake is simple, elegant, and delicious. Traditionally, this strawberry shortcake is served on holidays, at elegant dinners or birthday parties.
Like most Japanese baked goods, this cake is not overly sweet and is incredibly fluffy and airy. Made with layers of moist, melt-in-your-mouth vanilla sponge, creamy homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries, this cake is perfection.
One thing to remember about this strawberry sponge cake is that simplicity executed well is key. There’s no need to add extra toppings, artificial flavours, or food colouring. This cake is natural, perfectly balanced and simply wonderful.
I have put together this recipe after research into traditional Japanese recipes, countless hours of videos of Japanese chefs and many days of testing.
Why this is the best cake recipe
Most Western cakes can be quite heavy and leave you with a sugar buzz after one single slice. This cake is the exact opposite; it’s so light that you can easily go through many slices without even realising.
This Japanese strawberry shortcake is:
- Soft and moist
- Simple and elegant
- Natural and fragrant
- Fresh and juicy
- Perfect for all celebrations
- Delicate and dainty
- A showstopper on any table
- Perfectly balanced
- Not overly sweet
The Cake Components
Although this cake appears quite plain, every element of it needs to be perfect. There’s little room to hide any mistakes, so it’s important to take your time and make this cake with love and care.
The components of this Japanese strawberry shortcake work perfectly together to create a cake that’s balanced and delicious. This cake is made from layers of vanilla sponge cake, homemade whipped cream, and fresh raspberries.
A traditional Japanese strawberry sponge that needs to be moist, light and pretty much melt in your mouth. For this reason, precision is important, and you need to be as exact as possible with the sponge.
Typically, the vanilla sponge needs to be very light and not too sweet.
What makes the sponge extremely light is the meringue, which needs to be whipped well and incorporated gently. The recipe calls for very little leavening agent (baking powder), so the rise comes mostly from the eggs. This sponge is very similar to a genoise sponge, but much more delicate.
This cake relies mostly on the sweetness of the fresh strawberries, so the sponge uses very little sugar. Remember, simplicity is key.
Whipped cream is used between the sponge layers and to frost the entire cake. We use homemade whipped cream because it’s much easier to control the amount of sugar. Store-bought whipped cream can typically be overly sweet, which does not go well in this delicate cake.
Making whipped cream at home is very easy, and only takes a few minutes. The whipped cream I’ve made for this strawberry shortcake is much creamier, as it uses white chocolate and condensed milk.
Strawberries are the stars of this Japanese shortcake. I recommend using organic strawberries for maximum flavour.
We will be layering strawberry halves in between the sponge layers, so for consistency try to use similar sized strawberries.
As this Japanese strawberry cake is so simple, all ingredients need to be high-quality. I recommend going for organic ingredients and get everything as fresh as possible.
Eggs – use organic or free-range. Egg whites are the structure of our vanilla sponge, so they need to be of good quality. Always use egg at room temperature when whipping them into meringue.
Cake flour – required to make a sponge that’s lighter than air. This cake flour contains much less protein than regular flour, which makes for a softer sponge. Cake flour is also known as Type 000 flour. You cannot replace it with all purpose or self-rising flour in this recipe.
Whipping cream – use fresh whipping cream for best results. I do not recommend using commercial ready-made whipped cream or cool whip.
White chocolate – used to make the whipped cream even creamier, but also add a little structure. I recommend using a high-quality white chocolate with at least 26% cocoa solids.
Sweetened condensed milk – used to add sweetness and creaminess to the whipped cream.
Strawberries – the star ingredient in this strawberry shortcake. I recommend using fresh strawberries, preferably organic. Frozen strawberries cannot be used as they will become too soft once thawed.
How to make Japanese Christmas Cake
Before starting the recipe, ensure all the ingredients are prepared. The eggs should be left at room temperature for at least 3 hours before. Warm up the milk and melt the butter, then pre-heat the oven to 160C (325F).
- Start by whipping up the egg whites with the cream of tartar. Once the eggs start frothing, start adding in the sugar bit by bit. Only add more sugar once the previous one has been incorporated. Keep whipping the eggs until it reached medium-stiff peaks.
- Separately, whip up the egg yolks and vanilla. Once they become a bit paler, add the warm milk and whip until frothy. The yolks should be much paler in colour. Pour the melted butter in, then mix to combine.
