Cafe Gentiane in JR Nagoya Station, well known for its chick-shaped "Piyorin" cakes, released a special strawberry version called Amaou Piyorin. The Amaou Piyorin was only available from January 9th to January 21st, and had a limited release of 100 per day. Naturally, this made it a popular item that sold out quickly in just a few hours everyday.
The Amaou Piyorin is a small, adorable cake in the shape of a baby chicken. The cake has a sizable amount of purin (Japanese custard pudding) inside, making it a surprising little treat. The name "Piyorin" is a actually a portmanteau of the words purin and piyo (The chirping sound chicks make according to Japanese onomatopoeia).
But why a bird-shaped cake, I wondered? This is a nod to the Nagoya-bred Cochin Chicken, whose meat and eggs are famous for being delicious. The pudding and bavarian cream inside Piyorin are actually made from Cochin Chicken eggs. If you are ever in Nagoya, besides trying this Nagoya Station specialty cake, I also recommend having some Cochin Chicken wings.
The Amaou Piyorin has a thin outer layer made of a strawberry-flavored, crumb-like powder. I thought this gave it a nice gradient color, as if to give the appearance of feathers. The very subtle strawberry flavor in this powder also gave a little preview of the second layer: a strawberry-flavored bavarian cream. Next, there was the pudding and a thin layer of a jam-like strawberry filling. All of of this sits on a strawberry-flavored sponge cake bottom.
The "Amaou" part of the cake's name comes from Amaou Strawberries, a variety of strawberries grown only in Fukuoka. Amaou Strawberries are particularly sweet, bright red, and large, and thus are especially used for cakes and confectionery in Japan.
Finally, the wings, beak and comb atop the chick's head were crafted from chocolate. Incidentally, the green crown also gave the chick the appearance of a strawberry.
The many layers of the cake made it enjoyable, and I think the crumbly outer layer and the bottom sponge cake helped balance out all the softness of the pudding and the cream. The inner layer is about half bavarian cream and half pudding. In comparison to the outer layer, the bavarian cream had a much stronger strawberry flavor and scent. I even found that the strawberry scent lingered in the room quite a while after I had eaten the cake.
The strawberry filling in place of the usual bitter caramel topping on Japanese pudding was a pleasant surprise. It very much tasted like it was made from fresh strawberries! It perfectly complemented the plainer milky flavor of the pudding.
The pudding was thick without being rich, and it was silky smooth. The chocolate decorations on the cake, popped in between every few bites, was the perfect little burst of sugary sweetness. It was a good contrast to the plainer sponge cake and pudding, or the more naturally tart sweetness of the strawberry filling.
Overall, I enjoyed this cake, and its cute appearance definitely added to its appeal! I found that I was very satisfied in terms of the proportions of the cake. The cake is small, but it felt very balanced in terms of the amounts of each layer. It had just enough pudding and bavarian
I equally recommend Cafe Gentiane's regular product, the original Piyorin.
The Piyorin consisted of the same crumbly outer layer, bavarian cream, pudding topped with a thin bitter caramel layer, a sponge cake bottom, and white chocolate decorations. Everything about it was light, almost refreshing even, making it a good pick-me-up.
Both the Piyorin and Amaou Piyorin combine many of the aspects of what makes a popular regional food in Japan: It uses fresh, local ingredients, with an appealing image through the cute chick shape. Add in the fact that it is only available for a certain season, in this case, just a few weeks in winter, and you have got a hit seller.
Cafe Gentiane is located in JR Nagoya Station, just a couple steps from the central wicket gates. There is no way you can miss it with the photos of Piyorin peeping out at you, or the crowd often gathered there, especially on long weekends! Though the Amaou Piyorin is soon making its departure, other seasonal Piyorin like matcha and pumpkin-flavored ones make their rounds every year.
Cafe Gentiane, eat-in cafe and take-out is open everyday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.