Iconic San Francisco Japanese-American Bakery Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop, a beloved Japanese-American bakery nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Renowned for its signature coffee crunch cake, the bakery continues to thrive under the stewardship of Kenji Yick, who is dedicated to preserving his grandfather’s cherished legacy.

While his grandson expertly prepares a tray of the famous candy coating, Moses Yasukochi, the bakery’s founder, still can’t resist sneaking a piece of the dessert he perfected over decades. “Somehow or other, I lasted 50 years!” Yasukochi remarked, according to CBS News.

Yasukochi, a native San Franciscan, realised his childhood dream by opening Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop in December 1974. “I’m happy,” he shared with CBS News, reflecting on his journey. Now 87 years old, he fondly recalls accepting an offer from friends to open a bakery inside a grocery store. “When it was a lot younger, I always said, ‘I want to open a bakery in Japantown.’ Because there’s no bakery in Japantown,” he said.

Yasukochi’s unique twist on the classic coffee crunch cake, originally popularised by Blum’s bakery on Union Square, quickly gained acclaim. A glowing newspaper review propelled the bakery to new heights.

The increased publicity sparked widespread demand for the coffee crunch cake from both locals and visitors nationwide. Yasukochi’s wife, Hatsy, played a vital role in the bakery’s success, becoming its smiling face while decorating the cakes. Tragically, Hatsy passed away in 2020 after contracting COVID-19.

Due to health issues, Yasukochi has retired, and the bakery’s hours have been reduced. However, the family business endures, now under the capable hands of his grandson, Kenji Yick, a French Culinary Institute graduate. “Grandpa didn’t have any of his kids want to do it, so we skipped a generation,” Yick told CBS News with a smile.

The City of San Francisco has recognised the bakery as a Legacy Business, and Yick believes maintaining its presence is crucial for Japantown. “We’ve been losing a lot of really old businesses around here. Nice to know at least one of them will be sticking around,” he added.

Yick has already achieved significant milestones, with Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop being named a semi-finalist for a 2023 James Beard Award, the culinary equivalent of the Oscars. Despite the bakery’s enduring popularity, Yick admits he’s grown tired of their famous cake. “Fifteen years of having it every single birthday, you get tired of it eventually, so I don’t think I’ve had it beyond taste testing just to make sure it’s right,” he laughed.

For Yick, the true reward lies in making customers happy. “That’s one of the things I enjoy the most about it is, you give ’em the cake, and ‘Oh, I’m so excited.’ ‘It’s a big birthday party, we’re so excited.’ ‘Oh, my grandma ate this when she was growing up,'” he explained.

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International Bakery

Media contact

Joseph Clarke
Editor, International Bakery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920
Email: editor@in-bakery.com

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