Who says cakes have to be sweet?
Sushi shops from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Atlanta, Georgia, are serving a fresh take on cake — white rice instead of white cake and raw fish instead of frosting. And these cakes have only grown in popularity since the pandemic started.
“We have a lot of customers who ordered the cake last year to make their celebrations a little more special and memorable,” Michael Narito, chef and manager at Aloha Cones in Honolulu, who has more than a decade of experience as a sushi chef in Hawaii, told TODAY Food. He makes about 25 sushi cakes a week — ranging from $90 to $120 for 9-inch cakes — and has to turn orders away because he’s so slammed.
“People love these cakes because it’s something new that a lot of people haven’t seen yet,” he said. “It’s super different than your traditional cake, and it looks and tastes great. It’s a very fun play on sushi.”
Nakato Japanese Restaurant in Atlanta requires 24-hour advance notice for its special-occasion cakes, which cost between $80 to $160 for a seven-layer cake topped with flowers made from thin slices of smoked salmon, tuna and yellowtail. The family-run restaurant started creating these cakes in 2019 and, like Aloha Cones, saw customers ordering them for COVID-19 birthdays and graduations.
“I believe people were looking to pivot and find unique and creative ways to celebrate since bigger gatherings were not happening with the pandemic,” Sachiyo Nakato Takahara, who now runs the restaurant her grandmother opened in 1972, told TODAY.
Narito started making these cakes last year when a friend asked him to make a birthday cake out of sushi for her boyfriend. She posted his creation on Instagram and Narito started getting inquires about it. His second cake — for his goddaughter — also blew up on social media and word began to spread.
“The part I enjoy the most about making these sushi cakes is seeing customers’ happy reactions when they pick up their cakes or when I hear how the cake was such a hit at their gathering,” he said. “It makes me feel really good inside knowing that the customers are happy.”
Narito uses high-quality sushi ingredients for his edible works of arts, rolling sashimi-grade ahi (yellowfin tuna) into gorgeous rosettes and placing delicate, locally grown dianthus flowers on top as decoration.
And here’s the best part: You can make these cakes at home, even if you don’t have all the tools and ingredients required for the fancier versions. You can substitute imitation crab with canned tuna and top the cake with whatever you want, from edible flowers to shrimp tempura.
Get the recipe: