If Japan is the land of the rising sun then its largest prefecture and northern island, Hokkaido, is the land of dairy.
Fifty-percent of Japan’s milk is produced in the northern island as well as 90% of its natural cheeses. Hokkaido’s milks and cheeses fetch a high price in the southern prefectures as they are known for their impeccable quality.
Those who travel to the northern island are blessed to experience this amazing produce on a daily basis. One of the best ways to enjoy these natural ingredients is in the humble cheesecake (which some may say is not so humble when created here!). This dessert is a pure expression of exceptional Hokkaido dairy.
We travelled far and wide tasting cheesecakes from all over the region and selected some of the top for our list. These cheesecakes use local produce and are created at the hands of the region’s best patissiers.
The Baked 'Cheese Cheese' Cake
One of the first things you see in Kutchan when you step off the train is Sweet Shop Fujii. This patisserie is famous for its Hokkaido themed treats with the ‘Lake Hangetsu’ cookie and ‘Cow Monaka’ (a Japanese sweet of azuki bean jam).
This patisserie has a wonderfully Japanese aesthetic, kawaii (cute), as the locals would say. There are a number of illustrated characters adorning the windows, signs and cakes, adding a childlike and cheery vibe to the place. It will be hard to miss ‘Oven-kun’ the yellow oven mascot.
A spectacular dessert that may go unnoticed behind the animal shaped creations and smiley mascots is the Baked ‘Cheese Cheese’ Cake. A dense slice with a crumbly, buttery base, this cheesecake is reminiscent of a traditional American dessert pie. The cheesy essence gives way to nutty notes upon first taste. These flavours linger on the palette thanks to the velvety, satin texture.
Local ingredients are the stars of this slice with eggs from Ishikawa Poultry Farm and milk from Takara Ranch in Kimobetsu. If you are catching the train to Niseko you must stop here. You may even be able to take your slice next door to Sprout Outdoor Espresso. Just be sure to ask nicely.
Located near Kutchan Train Station.
Open every day except Tuesday.
The Classic Cheesecake
Miura Confectionery in Kutchan was founded over 120 years ago in 1893. The fact that this small sweets shop is still operating is a testament to their quality and consistency. An essential element that contributes to Miura’s success is their ability to create new products while respecting generations old pastry recipes.
The highlight at Miura is an homage to the classic cheesecake. This sturdy slice is offered with a piquant apricot jam glaze; Miura adding their own modern touch to this centuries old recipe. The interplay between the milky, bread-like cake and the sharp, syrupy, apricot jam will have you licking your lips and at the same time scratching your head, “How can this be so good?”.
While in Niseko you will no doubt find yourself in Kutchan trying out a great izakaya or soup curry, we recommend grabbing a slice of this cheesecake for dessert while you are there.
Located on Route 5 near M Pocket.
Open every day except Wednesday.
Niseko Melting Cheesecake
If you are looking for dairy royalty in the Niseko region, look no further than Milk Kobo. At the base of Mt Niseko-Annupuri this dairy ‘compound’ is a sight to behold. From the Milk Kobo store, a dessert studio where amazing pastries are created right in front of your eyes, to a pizza restaurant, Mandriano, showcasing fine cheeses made in house, the entire lifecycle of cheese is on showcase.
The ‘Niseko Melting Cheesecake’ is one of the tastiest and most sought after creations from this cheese kingdom. You might find it hard to resist just one of these parcels of cheesy goodness.
It is instantly apparent from the rich colour and seductive smell that these cakes are made from exceptional ingredients. These cakes are very simple and allow the world class dairy to take centre stage. As the name suggests this cheesecake will melt in your mouth, transforming from solid to creamy, cheesy goo on your tongue.
A trip to Milk Kobo is well worth it to indulge your dairy fantasies. If you don’t manage to visit the iconic dairy farm you must try the Niseko Cheese Tart, another highly sought-after Milk Kobo dessert. These tarts are sold at a small booth in the centre of Hirafu.
Located towards Niseko Village from Hirafu.
Open every day.
No-Bake Pineapple Cheesecake
L’ocanda is a small Italian restaurant in Hirafu that creates some dazzling desserts out of their kitchen. This restaurant is family owned, headed by Pastry Chef Shingo Okada. Okada has spent many years perfecting his craft in patisseries in Tokyo and Nagoya and his expert skills in construction and presentation are immediately noticeable.
Okada’s abilities are on display in L’ocanda’s take on the humble cheesecake. Their ‘No-Bake Pineapple Cheesecake’ juxtaposes textures and flavours to create a slice of heaven that is greater than the sum of its parts. The heavy base is wonderfully balanced by the light texture of the cake above. This creates an eating sensation that is unlike the other cakes on this list.
The inclusion of a thin pineapple layer adds another dimension to this delightful slice. The tangy, fruit flavours provide a stark contrast to the subtle cheese flavour in the rest of the cake, yet the two marry in perfect harmony.
This special dessert is only available on weekends so be sure to swing by before it sells out.
Located near the 7-Eleven in Hirafu.
Open every day except Tuesday.
New York Cheesecake
On an unassuming street in the heart of Kutchan, nestled under a far more recognisable Korean restaurant, you will see a small, white door. Even if you do manage to spot this door through the whirl of white snow you may not know what you are looking at.
Luckily the sweet scent of cakes, cookies and muffins cannot be misunderstood. The dull orange glow of the display cabinet inside this hidden dessert heaven will guide your way as you seek shelter from the cold.
The dessert that put Matariya Bakery on the map and propelled it to the top of many ‘must-eat’ lists in Niseko is their ‘New York Cheesecake’. A traditional ‘New York Cheesecake’ differentiates itself from other cheesecakes by its smooth, velvety texture and its tall, dense structure. This cheesecake has all this and more.
The mouth feel is heavenly with a sweet, tangy finish. A signature of this cheesecake is the impossibly rich, dark base on which it sits. This base oozes rum and vanilla.
Do yourself a favour and seek out this small hole in the wall bakery for what will truly be a delectable dessert experience.
Located just off Route 5 near Lucky.
Open every day except Tuesday.
La villa LUPICIA provides one of the most expansive culinary offerings in Niseko. LUPICIA offers a unique experience with a wine cellar, art gallery and atelier, restaurant and a deli-style boutique. Last and certainly not least is the patisserie which serves up some of Niseko’s sweetest treats. One sure sell-out is the ‘Fromage Cheesecake’.
This is a no-frills cheesecake that will please even the most discerning desserters. There are four layers to this cheesecake, a tour of textures, each doing their part to ensure you won’t be satisfied with just one slice. A firm, biscuity crust blends seamlessly with the rich cheesy layer above which provides the cake structure and substance.
The next layer has a thick, mousse-like consistency, adding smoothness to each bite. The final layer is an airy, whipped cream, dabbed onto the cake to resemble a powdered parmesan providing a subtle and fresh cheese accent to finish.
You could easily spend an entire day at La villa LUPICIA eating and drinking some of Niseko’s finest produce. Wear your loosest fitting pants and clear some time in your calendar for a long afternoon nap. A food coma is an almost certainty after a visit here.
Located near Gentemstick.
Open most days. Check the website for closures.
This article first appeared in the 2019/20 Experience Niseko Winter Magazine.
For more tasty local dishes head to our Eat & Drink page!