The manju character cake hails from Japan.

At the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition (I.B.I.E.), Masdac International showcased a production line that it hoped U.S. and Canadian bakers would recognize but with a product that is completely new to them. The manju character cake hails from Japan. This small filled cake is produced on an automated line that functions very much like a waffle line with batter deposited into moulds that are then baked and depanned.

“In the end, it’s a similar process to waffle making, but it’s a cake product, so it’s more like a Belgian waffle, the soft ones, and then it’s filled,” explained Matthijs Sillevis Smitt, sales manager, North and South America, Masdac International, represented in North America by Naegele, Inc. By featuring the line at I.B.I.E., Mr. Sillevis Smitt hopes to bring the filled cakes to the United States, and he already has several bakers interested.

“We are in an advanced stage with some very important bakeries interested in this concept to Americanize it,” he said.

The filled cakes already have found success beyond Asia, in Italy. While red bean filling is popular in Japan, it was replaced in Italy with flavors more suitable to local tastes: chocolate, marmalade and milk fillings. The line was adapted to European food equipment regulations. So far, Mr. Sillevis Smitt said the equipment meets U.S. regulations. All that needs to be done now is adjust the product itself to satisfy American palates.

Mr. Sillevis Smitt expects manju-like cakes to do well in the United States because they can cater to seasonal demand. Different moulds allow bakers to make shapes specific to different holidays, seasons and other special occasions. He sees plenty of potential for quick-service restaurant chains to offer these cakes as breakfast, dessert or snack items made by contract manufacturers.

“The products will be different in shape and maybe even size, but they all come off the same line,” he said.