Catmint Wheel Cake pastries are worth a spin

Making wheel cakes at Catmint Wheel Cake. Photos by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | A new pastry shop has opened in the Village with delicious Japanese/Taiwanese desserts and the curious name Catmint Wheel Cake.

The small shop opened less than two months ago at 124 MacDougal St., between Bleecker and MacDougal Sts. It’s located up a flight of stairs from the street.

A wheel cake is similar in size and shape to a macaroon, but originated in Japan and was brought to Taiwan during Japanese colonial rule more than a century ago. Also known as “Imagawayaki,” it features an exterior of batter that is traditionally filled with a sweet bean paste, though it can also have different types of sweets, like chocolates, or sometimes savory options.

As for the name “Catmint,” the shop’s Web site explains that the word is another name for catnip, and was chosen for the owners’ love of cats. The company playfully emphasizes that the wheel cakes should not actually be fed to felines.

“We wanted to ensure customers are savoring for the wheel cakes as much as cats meow for catmint,” the site reads.

A banana chocolate wheel cake.

After trying the banana chocolate wheel cake, the catnip metaphor isn’t far off.

All wheel cakes are baked on site and take about eight to 10 minutes. Mine came out warm, rich and gooey, with chocolate and banana on the inside and almonds baked into the chocolate batter outside.

I took a bite in the small shop on a recent Sunday and planned to save the rest for later since it was crowded in the small place. But it was so good that I ate the rest as soon as I stepped outside. I didn’t feel the urge to chase a ball of yarn, but I did have an extra hop in my step afterward.

Other flavors include vanilla custard; matcha chocolate; custard & bubble; matcha red bean; and tuna, corn & cheese. Each wheel cake costs $3.90, and the shop also offers a tea menu. Combo offers include three wheel cakes for $10.50, and two wheel cakes and a tea for $11.50. Come for the interesting name, stay for the tasty desserts.

More information is available at catmintwheelcake.com.