Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Jap Cakes



When I was a child, my favourite treat from the bakery in the centre of our village was a Jap cake. They were a kind of cylinder shape, made of a chewy meringue, with nuts stuck around the sides, a chocolate button and something green - which I think was a tiny piece of pistachio - on the top. I haven't seen them for years, and have found that most people have never even heard of them, to the extent that I was almost wondering if I had imagined it! But when the letter for this month's Alphabakes turned out to be J, I knew I had to try to recreate the Jap cakes I loved as a child.


This website gives a good description: it says '"Jap cakes' are made from egg whites, corn flour and ground almonds and may also be known as 'jap biscuits'. Though once more widely eaten their popularity seems now to be confined to Scotland." Any Scots out there who can confirm that?

I have no idea why they are called Jap cakes and whether it is a reference to something Japanese (in which case if it is, I hope the abbreviation isn't offensive)... most people seem equally in the dark, as when I was searching on Google I mainly found websites where people had posted a question along the lines of "Does anyone remember Jap cakes, and know where I can find a recipe?" It does seem that they have fallen out of favour somewhat and I wonder why, as they are delicious!

Eventually I found this recipe and set about making them.
This quantity only made me two cakes so scale up the quantities if you need to.
You need:
2 egg whites
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz ground almonds
a few drops of almond essence
a small quantity of buttercream (made the usual way from butter and icing sugar), which the recipe suggests to flavour with coffee but you can do this according to taste, plain vanilla works fine as well.

I began by whisking the egg whites until stiff then whisking in half the sugar.


Fold in the ground almonds, almond essence and rest of the sugar.


The resulting mixture will look quite grainy


Spread in a layer about 1-2cm thick on a greased and lined baking tray. Bake at about 180C for around 10-15 minutes - the recipe just says "bake until almost set" without saying how long that should take, so do keep an eye on them.


Not sure if it is meant to look like this or if mine is overcooked! Tasted nice anyway...


Use a circle cutter to cut out rounds. I only got four out of this. The recipe I used said to return the cakes and the trimmings to the oven until firm but I felt mine were already cooked enough.


The recipe I used also tells you to crush up the trimmings, pass them through a sieve and use them to coat the cakes. I'm sure I remember the ones I ate as a child were coated in nuts though, so I wanted to try this instead.

I sandwiched two of the cakes together with buttercream and spread buttercream around the sides.


I coated the cakes in chopped mixed nuts. They do look a bit messy, don't they!


The recipe I was using suggests decorating the top of the cake with pink glace icing, but I definitely remember the ones I ate from Reeves the Baker having a chocolate button and something green on top. I didn't have any chocolate buttons in the cupboard so used a blog of chocolate fudge icing, with a pistachio nut on top. These definitely look like the ones I remember, and they tasted pretty similar too!


I'd love to know if other people remember eating this and have ever tried making them!

I am sending this to Alphabakes, which I am hosting this month (it's Ros's turn next month) as the letter we have chosen is J.


As I've discovered from the comments below this type of cake appears to be based on a Japanese meringue, I am sending it to Bloggers Around The World, as the theme this month is Japan.


59 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Jap cakes but I'm intrigued. I think you did a great job re creating this - excellent entry for AlphaBakes!

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  2. I remember these as a child from a bakery in Chester called P&A Davies, I thought,however, that they were chopped hazelnuts and the meringue had a vague coffee flavour....Could be wrong though?

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    1. You might be right, though I don't like coffee flavour so it couldn't have been that strong... I used whatever nuts I had but I'm quite hazy on the details. I think the bakery in my parents' home town actually still sells them though so I might have to have one next time I'm there!

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  3. WOW....at long last I think my search could be over. I've been looking for the recipe for Jap's for quite a while. The ones I remember were totally covered in chocolate and were made by 'Wild's' the bakers with shops in Bingley, Keighley, Skipton etc, but unfortunately they don't make them anymore and haven't done for years, shame as they were absolutely delicious little things, The make up was something like......two rounds of a meringue type biscuit, about three inches in diameter and half an inch thick or maybe slightly less, with a soft'ish creamy filling holding the two rounds together then totally covered in milk chocolate and they had a coffee!/almond type flavour!. Anyway I'll try this recipe and see how I get on, it sounds as though this is the closest I've been though. Thank you. Keith.

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    1. Glad to be of help! Someone did comment that they thought Jap cakes had a coffee flavour and I think they may have been right... maybe you can try the recipe with a hint of coffee flavour as well and let me know how it turns out!
      I'm going to my hometown in a couple of weeks for Mothers Day and you've reminded me, I want to see if the bakery there still sells Jap cakes!

