One of the must-buy souvenirs in Taiwan is a pineapple tart. With surging demand, more than a dozen pineapple cake makers have flooded in the market. Too many choices of Taiwan’s must-buy snack might overwhelm you! No worries, if you are in search of the best pineapple cake in Taipei, you’ve come to the right place.
I have had my fair share of the popular confectionary in my quest to find the best pineapple cake in Taiwan. In this article, I will mainly discuss the top three pineapple tart brands in Taipei and compare them side by side. The three most-reputable brands I selected here are Chia Te Taipei, Sunny Hills Taipei, and Taipei LeeChi.
So, what makes the best pineapple tarts? Just like any other high-demand goodies, there are the best, the good and the bad. The bad choices are relatively easy to sort out. I will say this, don’t buy pineapple cakes at convenience stores. You will be cheating yourself with those overly sweet and dry pineapple tarts made with little pineapple.
Between the best and the good, the choice can be rather a personal preference. While I cannot make a conclusion based on scientific evidence, my husband (“the Big O”) and I blind-tasted pineapple tarts to be more objective. I also tried to write more descriptive details so you can be the judge. Admittedly, the “research” was such a great excuse to treat ourselves munching on these yummy sweets. Can’t wait to visit Taipei to savor the best pineapple tarts in the world? Read on!
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Why is Taiwanese Pineapple Tart Famous?
The pineapple cake (鳳梨酥) is a Taiwanese shortbread filled with pineapple jam. It is also called pineapple tart or pineapple shortbread. Taiwanese pineapple tart is widely popular among the locals and travelers seeking unique savory gifts.
What makes Taiwan’s pineapple cake so famous? For one, Taiwan is a major producer and exporter of pineapples. The Taiwanese somehow were able to craft delicious sweets that became a staple.
No one is certain about when the pineapple cake was invented. But my research suggests that it became popular since the 1970s. Taiwan’s pineapple production went up and down throughout history. But since Southeast Asian countries with cheaper labor went into pineapple farming in the 1970s, Taiwan couldn’t compete on the global market. Taiwan had to find a creative way to use its oversupply of pineapples.
Out of every crisis comes the opportunity to be reborn. Pastry chefs in Taiwan started to sell pineapple cakes with a buttery crust filled with pineapple jam. Voila, it became a hit.
Another cultural fact contributing to its success is the name. The Taiwanese dialect of pineapple – ong lai – sounds similar to the phrase in Mandarin meaning “prosperity has arrived.” No doubt, pineapple cake became a symbol of wealth, good luck and prosperity in Taiwan.
Chia Te Taipei (佳德鳳梨酥)
Chia Te Taipei is one of the best-known names in Taiwan for pineapple cakes. Since its establishment in 1975, this small bakery has won the heart of many Taiwanese and international visitors with its flavorful pineapple cakes. Chia Te pineapple tarts also won the first place in the first Taipei Pineapple Cake Festival in 2006 and the following year, organized by the Taipei City Government and Taipei Bakery Association.
If you look at the Chia Te Bakery from outside, it seems like an average neighborhood confectionary shop. However, you can easily sense that there is something special about this bakery, given the long line of people at ALL TIME. Once inside, you will be surprised once again by how fast those pineapple cakes fly out of the shelves. But don’t worry, they get re-stocked almost immediately.
That said, Chia Te doesn’t offer any sampling at the store. Also, Chia Te claims that they don’t use preservatives. If you think about it, they really don’t need to. It sells out and gets eaten up so quickly.
Unless you call to order for a pick-up, you will need to serve yourself at the store. Although original pineapple pasty is the top seller, Chia Te Bakery offers various pineapple tarts (see below). Chia Te pineapple cakes are individually wrapped. Just grab a box (6, 12 or 20 pcs) and feel free to fill your box with whichever flavors you like to have your own tasting at home.
Chia Te Pineapple Pastry (原味佳德鳳梨酥)
If you ask any Taiwanese, most likely they have heard the name Chia Te. (It is pronounced as Jiādé.) I heard so much about it even before I first tasted its famous pineapple pastry. I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But it turned out to be even better than I expected.
