Across from the Tokaichi Post Office lies a small storefront in black. Humble and unassuming, this is aube, also known by its full name: aube pâtissier shinji mori, and this isn’t your standard cake-ya, or cake shop. This is a pâtisserie worthy of the name.
Since opening its doors in March 2011, head pâtissier and Hiroshima local Shinji Mori has been creating desserts at a level of excellence unparalleled in Hiroshima, if not the entire Chugoku region and beyond. Calling them desserts doesn’t even begin to do them justice — these are petit gateaux, masterful works of refined French culinary art.
According to Mori, the name “Aube” (which means “daybreak” in French) was chosen because “it signifies the beginning of things, and I knew that this pâtisserie would be the start of a new, huge chapter in my life.” There’s also a good reason the store name is entirely in lowercase. “I wanted to convey the fact that I think of myself as someone small in as much as I’m still growing and learning as a person.”
Mori’s humility is reflected in the store’s simple interior: clean and uncluttered with walls of ivory white illuminated by soft chandelier lights. Here, the petit gateaux take center stage in a glass showcase worthy of a high-end jeweler. Housing 15 different types of petit gateaux at a time, his creations are visually stunning. Pastel pistachio greens and delicate pinks blend in with velvety dark chocolate browns, deep burgundy reds, and snowy whites in a colorful parade of gleaming mousse domes, sleek rectangles, and classic cylindrical rounds. Next to the showcase is an assortment of gateaux sec and demi-sec (traditional baked confections), such as the well-known financier, madeline, and langue de chat, as well as lesser-known French regional specialities such as gateau basque, a hearty almond-based cookie-cake hybrid filled with jam, and far breton, a dense and chewy cake laced with sticky sweet prunes.
Inspired by his mother, who used to bake and deliver cakes and breads to local kissaten coffee houses, “I knew from an early age that it was kind of inevitable that I would end up in some branch of the culinary arts,” explains Mori. As he got older, Mori was drawn specifically to French desserts. “I liked how each region in France has its own traditions and specialties, and then there’s Paris. There’s a reason it’s called the capital of the arts; you can really feel the appreciation they have for aesthetics and the art world in their desserts. It’s that balance between old and new that I’m drawn to and it inspires my work every day. French desserts have a way of pushing the boundaries of what are widely considered to be respected classical recipes, and I appreciate that.” His respect for the classics and the modern is immediately evident in his use of traditional taste pairings like pistachio and dark cherry, cassis and marron, and the more modern combinations such as milk chocolate and earl grey tea.
While these taste pairings might be standards at aube, but you’d be hard pressed to find them elsewhere in Hiroshima, where more conservative choices tend to sell. When it comes to French desserts, Tokyo seems to be where the innovative minds strive to be. When asked why he chooses to stay in Hiroshima, Mori replied, “I just really love Hiroshima, plain and simple. I was born and raised here; it’s got this quirky half-metropolis, half-countryside kind of feel to it that’s balanced just right, and I feel at home in that mix. Of course, I’ve also never lived anywhere else, so!” he laughs before continuing, “But I wanted to bring a little bit of high-class elegance to the everyday lives of people here.”
A perfect example of this is the house speciality, Chloé. A petite pastel dream of fraises des bois (wild strawberry) lighter-than-air mousse with a creamy pistachio center and matching pistachio genoise, this petit gateaux is serving Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette perfection. Tart and tangy notes of sweet strawberry and rich, nutty flavors of toasted pistachio exist in sophisticated harmony, leaving you eager for the next bite but almost sad that this one is gone. Chloé will defy every expectation you’ve ever had about mousse and mousse cakes. How it manages to be so creamy and so light and still maintain a sharp, cylindrical shape is nothing short of culinary magic.
Mori also prides himself on high-quality ingredients. You won’t find any margarine or cream substitutes here, but that’s only the beginning. Every ingredient, down to the percentage and country of origin for chocolate, is chosen specifically by Mori to suit his desserts. “You can make the same dessert with lower quality chocolate or butter and sure, it’ll look the same, but it won’t taste the same. If I don’t think it tastes good, then I don’t want it in my showcase.” The seasons also factor into his creations. Summer brings a host of tropical treats with pineapple and coconut, whereas fall features pears and marron, and winter brings a wonderful assortment of limited and unique Gateaux Noël for Christmas and Galette de Rois (a true piece of edible artistry) for New Years. Using the seasons as inspiration also means there’s always a new combination of flavors to try, and it’s another reason I keep going back.
His dedication to ingredients doesn’t stop there. Every single thing, from luscious confiture jams to mirror-like glossy chocolate glaçage, is handmade in small batches by Mori in the small kitchen behind the register to ensure that customers get the freshest taste experience possible. This dedication to quality even extends to a limit on how long petit gateaux can be left out of the fridge. “These desserts are fragile,” he explains, “and not suited for prolonged exposure to temperatures above that of a standard refrigerator, so my rule of thumb is thirty minutes because I want customers to enjoy my desserts in their best possible condition.” So if it takes more than thirty minutes for you to get home, my advice is to bring a cooler bag and some extra freezer packs you might have lying around.
You can find aube on Instagram @aube.shinjimor where he frequently posts not only about new desserts, but also about the infrequent and highly-popular in-store pastry classes, and events like the France Fair, a three-day extravaganza featuring classic French desserts rarely seen at aube such as millefeuille, pain au chocolat, and more. You can also request custom cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special occasion. Just be sure to make your reservations at least a week in advance.
Be warned, however, because aube will certainly ruin you for other cake shops. But in my opinion, life is too short to waste on anything less than the best.
aube pâtissier shinji mori
Address: Enomachi 2-23 Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
Opening hours: 10:00-20:00