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    2. Thanks Caroline I'll try that and I'll certainly get back to you on this one. I usually take pic's of my efforts for reference later, so maybe able to send one when done.
      I telephoned Wild's bakers who are apparently now known as 'Grandma Wilds' in Steeton nr Keighley West Yorks but no one knew about the recipe they used to make them from, mind you it is years ago since they did them. Funny that though....thought all bakers would keep their recipes....maybe they do but don't want us to know! Trade Secrets eh!!

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  4. P.S. 'Jap's'.....To the first comment I made above re; the Soft'ish creamy filling, I remember so well, was light beige in colour so could have had a coffee essence added although certainly not overpowering by any means. Oh, and they were just known as Jap's.

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  5. I was brought up in the london suburb of Ealing Common.1940/50's{once called "the queen of the suburbs" I hate to think what its like or called today!!! just up the road from my parents house was a bakery called"Pauls" They sold a lovely cake /Pastry with a hazelnut filling built up in layers called a "JAP"They were round in shape. My mother used to buy them as a very special treat.They were out of this world.Today, In Hobart, Tasmania I went into a famous bakery/cafe called "daci daci" established in the 1800's and looking into a glass refrigerated display case and spotted what looked like a "jap" so ordered one,and yes,texture flavour twice the size, rectangular it was a "Jap". The name they gave it was Hazelnut "dacquoise." look in google it seems to have originated in France.I certainly just couldn't believe it. I will be back for more next week. kind regards Hugh Dickinson. Hobart. Tasmania.ps. if you want a photo let me know.at...... speirs@tasmanet.com.au or look up daci daci hobart.

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    1. Oh my goodness Hugh, I think you've solved the mystery! I'd never heard of a dacquoise so I looked it up, and it does sound very much like a 'jap' cake! And then I continued looking on google and found people discussing the differences between a dacquoise and a japonaise meringue - this is obviously where the name 'jap cake' comes from! Finally I know what it is that I loved to eat all those years ago!

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  6. A bakery in Otley , West Yorkshire, bakes Japs and they are utterly delicious! Can't remember the name of the bakery but find Boots the chemist and, stand facing the store, it's the bakers on your right. They sell two types of Japs and my favourite is the round one - it's chewy, almondy, and downright lovely! I think it's worth a trip to Otley for this elusive treat as I've not found anyone anywhere else who makes them.

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  7. Sorry, need to edit my comment - it's the bakers on the left side of Boots as you look at the store. Don't want to send you all rushing to the wrong bakers.

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  8. Yes - real. Can get these still from Burgers in Marlow, Bucks. Almost identical to your description but no green bit on the chocolate drop on top. Creamy sort of praline flavour coating/filling and two crumbly meringue-like discs inside, coated in nutty bits with the choc spot on top. Delicious.

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  9. Hey Pat, it's good to know that and thank you for the info. I'll have a drive over to Otley in the very near future and take a look....of course I shall buy at least one to see how they compare to how I remember Jap's from Wild's when they made them. Will report back soon.

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  10. Re; my comment above, a quick phone call after looking up on the web I found the bakers shop Pat (above) was talking about. They are...A Teale & Son Ltd at 26 Kirkgate, Otley who do indeed make small cakes called 'Japs. There are two shapes to choose from, a long one at 85p and a round one at 90p. They also have another shop in Manor Square, Otley. I shall now have to make that trip to sample them, thank goodness I don't live too far from there.

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  11. From the sounds of it they must be good, messy looking or not. Actually, I don't find they are so messy looking. The look rather wants me to have one now ...

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  12. Further to my comments made earlier in the month, I have now had time to check out the 'Japs' from the shop in Otley, West Yorkshire I mentioned above. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the oval type shape of Jap insomuch as it just didn't seem to give the ultimate satisfaction that the round one did, I think this had more to do with the thin shape and of not being able to hold as much of the creamy filling even though it is made of the same ingredients. However the round Jap exceeded all my expectations in most every detail, the texture and chewiness of the meringue along with the absolutely delicious creamy filling made this an experience to savoir without exception and took me back many years remembering the excellent taste and flavour these small cakes have. Although not covered completely in chocolate as I remember them from a different bakery in days gone by as these were decorated with squiggly chocolate lines for appearance, they are still in my opinion one of the most delicious, indulgent cake treats anyone can experience.

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  13. You're making my mouth water now Keith! I'm going to visit my parents next weekend and will have to see if the bakery there still makes them!

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  14. Try the baker down by the sea front in Swanage. Delicious

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  15. I do have some excellent photographs of the 'Japs' I'm talking about above if anyone is interested.

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  16. To try a chocolate coated Jap then Bothams of Whitby is the place to be. They have shops in a few places around the north east too and area really old fashioned bakery with lots of traditional treats.

