Nagoya restaurant’s guiltless, gluten-free cake finds fans overseas

Chunichi Shimbun

A new vegetable dish invented by a restaurant in Nagoya is whipping up a media frenzy overseas, where it is being marketed as a sponge cake.

The Vegedeco Salad, a concoction of vegetables and tofu aimed at people on diets, has been billed on U.S. TV as the Vegetable Decoration Cake, a dessert one can eat without feeling guilty.

The cakes are catching on with weight-conscious diners who believe they embody the healthier traditions of Japanese food, such as dietary and beauty benefits.

Food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu originally created the cakes for Bistrot La porte Marsaille, a French restaurant she runs in Naka Ward.

As a housewife, she began studying food to help her diabetic husband and reverse her own deteriorating health. After a short time, she wondered whether there was a way to get as excited about eating vegetables as when eating dessert.

So she came up with the idea of making a vegetable salad with the shape and decorations of a cake. The result was the Vegedeco Salad.

The 15-cm “cake” packs 440 grams of flavored vegetables, including carrots and cabbage. The sponge is Moriyasu’s own unique creation made of soybean flour. For icing, she uses tofu cream blended with vegetables instead of real cream to create natural colors. She also uses sweet rice malt as a substitute for sugar.

The cakes are also gluten-free, which in addition to helping those with wheat allergies allows others to enjoy the same beauty and health benefits claimed for gluten-free foods.

Moriyasu has designed about 40 types of cakes since she launched sales in June 2015. In October, four new frozen cakes emerged for sale and delivery across Japan. Each is 10 cm wide and costs ¥2,800. At the Vegedeco Salad Cafe, where Moriyasu teaches cooking classes, a slice costs ¥700.

Foreign reaction to the vegetarian cakes has been astounding, and Moriyasu has received numerous inquiries from viewers of her website, which has been translated into English.

In the United States, Moriyasu has been asked to appear on ABC News and Fox News posted an article about the cakes on its website.

“You would think Japanese eating is healthy enough . . . but now, the Japanese culinary scene is set to change with the addition of cake-looking salad hybrids that look like actual works of food art,” the website article said.

A German broadcaster flew in to Japan to conduct an interview with her in October, and her cakes also received coverage from a French magazine.

One time, Moriyasu said, a foreigner came in with a clipping from an Indian newspaper she never had contact with.

While the attention is overwhelming, Moriyasu is glad because it shows that “being health-conscious is something that we share globally.”

“I hope the custom of giving someone vegetables instead of cake will spread further,” she added.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Nov. 5.