Taste Testing Starbucks’ Chinese New Year Cakes!

To celebrate Chinese New Year (aka Spring Festival), Starbucks released two new cakes inspired by traditional Spring Festival foods. We love seeing modern interpretations of traditional customs, so on a recent visit to Tianjin, we (AJ and Nic) decided to try them both.

Read on to find out what we  thought and to see the video! (And no, this post wasn’t sponsored by Starbucks!)

‘Eight Treasure Fortune Cake’ 八宝开运蛋糕 (36RMB)

Eight treasures is a phrase applied to different things in China, but in the context of food it means a mixture of nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruit. Laba Porridge, eaten on the Laba Festival marking the start of the Spring Festival period, is an example of a food containing the eight treasures. They are more of a symbol of abundance rather than a specific recipe, so what the actual eight treasures are is flexible and varies from region to region and even family to family.

On this cake, we didn’t see eight treasures, but the cake clearly used at least five: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, dried cranberries and chopped almonds. Nic thought the base of the cake was based on Red Date Cake (红枣糕 hongzaogao), in which case the dates could be considered a sixth treasure, but AJ thought it was more like a fruit cake!

Laba porridge

‘Blessed Hawthorn Cake’ 福禄山楂蛋糕 (36RMB) 

This cake is based on the common street snack candied hawthorn, 糖葫芦 tanghulu, the Chinese equivalent of the toffee apple. In Tianjin we saw them served both on skewers, sometimes known as 糖墩 tangdun, and in bowls, 糖堆 tangdui (candy pile).

The tart haws and the sweet sugar are a perfect combination, so the cake had a lot to live up to! This cake was really sweet and creamy, and Nic thought it tasted quite like haws, but AJ thought the flavour was closer to bubblegum!


AJ shares more of his opinions in this short! (Don’t forget you’ll need your VPN on if you are currently on the Chinese mainland!). Don’t have a VPN? Then take a look at the full video on our Official Channel on WeChat! Just search for ‘CulturalKeys’!

Be sure to check out these limited-availability cakes before the Spring Festival season ends! If you’ve tried them, or the foods they are based on, let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts and insights on traditional Chinese culture! 

Photo Credits
– Cultural Keys

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