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Popular seasonal cakes shrink for smaller groups to enjoy

Dec 21,2017
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The Rainbow Cake from French bakery The Menagerie. [THE MENAGERIE]
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Small cakes are the latest trend this Christmas season. Clockwise from left are the Yolo Christmas Cake from Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas, Ornament Cakes from the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul and Mont Blanc cake from dessert cafe Unas. [GRAND INTERCONTINENTAL SEOUL PARNAS, FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL, UNAS]
Cake is often inseparable from Christmas. Even without a grand party or a table filled with plates of food, a Christmas mood can be created with just a single cake.

Cake sales at local bakery franchise Paris Baguette during the Christmas season, for illustration, are two times higher than any other time of year. Thanks to the surge in demand, a variety of cakes are available at bakeries, major retailers and even five-star hotels in December - all of them competing to make it to the tables of those celebrating the holiday.

Though they come in different shapes, designs and tastes, one commonality found among the cakes sold this Christmas season is that they have become a lot smaller in size.

The most popular type of cakes this season are around 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) in diameter, making it perfect for two to three people to enjoy.

These small-sized cakes were available in the past, but this year the number and sales of the miniature cakes have surged. Paris Baguette, for example, has released the X-Mas Shining Snowman cake this year, bringing the bakery’s number of small-sized cakes for sale from four to six this year.

Shinsegae-owned French bakery chain The Menagerie has 15 types of Christmas cakes this year. Among them, the most popular is a small Rainbow Cake.

Five-star hotels, which used to focus on grand, fancy cakes, have also taken a different approach this year. For the first time, the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas is selling three types of cake suited for one person, called the Yolo Christmas Cake.

Cakes smaller than 10 centimeters in diameter are also easy to find this year. The Four Seasons Hotel Seoul’s Ornament Cake looks like a trinket that hangs from a Christmas tree.

The trend has also become obvious in dessert cafes. Unas in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, sold standard-sized cakes last year. But this year, the cafe is only selling mini-sized cakes, like its Mont Blanc that looks like a Santa hat.

Industry insiders say the increased number of smaller cakes reflects the change in the types of households people live in throughout the country.

“The rise in the number of single household has affected the size and the design of bakery’s cakes,” said Kwon Nan-gi from Paris Baguette’s cake department.

In the past, cake was a dessert usually reserved to celebrate special occasions. Backed by the rising popularity of desserts, however, cake has become a common treat that is enjoyed while drinking coffee or tea.

“These days, cakes are used as a means to create a special mood through blowing out candles or capturing a moment in pictures, which explains the reason for the rise in demand for smaller cakes,” said food content director Kim Hye-joon.

Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas’s Grand Deli manager Yang Mong-ju similarly said, “We have seen an increase in the number of customers purchasing smaller cakes. This is because cakes are perceived not as food to fill up your stomach but as an item used to lighten up your mood.”

“People often buy Christmas cakes to take pictures, not necessarily just to eat,” said Kim Cheol-sun from Shinsegae Food. “If cakes are too big, it visually doesn’t balance well with the other dishes on the table.”

Affordable prices are another factor that make smaller cakes more attractive.

“Even if they are set at a lower price, the price of a large cake can’t go below 40,000 won ($38),” said Nam Ho-yeong, who runs Unas, noting the increased prices of eggs and butter.

BY SONG JEONG [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]