Mornington Crescent: British Home Style Baking

By on December 15, 2014

Although Japanese people are generally lovers of all things sweet, they avoid the cloying kind. Western pastries in particular are widely viewed as excessively sweet. Thanks to the active campaigning of culinary cognoscentis, the critics are beginning to understand that not all baked goods from the West are one and the same.

Despite the reputation that British food has in Japan, Stacey, a 13-year Tokyo resident from the U.K. made it her task to put the message across to more people that traditional pastries in her country is not high in sugar content. She opened Mornington Crescent, a baking class and online store specialising in British homestyle baking. She has appeared on NHK and other local media.
Ted Tanaka talks to Stacey.

Eccles-cakesWhat brought you to Japan?
I had wanted to come to Japan since I was little, finally arriving about 13 years ago. Growing up near Manchester in the North of England I had two Bramley apple trees in the back garden and so when I first saw images of ohanami (cherry blossoms viewing) in Japan as a child, I thought that people were picnicking under apple trees. This is the first time I remember being aware of Japan, and I think it planted the seed of interest that grew over the following years. I came here wanting to learn and to experience somewhere I felt would be very different to the UK, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover Japanese and British people have lots of things in common. I live not far from my business with my partner and two gorgeous rescue cats called Melvyn and Virginia, and I love living in here as much as I did when I arrived.

So what got you into baking?
The kind of baking we do at Mornington Crescent is home baking – the type of family baking that anyone and everyone might do any day of the week back home in the UK. I’ve always been into baking, from making apple pies each year with my Mum using the Bramleys from the garden to baking with my little brother on Christmas visits home from Japan, and studiously perfecting recipes in Tokyo for things I missed from back home (like crumpets!).

moncre-signHow did you come up with the name “Morning Crescent” and what is offered at your classes?
It’s the name of a tube station in London, but the real reason I chose the name is because I love listening to BBC radio 4, and Mornington Crescent is the name of a game on one of my favourite programmes there, but it also sounds very British and quite cute in Japanese. It is a little long however, and so my customers often shorten it to “Mon Cre” which I like quite a bit.

With our mission to bring authentic and delicious British home baking to people in Japan we have focused mainly on Japanese students. However, we absolutely do have non-Japanese students and customers. I’m always thrilled to help out a fellow foreigner, whether that’s teaching how to recreate a sorely missed treat from home, where to get the ingredients, or doing a group workshop for parents and children.

Hands-on classes are usually up to 8 people and cost around 6,000 yen. Group bookings from 6 people are subject to availability. Details and bookings can be made in English or Japanese on the online shop and the seasonal lesson menu is updated monthly, usually at the start of each month.
English home page:
Online shop:
Calendar view also available here:

Have you had any baking fails since the classes started?  If so, tell us about it.
Well once I forgot to add the baking powder during the demonstration part of a scone class – it turns out that it is quite necessary, but the students were relieved to see that things like this can happen, even with experienced bakers. We baked them anyway to compare the results with the students’ scones and learn how the results differ.

Rhubarb-prepAny British pastry you can think of that is not popular in Japan? 
I actually think that it’s more the idea of the sweets rather than the sweets themselves that tend to be unpopular – For example, the stereotype is that western desserts are far too sweet for Japanese tastes, but students and customers are often genuinely surprised how much they like our bakes, and ask if we’ve adjusted them to make them less sweet for Japan, which we haven’t! There are also unusual flavours and combinations in British baking, and so I think that you sometimes need to know what to expect in order to enjoy something fully. As an example, there is often high acidity in ingredients for traditional British baking such as rhubarb, gooseberries, quince and of course the cooking apple, Bramley. This makes for a delicious balance of sweetness and acidity but could be surprising if one were expecting something that was simply just sweet.

open-bakery-day-counterWhat has been the response of your Japanese students to British home-baked goods?
With the reputation that British food has in Japan I was fully prepared for an uphill battle, but I’m thrilled to say that my Japanese students love our baked goods. Many students email after lessons to report back on how much they impressed their families, and how well it went making them again at home. I was very surprised that even the (long!) Christmas cake lessons all sold out within a couple of days. The ‘occasional bakery’ days that we currently hold just twice a month have also been very busy – we start to see queues form outside the shop about half an hour before opening at 11am and things often sell out within a couple of hours! Amazing. I think that Japanese customers are really seizing the opportunity to try real British baking here in Tokyo and are enjoying the novelty of having sweets with oats, unusual seasonal fruits, nuts, wholewheat flour, often with fascinating histories behind them.

Traditionally, what are some of the baked goodies do British families serve to guests on Christmas?
Christmas pudding is becoming fairly well known in Japan since being featured a couple of times recently on NHK, and of course there is our version of Christmas cake, a fruit-studded, boozy, marzipan and royal-iced world apart from the light Japanese strawberry and cream sponge cake. However mince pies are probably the most common item served to guests – small enough to have one at each house you visit as you drop off the Christmas presents, and easy enough to make them yourself if you like. They are traditionally made with a crumbly shortcrust pastry and filled with a rich, juicy mixture of dried fruits, apples, nuts, festive spices and candied citrus peel. Most Brits will have had some experience of making these at home growing up as a memory of Christmas, even if it’s just with ready made pastry and filling from a jar, and I think that’s great. Baking, for me, isn’t just about making something to eat, it’s about the culture it came from, and the time spent with and for people you care about.

About Ted Tanaka