I'm surprised I'm writing this: it's a negative review of a baumkuchen shoppe!
I can't speak authoritatively about turnover rate for tree cake bakeries. However, I can say that last year I identified a baumkuchen bakery and a kürtőskalács bakery in New York City, and both have shut down. So what was left for me to visit last week? Well, Google turned up two places that claimed to do a higher-end assembly-line cake product. Supermarket style.
AN ASIDE: SUPERMARKET BAUMKUCHEN
There are actually lots and lots of places to get baumkuchen in the United States and other nations. Japanese grocery stores sell them all over the place! You can go out and buy some. You should go out and buy some! But always remember: it is nothing like the real deal! Supermarket cakes are made to have a long shelf life, and they use preservatives and emulsifiers that noticeably alter the flavor and texture. In my opinion, the supermarket flavor is usually just okay, and the texture is always a little pathetic. So that's why I don't talk about them that often on this blog anymore.
END OF ASIDE
It was very disarming to realize that the only readily available tree cakes in NYC are made in East Asia and shipped here in vacuum-sealed bags with little desiccant packets. But like I said, two places advertised cakes made in this method but promised they were of superior quality.
PLACE NUMBER ONE: MINAMOTO KITCHOAN
BAD BAD BAD. Minamoto Kitchoan is a purveyor of high-end Japanese sweets with a luxury storefront near 30 Rock, in Manhattan. They offer two varieties of baumkuchen (plain and matcha) with an eye-popping price tag: $27 for a 300g cake. I bought the matcha flavor. It was, in a word, atrocious. The ingredients listed are identical to supermarket cakes—emulsifiers, preservatives, artificial dyes, artificial flavors. The texturing agents in the batter mean there's no satisfying distinction between layers; what a waste! It was way too sweet and had the mouthfeel of neon green lard. Don't forget, it was also the most expensive tree cake I've bought so far. Until they change their recipe, STAY AWAY.
PLACE NUMBER TWO: PARIS BAGUETTE
This one was actually superior to supermarket cakes! Paris Baguette is a Korean chain of pastry shops, and their cakes are baked in Korea. In that sense it was a first for me. I have to say, the plain Paris Baguette baumkuchen was pretty good for a pastry that crossed ten time zones to reach me. The texture was closer to fresh-baked, with good layer definition! It wasn't sickly sweet, and paired well with a cup of tea. Was it worth the $15? Perhaps...
Here's hoping the NYC tree-cake scene gets better and better!