Chia Te pineapple tarts taste so buttery and fluffy, much more so than other brands. Inside the pineapple pastry are small chunks of pineapple. While they have some pineapple fibers, I’d say they are slightly jammy than fibrous. Chia Te original pineapple pastry is on the sweet and fruity side. Overall, it tastes well-balanced with sweetness and tanginess of pineapple.
I have to note that Chia Te uses the mix of pineapple and winter melon in the filling. (They mark it on their ingredient list.) Although some think it is a sign of inferior quality to use cheaper winter melon filling, it does have a benefit to make the mixture less fibrous.
When I opened the individual package, it was already a bit crumbly despite keeping it in their gift box. It seems that the crust falls apart easily, which made a bit of mess when I ate. But that might be unavoidable to make it buttery.
Chia Te Pineapple Egg Yolk Pastry (鳳黃酥)
Chia Te pineapple cake with egg yolk has the dominant pineapple flavor with subtle egg taste. Tanginess from pineapple comes out more than egg yolk. Compared to the original pineapple pastry, the crust is firmer. I felt like it was well-assembled when it breaks.
I have to admit, though, it is not my favorite. I would say it is an acquired taste. It seems weird to me to have a salty egg yolk inside the sweet pastry, not to mention that I don’t like the yolky smell and taste in general. But the Big O loves it. I know many Taiwanese and Chinese prefer to have an egg yolk in their pineapple pastry. If you can brave the salty yolk, go for it!
Chia Te Pastry Other Flavors
Most popular flavors from Chia Te are Original Pineapple and Cranberry Pineapple tarts (蔓越莓鳳梨酥). I also like their Honeydew Melon Pastry (哈密瓜酥) and Plum Pineapple Pastry (梅鳳酥). Other flavors include Cherry Pineapple (櫻桃鳳梨酥), Strawberry (草莓酥), Acrospires Walnut (胚芽核桃鳳梨酥), Longan (桂圓酥), and Prunes (南棗酥) pastries.
Chia Te Pineapple Cake Price
Original Pineapple Pastry: NT$180 (6 pcs) | NT$360 (12 pcs) | NT$600 (20 pcs)
Pineapple & Cranberry Pineapple Pastry Mix: NT$390 (12 pcs) | NT$650 (20 pcs)
All other flavors: NT$210 (6 pcs) | NT$420 (12 pcs) | NT$700 (20 pcs)
*No refund. No return. Chia Te Bakery also charges for the gift box and shopping bag. Both cash and credit card are accepted. However, the cashier lines are separated.
Chia Te Bakery Taipei Store
Chia Te Bakery has only one store in Taipei, nowhere else. I randomly spot Chia Te Pineapple Cake Gift Box at Carrefour or PX Mart. I wouldn’t bank on that because they are available based on the limited supplies during the limited time.
Location: Open Google Map
Nearest MRT Station: Songshan (Green) Line, Nanjing Sanmin Station, Exit 2 (2 min walk)
Hours: 8 am – 9:30 pm
Phone: +886 (0)2-8787-8186
Chia Te Taoyuan Airport or Songshan Airport
There is no Chia Te storefront either at Taoyuan International Airport or Songshan Airport. HOWEVER, you can buy Chia Te Pineapple Tarts online for airport pick-up – either at Taoyuan or Songshan Airport. How convenient! (Oh, did I mention that pineapple cakes are dense and heavy to carry?) If you want to try their famous pineapple cake and pineapple nougat candy together, you can purchase the combo souvenir set for Taoyuan Airport pick-up only.
Note that you only can select original pineapple, cranberry pineapple, and pineapple egg yolk flavors for this airport pick-up order. You have to visit the store to buy other flavors. I think it’s still a great deal, though, if you don’t have time to go to the store. (Chia Te Bakery Taipei is not near any tourist sites.)
While you are at it, you might as well pick up another Taiwan’s must-buy snack, Sugar and Spice nougat candy!