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  17. Bought a jap cake only yesterday from Mohr bakery in Callander, Scotland. Not seen/eaten one since late sixties (Pearce's bakery, Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire).
    All these years later, was just as I remembered it.

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  18. My mum used to but them for me 55 years ago from a Jewish bakery in Didsbury Manchester! They were my absolute favourites and a child! I found a bakery in Whiston Merseyside that sold them a few years ago but not quite as I remember them from years ago. I think they had a slight coffee flavour and definitely rolled in hazelnuts round the outside....will try and make some, just for nostalgic purposes you understand! Chrissy

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  19. I discovered these while living in Inverness but on moving to Edinburgh could not find them anywhere and no one seemed to have heard of them! I can only ever find them in the north of Scotland and have to stock up when ever I'm in the area! Absolutly beautiful cakes! :) Becca

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  20. Plentiful supply available at J.B. Christie, Airdrie and Coatbridge!

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  21. Hi i work in a bakers named bradfords, there are 14 shops dotted around Glasgow & East Renfrewshire. We sell these & we call them jap fancies we also stock fresh cream jap meringues. They are delish! If looking for one near you there is a website www.bradfords.co.uk to find out shop locations.

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    1. Regret to say this BBC report suggests Bradfords is no more ...
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-23287517

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  22. I have finished eating a hazelnut one I got from Slattery in Manchester today.
    My mum would buy these every now and then as a treat when we were kids, I'm going to try this recipe as my husband and the friends we went to Slattery with have never heard of them.
    Thanks for sharing

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  23. The very best Japp Biscuits (I believe that's what we called them) were made by Muir the Baker on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. They were, and are my favourite dessert. Unfortunately I can't find then in NYC. However, after reading this page, searched for and found my Mum's recipe.
    Excuse me while try a wee bit baking.

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  24. Hi! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.. I made this yesterday for my mother on her birthday and she loved it! She remembered jap cakes from her childhood, they were her mother's (my grandmother's) favourite! They came out perfectly! :)

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  25. Sat here reading this as my daughter is eating a Jap she bought from Thurlwells Bakery Yorkshire St. in the West End of Morecambe, and says it is delicious!

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  26. I know of 3 places that do Japs ... in increasing order of deliciousness IMO:
    A baker in Peebles, name unknown
    A baker in Beauly, name unknown
    The Tobermory Bakery, Isle of Mull. Fantastic!

    Oh! for the days when you could get them all over west Lancashire, (The Latern Cafe, Ansdell), and the Lake District. But then Greggs bought out Birketts, and Japps were no more. Even Mysons of Keswick stopped too.

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  27. there's a confectioners shop in cleveleys.on the main shopping street called,"family bakery".it used to be called,"neilds".they still sell,"japs".coffee ones and chocolate ones.the coffee ones are the nicest.lovely!!!

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  28. You can buy Jap Fancies from Valerie Patisserie in the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds, as far as I know it is the only shop in the chain that sells them and they get them in stock on Thursdays and Fridays - well worth the trip, they are delicious (guess that's why I only go shopping there after Thursday)

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  29. Loved them from Smith s bakers Turriff.Sadly no longer there.

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  30. Available from Reeves the Bakers in Salisbury at £1 each.

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    1. I know, and also the Wilton branch! That's where I had them when I was growing up :-)

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  31. I used to get these from a bakers in Preston, Lancashire when I was growing up. Now I live in Wales and was very excited when I discovered they sell them at Queen's Bakery in Cardigan. I think if I was on death row, I would choose chocolate japs as my last meal.

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  32. Cooplands, a chain of bakers with stores across Yorkshire also sells them. Cooplands took over the Ainsley's chain when they went into receivership a few years ago, so they have quite a few branches now.

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  33. Betty's have also now started stocking them: a delicious chocolate and cherry combination - though possible just a festive line. I remember Japs from my childhood. We had a bakery so there was a steady supply, particularly on a saturday evening after closing for the weekend. My Dad also used Jap when he was constructing complex torten gateau; I vividly remember some of the more exotic flavours in the creams he used to build the layers; passion fruit and lemon stand out.

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  34. Betty's have some Jap fancies in at present - delicious chocolate and cherry, though possibly just a festive line. I remember Jap with much pleasure; we used to have a bakery and so there was a steady supply, particularly after the shop closed on a saturday evening. Dad also used Jap a lot when he was building complex torte gateau; I remember some exotic flavouring - passion fruit, and lemon, in the creams used to build the complex layers.