- Add the sieved cake flour and baking powder over the egg yolks. Also add in ⅓ of the egg whites. Use a spatula to fold the flour in, without deflating too much air from the meringue. Add the remaining egg white meringue into the batter, folding it carefully.
- Divide the batter equally between two 8-inch cake pans. Gently rap the baking pans on the work surface a few times to remove any large air bubbles. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Once the sponges have finished baking, let them cool inside the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and let them cool down completely on a wire rack. If the cakes are not completely flat, you can trim them with a large kitchen knife. Before cutting the sponges, I recommend letting them chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Preparing the filling takes only a few minutes and makes a smooth, creamy and delicious whipped cream.
- Melt the white chocolate, then let it cool down to room temperature. Add the condensed milk and sugar into the mixture, then mix everything well to combine. Let the mixture cool in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
- Pour in ⅓ of the cold heavy cream, then start whipping the mixture. Add in the remaining cream, mixing as you go along. Once the cream reaches stiff peaks, stop mixing.
Assembling the cake
Before assembling, prep all three components:
- Trim the sponges if needed by using a bread knife
- Cut the strawberries into halves, then place them face down on paper towels
- Keep the whipped cream cold
Let’s start putting this cake together:
- Add whipped cream on the bottom sponge, levelling it with a spatula.
- Place a layer of strawberry halves on top, face down. Cover them with more whipped cream.
- Add the second layer of sponge cake on top, without pressing too hard.
- Coat the entire cake with whipped cream, smoothing everything out with a spatula. If two layers are needed, let the cake chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours before adding the second one.
- Add a border of strawberry slices at the bottom of the cake.
- Pipe a few dollops of whipped cream on top of the cake, then decorate with more strawberry halves. Remember to not go overboard.
- All ingredients for the sponge cake need to be at room temperature, unless otherwise indicated in the recipe
- Take your time when whipping the egg whites for the meringue. Fold the flour very gently into the meringue to preserve as much air as possible.
- Use the right size cake pans and pay attention to the oven temperature. The sponge needs to be very pale and light in colour.
- Wash and dry your strawberries. It’s important there is no extra moisture on the strawberry halves, as this can ruin the aspect of the cake. I recommend placing the strawberry halves face down on a paper towel before use.
- Let the vanilla sponge cool down completely and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hour before cutting. If you try to cut it too early, the sponge will be very crumbly.
- Use cold whipping cream for best results. Warm whipping cream will struggle to reach a firm peak stage and can appear split. Always chill the whipping cream well before use.
- Less is more. Decorations should be as natural as possible, as traditional Japanese strawberry cakes only use whipped cream and strawberries on top.
Frequently Asked Questions
Japanese strawberry shortcake needs to be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. The cake will hold for up to 3 days in the fridge, but I recommend consuming it on the same day you’ve decorated it. The strawberries will begin to wilt after 1 day, so I recommend adding them on top before serving.
I do not recommend freezing this cake. As the layers contain fresh strawberries, they will release a lot of moisture when thawed. This will make the cake much too soft and ruin the texture.
Traditionally, this cake is served in Japan on special occasions or on Christmas day. In Western cultures this cake is ideal to be served on any occasion or when strawberries are in season.
Japanese strawberry shortcake is called イチゴのショートケーキ in Japanese, which is pronounced as Ichigo no shōtokēki. This literally translates to "strawberry shortcake".
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Japanese Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
- 2 20 cm (8-inch) round cake pan
- 4 egg whites, large
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar or lemon juice
- 100 gram sugar (½ cup)
- pinch salt
- 2 egg yolks, large
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 100 gram milk, warm (⅓ cup)
- 50 gram butter, melted (¼ cup)
- 95 gram cake flour* (¾ cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 120 gram white chocolate, melted (¾ cup)
- 120 gram whipping cream, warm (½ cup)
- 20 gram sweetened condensed milk (⅛ cup)
- 40 gram icing sugar (⅓ cup)
- 400 gram whipping cream, cold (1 ⅔ cups)
- 400 gram strawberries, medium (2 cups)
- Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line the bottom of 2 x 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whip the egg white with cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Once the eggs become frothy, start adding in the sugar in a few stages. Mix until the sugar is fully dissolved, and the meringue reaches medium-stiff peaks.