LeeChi Taipei (台北犁記), or Liji
LeeChi Taipei (also spells Liji per its Chinese pronunciation) with a century-old tradition serves the most traditional Taiwanese-style pineapple cake among the three. It is also the first Taiwanese pineapple cake I ever tasted. Because of that, it has been my standard of the kind and raised the bar quite high.
In recent years, the shop has been completely renovated. It received quite a facelift from my first visit 10 years ago. Now the store looks fancy and roomier. At the store, you can sample small cuts of various pineapple cakes and other Taiwanese baked goods. If you are confused with all the choices, first sample-taste.
Although you can buy individual packages at LeeChi, it’s a good idea to get the assorted box to bring back home for yourself or as gifts. The firm box helps to protect them from crumbling in your luggage. And LeeChi carefully wraps your box and put it in its signature orange bag with the moon and rabbits.
LeeChi Pineapple Cake
LeeChi Original vs. Gourmet Pineapple Cake
My first impression of LeeChi pineapple cakes is handsome. When I unwrapped it from the individual package, I saw the perfectly shaped, light brown pineapple cake. (No crumbs at all.)
LeeChi pineapple cakes have chewy filling inside a firm shortbread. In comparison to Chia Te or Sunny Hills, LeeChi has the least amount of pineapple fibers and less tart.
LeeChi pineapple cake comes in two distinctive flavors: the original (鳳梨酥) and the gourmet (金旺來土鳳梨酥) pineapple cakes. While both of them are buttery, the gourmet features a stronger pineapple flavor profile. When I had the original pineapple cake by itself, I thought it was already good. But comparing two side by side, I realized I much prefer the gourmet version.
LeeChi Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Mashed Yolk vs. with Egg Yolk
LeeChi Gourmet Pineapple Cake with the yolk also comes in two versions: one with mashed yolk and the other with a full egg yolk.
While the Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Mashed Yolk (金綴鳳梨酥) has enough yolky flavor, it is neither overwhelming nor too salty. It features the firm and chewy texture, feeling denser than Chia Te Pineapple Egg Yolk Pastry.
The Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Egg Yolk (鳳梨蛋黃酥) is significantly larger (whopping 66g); you can see the full round egg yolk inside. As a result, it features dominantly eggy and more savory palate. I didn’t taste much of pineapple flavors. I think it might be suitable for a more adventurous eater. But if you like an egg yolk in your pineapple pastry, why not? Go big or go home!
LeeChi Taipei Pastry Other Flavors
Similar to Chia Te, LeeChi also offers various flavors such as Pineapple Cake with Pine Nuts (鳳梨松子酥), Cranberry Pineapple (鳳梨蔓越莓酥) and Candied Orange Peel Pineapple (橙心鳳梨酥).
For the purpose of this writing, I wouldn’t go into details of LeeChi’s other confectionary. Nevertheless, I want to mention that Taipei LeeChi is also known for its mung bean pastry and mooncakes. When you are at the store, it’s not a bad idea to stock up on a few of them, too.
LeeChi Pineapple Cake Price
Original Pineapple Cake: NT$300 (12 pcs) | NT$500 (20 pcs)
Gourmet Pineapple Cake: NT$420 (12 pcs) | NT$700 (20 pcs)
Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Egg Yolk: NT$550 (10 pcs) | NT$825 (15 pcs)
Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Pine Nuts: NT$550 (10 pcs) | NT$825 (15 pcs)
Gourmet Assorted Box (Gourmet Pineapple/Gourmet Pineapple with Mashed Yolk/Cranberry Pineapple/Orange Peel Pineapple): NT$350 (10 pcs) | NT$560 (16 pcs)
LeeChi Taipei Store
Location:Open Google Map
Nearest MRT Station: Songshan (Green) or Zhonghe (Yellow) Line, Songjiang Nanjing Station, Exit 4
Hours: 9 am – 9 pm
Phone: +886 (0)2-2506-2255
Sunny Hills Taipei (微熱山丘)
Sunny Hills Taiwan is the newcomer, whereas Chia Te and LeeChi are more traditional brands. Since its launch in 2008, it distinctively set itself apart from other competitors in the pineapple cake business and quickly became the “it” brand.