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  35. I can't believe I've found all these comments about the elusive cake of my dreams! My aunt lived in Wallsend, Newcastle and bought them whenever I visited as a treat. I think she bought them from Gregg's & we called them 'nutty japs'. Hazelnuts on the outside - delicious!,,

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  36. Anne - from Cornwall23 February 2014 at 15:50

    I have also been looking for this recipe for a very long time...... I remember these
    from Fullers coffee shop in New George St. Plymouth; also a bakery in St. Austall
    I remember them as Japs. looked similar to french macarons but thicker, & more
    flaky, tasted of hazelnuts and tiny dots of chocolate & rolled in pieces of nuts.
    not as sweet as french macarons... must try this recipe ...thanks Anne

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  37. I remember them from the early '60's in East Grinstead - Sussex. Definiteley at the cafe below the Whitehall. Also think some bakeries used to make them. The green on top was angelica.

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  38. Hi there is a baker in Salisbury just by the town hall, and it has another branch in blandford Dorset, they make excellent jap cakes, I'm sure they have a very light coffee flavour. I will post pics if u like next time I get one.

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    1. Indeed - Reeve's the baker! There's one in Wilton as well, which is where I grew up - that's where I discovered Jap cakes!

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  39. I looked for a jap recipe and found this. thank you. I buy jap fancies from Hoffmans in Wakefield every week. They are chewy and slightly almond in flavour cream in them and coated with I think toasted coconut. Absolutely delicious

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  40. I was looking for an alternative method for Jap cakes and came across this website. My mother-in-law passed the recipe on to me many years ago and the cakes are a favourite with my family.
    The trimmings are returned to the oven until crisp, crushed and used to roll the cakes in after covering in flavoured butter icing - any left overs are fantastic on ice cream!
    However, Jap cakes are on sale in my local bakers - Merry Miller, Goring Road Worthing - coffee flavour butter icing or chocolate.

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  41. Yes I remember Japs and have been looking for the recipe. Will try it. Thank you

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  42. Fantastic! Yes, I remember these as a lovely treat growing up in Bristol in the 50s and 60s. I know that coffee was my favourite, but they also sold chocolate ones which were pretty good too (possibly chocolate cream). Chewy and delicious! It's one of those things that's imprinted on the memory, clearly like many on here, and I've looked over the years for them. Now living way down south, I don't know about buying them any more, but I'm certainly going to have a bash at baking!

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  43. These certainly sparked a conversation Caroline. Thanks for entering them into Treat Petite!

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  44. I have never heard of these before, but I am very curious to try one and see what they taste like! I love how much conversation you have generated from this recipe, such a perfect entry for this month's Treat Petite theme.

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  45. You can substitute the ground almonds in your recipe for ground hazelnuts and you will have real japs in the original recipe sense. Dessicated coconut works too although a little pinch of bicarb helps that one to work, and you would call them coconut japs. The bakery where I worked used silicone rubber mats to make japs. 30 x 18" sheet tins were covered with silicone paper, the rubber mat with interlocked oval holes was placed on top. The jap mix was then poured on and spread out with a celluloid scraper to fill all of the holes, the excess scraped off and returned to the mixing bowl. Get a colleague to hold the paper down and 'peal off' the rubber mould and you have tray full japs ready to bake.We made ours thin so three layers and two of butter cream. Yum!!

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  46. It's about 56years that I used to buy these "Japs" in a cake shop a couple of doors up from where I worked, I couldn't wait for teabreak to come I'd go up to the shop and quite often buy a coffee and a chocolate one, it's a taste you never forget, I think they tasted mainly of hazlenuts. The shop was Crisps cakes in Farnham Surrey so I think you could get them pretty much all over the UK. I'm always up for trying a new recipe and one day will manage to relive that beautiful taste again.

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  47. Truffles bakery in Sussex does them and they are fab! They use ground hazelnuts in their recipe (almost like a hazelnut macaron) and vary what flavours they do, chocolate, caramel, coffee etc.

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  48. Selfriges in Trafford centre Manchester have them Whoopee

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  49. I can't believe I have finally found the cake of my young dreams, I couldn't remember its name and finally discovered them a the Trafford centre in Manchester, Selfridges today. The one and only 'JAP' biscuits, I am in heaven :)

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  50. I've always loved jap cakes, and the only place I know in England to buy them is in Cliftonville , near Margate, in Kent. A café on Northdown Road called Bachelors Patisserie. The owner/baker makes all the bakes in the café, and everything is delicious. His jap cakes are wonderful.

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  51. You can still get them in N Ireland and in Northumberland sometimes.

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  52. You can buy a 'meringue ' cake from Cooplands bakery which is based in Doncaster but have shops, Leeds, Barnsley etc... it seems to be like the chocolate japs i had as a teenager, ( they were froma local bakery ) I don't live near a Cooplands but where theres a Jap theres a way !!!!

    http://cooplands.co.uk/meringue-gateau.html

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