- Separately, in another bowl mix the egg yolks and vanilla until they become pale and frothy. Add in the warm milk and butter, mixing again to combine.
- Sift in the cake flour and baking powder over the egg yolks. Add in ⅓ of the egg white meringue, then use a spatula to fold.
- Once this initial meringue has been incorporated, add the rest of the meringue. Fold everything together with a spatula, without deflating the air in the meringue.
- Divide the batter equally between the two pans, then rap the pans on the work surface to release any bubbles. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Once baked, let the cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely.
- Add the melted chocolate to a bowl, then pour warm heavy cream over it. Mix to combine.
- Add the condensed milk and sugar into the chocolate mixture, then mix well to combine. Let the mixture cool down completely and chill for 1 hour.
- Pour in ⅓ of the cold heavy cream into the chilled cream, then start whipping the mixture. Add in the remaining cream, mixing as you go along. Once the cream reaches stiff peaks, stop mixing.
Assembling the cake
- Cut the strawberries into halves. Place them face down on a paper towel to remove any excess liquid.
- If needed, trim the sponge cakes to level them. Place the bottom sponge cake on a cake stand, then cover it with a layer of whipped cream. Place the strawberry halves face down on the cream, then cover with more whipped cream.
- Put the top vanilla sponge on top, without pressing down too hard.
- Cover the cake with whipped cream, using a spatula to level it. If two layers are needed to cover the cake fully, chill the cake for 1 hour before applying the second layer.
- Decorate with strawberry slices and more whipped cream.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Flour - cake flour or type 000 flour yields a much softer cake. In this recipe cake flour cannot be replaced with all purpose flour.
- Strawberries - you cannot replace fresh strawberries with frozen.
- Storing - store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Decorate with fresh fruit before serving.
Lisa Kerhin says
Stunning cake and I love the tips and research that went into making this cake
This looks so light and fluffy! The strawberry decor is lovely!
Beautiful cake. Those strawberries make it over the top.
This cake was so light and airy! It had a spongey texture and was so moist! I loved making the whipped cream from scratch, it was the perfect addition to this cake.
Dorothy Reinhold says
I love how light and airy this cake is. It is gorgeous too!
I prefer my cakes to be less dense and cloying, so Japanese cakes are perfect. This cake is absolutely gorgeous!
Your step by step photos are so helpful and the cake looks absolutely gorgeous!
Jessica Formicola says
This is the most beautiful strawberry cheesecake I've ever seen! I can't wait to make this soon!
Lynden Milner says
I got gifted so many strawberries from my client and I got to put them to good use with this recipe. I have tried making sponge cake before but they all came out a bit dense. Your recipe is amazing because I don't think I have EVER tasted a sponge cake this fluffy and light and pairing it with strawberries is just topnotch. My family ate the whole cake and my dad who usually is not a dessert person had two slices!!!
Rae Noe says
Hands down the fluffiest most decadent cake I have ever tasted. Fruity cakes have always been my fav and this recipe is just out of this world. So so easy to follow the instruction and when I couldn’t figure out something I’d just look at the photos, I’m a visual learner so they helped a lot. Totally a 5 stars recipe!!!
I used this sponge cake with a thin layer of strawberry jam, lots of freshly picked strawberries and regular whipped cream (didn’t add white chocolate, etc) in the middle of two layers with sweetened whipped cream on top and we loved it. The sponge recipe was perfect.
Hanelore Dumitrache says
Hi Sarah, that sounds absolutely delicious! I'm so glad you enjoyed the sponge recipe, and thank you so much for your feedback!
Pat K says
Made this for my Japanese boyfriend and he said it tasted so similar to the ones in Japan he loved it!! Will definitely make it again, thanks for sharing the recipe
Made this cake 3 times already and every time it's a hit!!!
demi aristidou says
Can you make the sponge the night before and if so, do you store it at room temp? 🙂
Hanelore Dumitrache says
Hi Demi, yes you can absolutely make it the night before. You can store it either at room temperature or in the fridge. I recommend storing it in the fridge because it helps the flavours mature a bit and it's also easier to cut without ripping the sponge (for example if it bakes unevenly and you need to level it a bit). After baking make sure you cool down the cake completely, then cover it in plastic wrap. I hope this helps! Han ^-^