Unlike the traditional bakery business model, Sunny Hills has successfully built a farm-to-bakery brand concept and cultivated a strong following. In my opinion, it disturbed the pineapple cake industry as a whole in the right way. (Former PR executive speaking here.)
The brand promises using only locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients. Sunny Hills only use the Cayenne pineapples, which is said to be the best kind to make pineapple cakes. Their pineapples are sourced directly from local contracted farmers on the sunny hills of Bagua Mountain in Nantou, Taiwan (hence the brand name). They are manually cut by hand and simmered without any additives or preservatives. (The factory only turns automated production during the holiday peak time.) By doing so, it produces not only high-end pineapple cakes for customers, but also fosters a healthy agricultural environment for farmers.
Sunny Hills is an artisanal pineapple cake brand, targeting trendy, high-end shoppers. Its brand marketing strategy is well-incorporated into its shops, a modernly designed cafe-like space. When a customer visits its store, everyone gets a full-size pineapple cake paired with Taiwanese oolong tea regardless of purchase. No hard sales. No nudge to leave. But when customers do buy, they get presentable gift box beautifully wrapped in a burlap bag medaled with an orange ribbon.
Also, the brand consciously places its international stores in a premium location. Currently, it has stores in Singapore (in the premier Raffles Hotel), Shanghai (on the Bund), Hong Kong (in central) and Tokyo. In Tokyo, Sunny Hills commissioned famous Japanese designer Kengo Kuma to build its flagship store. Its distinctive wooden latticework catches eyes even among posh flagship stores in Tokyo’s Omotesando-Aoyama neighborhood.
Sunny Hills Pineapple Tarts
Sunny Hills pineapple tarts are distinctive in many ways. But the brand’s think-outside-the-box philosophy is first noticeable with its unique pineapple cake shapes. Traditionally, Taiwanese pineapple tarts are square in shape. Sunny Hills pineapple cakes are brick-shaped. I dig it because it is so much easier to bite without making a mess!
Like Chia Te and LeeChi, Sunny Hills pineapple cakes have a great balance of tanginess and sweetness from pineapple. Once I cut it in half, I was surprised to see lots of fibers inside. I’m guessing it partly came from the handmade process. But more likely, it is proof that they only use 100% pure pineapple jam, instead of cheaper, more widely-used winter melon fillings.
Sunny Hills Other Flavors
Sunny Hills does not offer other flavors of pineapple cakes. For the first 8 years, the brand only focused on what they do best – that is, producing the best quality pineapple tarts. I can respect that.
Now, the brand does offer other varieties of confectionary such as Honey Castella (蜜豐糖蛋糕) and Pineapple Custard Mooncakes (鳳梨奶黃月餅), as well as durian-flavored Cigarette Russes (榴槤蛋捲) and frozen durian roll cakes (貓山王榴槤冰心蛋糕). I’m yet to try the newly launched durian varieties!
Sunny Hills Pineapple Cake Price
Sunny Hills Pineapple Gift Box (10 pcs): NT$420
Sunny Hills Pineapple Gift Box (16 pcs): NT$670
Sunny Hills Pineapple Cake (10 pcs) with Oolong Tea Set: NT$820
Image Credit: SunnyHills Taiwan Website
SunnyHills Taipei Store
Location: Open Google Map
Nearest MRT Station: Songshan (Green) Line, Taipei Arena Station, Exit 5 (15-min walk)
Hours: 10 am – 6 pm
Phone: +886 (0)2-2760-0508
Sunny Hills To Go Stores
Sunny Hills To Go stores are conveniently located in Taipei’s central Xinyi District, as well as Taoyuan Airport. Without the detour from your Taipei itinerary, you can stop by and pick up its pineapple cake gift box.
Note that To Go stores do not offer its signature service of pineapple cake sampling with tea. If you want anything other than pineapple cakes, the selection also might be limited. So do check with each store for availability.
1. Sunny Hills Taipei Shin Kong Mitsubishi Taipei Place A9
Location: Open Google Map
Nearest MRT Station: Tamsui (Red) Line, Taipei 101 Station, Exit 4; or, Bannan (Blue) Line, Taipei City Hall Station, Exit 3
Hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm (Opens until 10 pm on Fri. & Sat.)
