Mizu shingen mochi, the so-called Japanese raindrop cake, took Japan by storm in 2014, but its path to celebrity in the U.S. took off only two years later, when Chef Darren Wong brought it from Japan to debut at the Brooklyn Smorgarsburg.
The calorie-free peace of heaven sold out and went viral. Its wobbly, see-through texture still sparks people’s imaginations thanks to all the dazzling variations on the dessert that still circulate the internet.
This round-shaped gelatin dessert was originally served with kinako (roasted soybean powder) and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) on a takeaway boat plate. The roasted, peanut-y flavor on one hand and the sweet, intense taste of the syrup on the other hand, combined with the refreshing quality of the Japanese raindrop cake, makes for a killer summertime dessert. Yet, the most alluring features of this sweet are no doubt its texture and surreal appearance.
It slightly depends on the recipe, but in general, raindrop cakes are less thick than jelly and melt in the mouth quite quickly. Defining the taste is also a challenge and the most common attempt to explain it is “water-like.” Like a droplet of dew, it may not be satiating, but what a dreamy experience!
The unique, transparent look of the Japanese raindrop cake gives creative chefs and amateurs alike plenty to play with, making this delicacy an exciting form of jelly art. The fame it gained abroad seems to have added fuel to the fire of mizu shingen mochi in its country of origin, as the spread of the English nickname “raindrop cake” (reindoroppu ke-ki by the Japanese spelling) seems to point out.
The results of playing with this gelatin dessert bring refined, innovative, and eccentric beauty to the culinary world. From dry petals which open and create 3D patterns in the center of the raindrop cake, to puffy and jiggling drops laid on tangerine halves, reflecting and enhancing the bright orange light, this is the most Instagrammable dessert.
To the joy of home cooks, the basics of making a raindrop cake are quite simple: you just need mineral water, agar-agar, and sugar.
Slowly stir 500 milliliters of water in a mix of sugar (two tablespoons) and agar-agar powder (12-16 grams), then cook till it reaches the boiling point and let it cool.
You also need to get yourself a raindrop-cake mold, or a mold of any shape you might like and judge viable and fun, and pour your mixture into it. Refrigerate for two hours and get ready to dig in your crystal-clear success.
Differentiation points are the type of agar-agar and the relative percentage of each mixing element, determining the firmness and clarity levels of your lovely droplet. Agar-agar is a seaweed-based jelly powder and therefore the Japanese raindrop cake is also completely dairy-free and, like wagashi and mochi, it is among several vegan-friendly Japanese desserts!
Check out these 4 shops in Japan to try the Instagram-worthy mizu shingen mochi for yourself!
Home to the original mizu shingen mochi, Kinseiken Daigahara first opened in 1902 and still maintains its traditional facade with deep-black wood finishes. Using the top-quality freshwater of Shirasu City, they create extremely clear, tiny, and precious raindrops, traditionally served with Japanese kinako and kuromitsu.
The availability of this dessert is limited to weekends from June to September and visitors come each year to line up in front of the shop and experience the sensation of eating water. If you are in Yamanashi Prefecture, make sure to dig into this piece of fine art, said to have a 30-minute lifespan, because of its extremely fragile texture.
To provision for the increase of yearly expected visitors, they opened a new branch in 2018 where you can get your Japanese raindrop cake fix.
Of course, buzzing Tokyo couldn’t be left out of this magical obsession. At Mikan Club, a fancy, yet cozy cafe in Shibuya, they serve what's called an “angel’s tear.” This drop from heaven is served on a cloud-shaped white plate dusted with a generous heap of kinako and a splash of brown sugar syrup. It’s a bit more firm than the original, sliding away from your spoon, but has a charming, glowy, irresistible surface worth the price.
Keep in mind that there is a limited number of sweets available each day.
Kyoto has got its own version, too, at Hard Rock Cafe, a funky option filled with floating sugary colorful little stars as if it were a piece of the sky. The Japanese raindrop cake is served as a special dessert with black Tamba soybeans, kinako, and a scoop of matcha syrup-topped vanilla ice cream. And a visit to a Hard Rock Cafe with sliding paper windows and nōren (Japanese curtains) is a unique experience, to boot! Whether you are a fan of the Hard Rock Cafe or not, it’s worth a stop.
Don't miss out on this intriguing trend in Hokkaido, the land of gigantic crabs and the freshest seafood. Sapporo Sarou Chapu is a cafe that can offer you a limited edition raindrop cake experience for the summer.
The cozy atmosphere of this cafe is the perfect spot to unwind and fully enjoy the simple beauty of a raindrop cake laying on a bright green bamboo leaf with kinako and kuromitsu on the side.The store actually specializes in Chinese tea, so why don’t you take the chance to explore and indulge in some energy-restoring cold tea or take a look at the colorful pottery display on the shelves.
Mizu shingen mochi, the Japanese raindrop cake, keeps captivating people’s minds with its whimsical and cute nature. In Japan, it is renowned as a summertime Japanese dessert, and you’re likely to accidentally bump into some of its variations during a sweaty day of strolling around Tokyo. But whether you decide to make it yourself or take advantage of one of the above-mentioned shops during this season, treat yourself with some heavenly raindrop cake.
See our Beginner's Guide to Mochi for an overview of Japan's other cute and tasty mochi varieties.