On the outskirts of Furano City just before the string of ski resorts that dot the hilly landscape to the West, there is a small very terribly popular bakery-cafe that sits atop a slope. It looks like a small alpine lodge out of Heidi, and as you can imagine, is immensely charming. In the summer you can look out the big glass windows to the lavender terraces that surround the building, or even take a walk around the small garden, but it being winter there was nothing much to see but snow, and more snow.
With little of interest outside, the cafe interior seemed even more cheery, and the cakes were very rightly given our undivided attention. We ended up visiting Furano Delice twice in as many days, because I couldn't stop thinking about the cakes. None of us were remotely into skiing, so why not spend our free time sampling some of Hokkaido's wonderful fresh produce?
Furano Delice prides itself on the freshness of the ingredients used in its bakery, hence most of what goes into the dainty little cakes and pastries comes from Hokkaido itself, especially the milk used in its famous Furano Milk Pudding, which is locally sourced. The milk pudding is the most popular item produced by the bakery, which makes as many as 10, 000 bottles of the stuff a day. The pudding is made of milk, fresh Furano eggs, sugar and vanilla, and because it contains absolutely no preservatives, it has to be consumed within five days of manufacture.
Usually the pudding comes in a simple clear glass bottle with 'FURANO MILK PUDDING' printed on it in teal, but it being Christmas season, the bottle my pudding came in was decidedly more festive. 'FROM FURANO DELICE, FOR YOUR HAPPINESS'. It was a gorgeous pudding, wonderfully silky and soft without being too overpowering, and the caramel at the bottom of the glass had just the slightest hint of burn bitterness that made the fresh milk taste stand out even more.
On both occasions, we ordered a mix of cake sets A (Pudding or Double Fromage with Cake of the Day and one drink ¥850) and B (Two cakes of your choice and one drink ¥1000). The first time around, they ran out of the Cake of the Day, which was the Chocolate Double Fromage cheesecake, so we were given the Chocolate Swiss instead. We also had a Chestnut Roll and a gleaming slice of Strawberry Tart. All the cakes were soft and the tart topped with perfect, blemish-free strawberries.
I thought the pudding was amazing, but not quite being pudding people, Ma & Da were more taken by the Double Fromage cheesecake, the second most popular item on the menu. Made with cream cheese from Hokkaido, Tokachi fresh cream and mascarpone from Betsukai, the cake consists of a foam mousse layer and a denser baked layer encased in a thin sliver of sponge. Much like the pudding, the cake must be consumed within five days of manufacture. For delivery orders, the cake they sell is 12 inches across, but in the cafe a smaller, individual serving is sold.
|Cross Section of Double Fromage - The mousse layer sits atop the baked layer|
The Double Fromage is a light, airy confection. The cheese flavour is a delicate thing that sits on your tongue alongside a hint of creaminess, and it's all too easy to inhale the whole cake and stare bewilderingly at an empty plate not a moment later.
Don't let the still and silent roads leading up to the cafe fool you - even during the usually dead hours of 3.30 to 4 pm on a weekday, the cafe is utterly packed. And in all likelihood, most of the good stuff is already gone, or very nearly so. On both occasions, we went to the store in the middle of the afternoon and ended up buying out the last of the Double Fromage cheesecakes. The cafe has a very small seating area, and chances are you'll have to hover a bit before getting a table.
Thankfully, although the queue for cakes is long and it tends to take an age for them to get round to you, most of the people in line are picking up their stuff to go, so there's less competition for seats. Just be very patient, and have a backup plan in mind in case you see the person in front of you acting like a swarm of locusts and utterly wiping out the row of cakes you were so eagerly eyeing not five seconds before.
The kitchen is located just behind the cake counter, and throughout the day you can see the patissiers hard at work. The view makes it a little less boring to be standing in line, although you do find yourself hoping rather irrationally that they'd quickly do up a new batch of the cakes you want that seems to have vanished from the counter since the last time you looked.
We did ask why there weren't more branches of Furano Delice all over, and apparently the strong desire to ensure consistency in the quality of the ingredients and baked goods trumps any wish to expand or franchise. The bakery does a nationwide delivery service within Japan though, which costs ¥700 normally but is free for orders above ¥5000. The cakes are speed-posted to ensure freshness, but they do encourage you to consume everything as quickly as possible (Which isn't terribly difficult, no.) At the back of the store there's even a big table all set up with Macs entirely devoted to allowing walk-in customers to place cake delivery orders.
For those of us who can't bring half the bakery home with us for fear of the cakes spoiling, there's always postcards! Utterly delicious looking postcards you wish were edible.
Just be careful when walking up and down the outside stairs in winter. With all the snow packing into slippery blocks of ice, it can get rather treacherous.
2156-1 Shimogoryo, Furano, Hokkaido, Japan, http://shop.le-nord.com/