World Record-breaking Baumkuchen Baking in Ujina

Richard Forrest witnessed history being made on March 17th at the 7th Hiroshima Minato (Port) Festival, when the world’s longest Baumkuchen cake was born.

More popular and beloved in Japan than in the land of its birth, the Baumkuchen – German for ‘tree-cake’ – is a hollow, cylindrical cake having layers that look remarkably like the annual growth rings of a tree.

Starting at 10:00 a.m., over one hundred volunteers painstakingly began pouring batter onto a slowly rotating stainless steel pole custom made for the occasion.

The Baumkuchen Batter Brigade – battling for glory and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The preparations of the dedicated organizing committee had finally come to fruition.

The dignitaries had all assembled, including Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. He explained to the assembled throng just how it was that baumkuchen – “the king of cakes” – first came to Japan’s shores, precisely 100 years ago. It was all thanks to one German confectioner, Karl Juchheim, held as a prisoner of war on Ninoshima Island, just south of Ujina Port. His baumkuchen turned out to be a hit with the locals, and was first commercially marketed at the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (the iconic building that now endures as a symbol of the city, the Atomic Bomb Dome building).

The batter was heated over a long pit filled with lots and lots and lots of hot charcoal.

The team of volunteers took turns to bake the resulting 14-layer ring cake, a process that took two hours.

And when it was done, the “Complete!” sign was held up for all to see.

. . . Now all that remained was the formal and thoroughgoing inspection by the official Guinness Book examiner, who measured the dimensions of the incredible cake, even cutting off some samples to confirm that indeed it was a properly cooked confection worthy of its name. . .

What would be her verdict? The enthralled crowd held its collective breath. . .

For it was indeed very, very long – but would it surpass the previous record of 17.44 meters?

Victory! There were smiles all around when the pronouncement was handed down and a formal certificate was presented to proclaim – to the world! – that this 100th anniversary masterpiece was no less than 20.87 meters in length – and hence none other than the official World’s Longest Baumkuchen!!!

The exhausted but elated volunteer bakers took turns to get a photo of themselves with the Guinness certificate.

And, like all the rest of the astonished and awed onlookers – well, I just had to have my own slice of greatness. . .

Baumkuchen it was; it could not be denied.

I could clearly see the many delicate layers, oh-so remarkably like tree-rings, justifying its name and fame.

And. . . By golly, I found it to be tasty.

It tasted like a darn good Japanese baumkuchen. But something more . . .

It tasted like victory.

It tasted like history.

And I was there to taste it.

Richard Forrest

Richard studied Japanese at the University of Michigan and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. After a career working with environmental NGOs, he moved to Hiroshima in 2016. He teaches at a local university and enjoys photographing the beauty and wonder of the Hiroshima area.