The raindrop cake has arguably been the star of the summer 2016 Smorgasburg lineup. Foodies now flock to Brooklyn to try this dessert that looks like a massive raindrop on a leaf. Claiming to be unique, refreshing and low calorie, it has set itself up as the next big thing in NYC (like cereal soft serve or the cronut).
I traveled to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for Smorgasburg on Sunday to discover that the raindrop cake is now only served on Saturdays in Williamsburg. Although a major bummer, I luckily found out that a cafe in St. Marks serves the same thing. We hopped back on the Q and traveled to Boka in East Village.
For five dollars a pop, the raindrop cake came out glistening in the sunny NYC weather and was ready to be photographed and devoured by four avid Instagrammers. I’ve had a lot of experience with kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) and kinako (roasted soy flour), the toppings the cake is served with, so I was curious to see how they tasted with a liquidy raindrop cake compared to a sticky ball of mochi.
To be honest, it was a major let down. Maybe it was the hype or maybe it was my familiarity with the toppings, but it didn’t feel ground-breaking like I had hoped (think ramen burger circa Smorgasburg 2014). The actual texture of the cake was similar to a very loose jelly that dissolved in your mouth, offering a slight sweetness but not much of a taste, and acted more as a vessel for the kuromitsu and kinako.
It does make you feel like a bug eating a raindrop off a leaf, but aside from being kitschy, the cake didn’t offer much of a taste. People who don’t have experience with traditional Japanese desserts may be excited by the interesting flavors of the soy powder and sweet syrup, but for people who have palettes for Asian desserts, you can’t avoid craving the familiar textural relationship between the chewy mochi and the nutty powder/sugary syrup.
Darren Wong, the creator of the raindrop cake, states on the official raindrop cake website that it was inspired by the Japanese Mizu Shingen Mochi, which it essentially is, but it’s definitely not a cake as it lacks the fluffy or chewy texture you’d expect from a baked good. As a lover of desserts, the raindrop cake even calling itself a cake feels like a lie that stabs me right in the sweet tooth. Also, the only similarity the cake has to mochi is that both are flat and circular.
You go to Smorgasburg with your dietary concerns out the window in preparation of indulging in some awesome food. The raindrop cake is interesting, but who wants to spend five dollars on something that isn’t particularly tasty and isn’t even filling? Eat those extra calories and spend that money on a The Good Batch icecream sandwich or Wowfull’s Hong Kong egg waffle (another newcomer to Smorgasburg). The raindrop cake is definitely a fun addition to the vendors list, but I’m skeptical as to how long the appeal of this dish can last.
So would I ever buy it again?