Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kyoro-chan Cake (Milk)

Back when I was a kid in Pennsylvania, one of my aunts used to make "whoopie pies". For those who are uninitiated in the delights of the whoopie pie, it is generally regarded as a Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) concoction and is very tasty, particularly to children. The filling is particularly yummy.

I haven't seen or eaten a whoopie pie in decades, but one immediately came to mind when I saw this box of Kyroro-chan (キョロチャん) Cakes (milk flavor). Kyoro-chan, by the way, is famous in Japan as a mascot for a candy called "choco balls". Choco-balls are tiny little fried peanuts covered in glossy milk chocolate and Kyroro-chan is designed after the shape of a peanut with a weird beak attached to it, hence the shape of the ugly bird on the box.

Not content to only attach his visage to small boxes of chocolate-covered peanuts, Kyoro-chan has been branching out and now his image is pasted on various sorts of candies of a similar size and shape to the original choco-ball. The only difference is that the body design changes to match the product. The reason he's looks like the unfortunate offspring of some odd coupling with a toucan and a holstein on this box is that the cakes are "milk" flavored and milk comes from cows.

With images of whoopie pies dancing in my head, I decided to take the plunge and buy this box of cakes. However, I know from experience that any product you buy in Japan that resembles an old home favorite is never going to live up to expectations. Hope springs eternal, however.

Click for a detailed image showing texture.

Six cakes come individually-wrapped in a cow-spotted package. This type of wasteful but very convenient packaging is very common in Japan. I can't remember what I paid for the box but it was around $2-$2.50 (200-260 yen). The cakes are very small, about 1.5 times the diameter of an Oreo cookie. They are exceptionally soft and have a good cream filling to cake ratio, though the filling is not nearly as generous near the edges as the box illustration makes it appear.

The filling is actually pretty good. It's very light without being airy though it has little taste of its own. It could definitely use a spot of vanilla, but it came close to approximating a whoopie pie's filling. One of the reasons for this is that the third ingredient for these cakes is "shortening" and whoopie pie filling has a lot of vegetable shortening in it. Unfortunately, that makes these cakes immensely fatty. One tiny cake is 140 calories.

What they aren't is incredibly sweet (sugar is the fifth ingredient, though I believe "sweet water/sugar water" is the second one). This is a good thing in some ways, but it also makes for a relatively flat taste experience. Cocoa is so far down on the list of ingredients at number 8 that you know that there isn't much chocolate in there. The cake portion has very little flavor and provides little contrast to the filling either as a deeper flavor or as a different texture. So, the super soft cookie plus soft filling with no deep flavors make it pretty disappointing.

I certainly wouldn't buy these again. It's not that they're bad, but just that they are really loaded with fat and high in calories for the portion size so that the pleasure to nutritional "badness" ration makes them not worthwhile.

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