Phone: +886 (0)2-2723-3858
2. Sunny Hills Taipei 101
Location: Taipei 101 Shopping Mall, 4F [Open Google Map]
Nearest MRT Station: Tamsui (Red) Line, Taipei 101 Station, Exit 4
Hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm (Opens until 10 pm on Fri. & Sat.)
Phone: +886 (0)2-8101-7667
3. Sunny Hills Taoyuan Airport
Sunny Hills pineapple cakes can also be purchased at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2. Look for it at the souvenir shop on the second floor.
Location: Open Google Map
Hours: 7 am – 8 pm
Phone: +886 (0)3-275-4591
Comparison Chart: Chia Te vs. Sunny Hills vs. LeeChi
|Sunny Hills||Chia Te||LeeChi Gourmet||Chia Te Egg Yolk||LeeChi Egg Yolk|
|Best For||Trendsetters, High-end customers||Pineapple cake virgin||Traditionalists||Those who prefer the subtle yolk flavor||Ultimate egg lovers|
|Flavors & Texture||Fibrous, Sweet, Tangy||Sweet, Fruity, Buttery, Crumbly crust||Firm crust, Chewy filling||More fruity than yolky||Eggy, Savory, Firm mouthfeel|
|Differentiator||Farm-to-Bakery, 100% pure Cayenne pineapple, Brick-shaped||Award-winning pineapple cake, Variety of pineapple cake flavors||100+ year tradition, Most traditional Taiwanese-style||Fail-proof, safe choice||A full round egg yolk inside the pastry|
|Nutritions||Protein: 2.3g Fat: 8.3g Carb: 30.3g (sugar not specified) Sodium: 77mg||Protein: 1.7g Fat: 8.6g Carb: 28.8g (sugar 15.5g) Sodium: 83mg||Protein: 2.2g Fat: 5.7g Carb: 34.1g (sugar 15.7g) Sodium: 82mg||Protein: 2.7g Fat: 10.2g Carb: 25.1g (sugar 16.1g) Sodium: 73mg||Protein: 5.5g Fat: 17.7g Carb: 37g (sugar 13g) Sodium: 163mg|
|Calorie||205 cal||202.6 cal||234.2 cal||206.5 cal||328.7 cal|
|Shelf Life||15 days||40 days||14 days (21 days if refrigerated)||15 days||14 days (21 days if refrigerated)|
Best Pineapple Cake in Taipei: My Conclusion
Chia Te, Sunny Hills or LeeChi, that is the question! It’s a hard one to give a straight answer, really.
If you press me, and I purely compare the pineapple cakes, the winner is…(drum roll) Chia Te Taipei in my book! Chia Te pineapple tarts are such a tasty treat. I cannot resist their buttery, fluffy sweetness. Their fruity, sweet profile works well for me. Also, it’s more fun to taste diverse flavors of pineapple cakes. The more I eat pineapple cakes, the pickier I get. Believe it or not, it gets old once the novelty wears out, you know. (Spoiled!)
On the other hand, if I am looking for a gourmet gift for friends, I would most likely choose Sunny Hills pineapple cakes. It looks presentable in a neat burlap bag, tied with its signature orange ribbon. I also think young people would enjoy Sunny Hills flavors more so than, say, Taiwanese parents who might prefer traditional pineapple cakes. And while I’m picking up some gifts, I might as well treat myself with their generous sample and oolong tea. Killing two birds with one stone.
For those who enjoy egg yolks or savory pastry, LeeChi Gourmet Pineapple Cake with Egg Yolk is the clear winner. Although I am not one of them, it won the Big O’s heart. Also, LeeChi is the brand his grandparents – traditionalist epicurean – know and trust.
Honestly, I love pineapple cakes from all three brands. You cannot go wrong with any of these top three bakeries famous for their versions of pineapple cakes. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. The best way for you to determine your own favorite pineapple cakes is to try them all and find out yourself. So if you can, I do encourage you to check them all out. Seriously! You cannot leave Taiwan without tasting its famous pineapple tarts.