matcha + sakura cupcakes
sakura set 3
matcha + sakura

This feels a very belated thing to share, but a little over a month and a half ago - when I was still writing my dissertation, and papillon was sitting quietly in its corner of the internet, unknown to anyone but myself, with a little coming soon? footnote its only embellishment- a box arrived for me from Japan, carefully packed and sealed. Chika had held a gorgeous hope for sakura giveaway, as part of her campaign to raise money for relief efforts in Japan, and I was lucky enough to be one of the winners.

This was one of the times I really needed a blog. If only to make a 'she who eats' wins! joke.

You'd better all appreciate that joke, that's all I'm saying. I've been sitting on that for six weeks.

Chika's post details all the beautiful little gifts included in the giveaway, but some of them can be seen pictured above; needless to say once I'd finished cooing over everything with my mum, I was hyperventilating with excitement to experiment with them (it was possibly the least Zen thing imaginable). That's why it feels a little behind-the-times to be showing you these cupcakes now - not least because sakura (cherry blossom) is associated with Spring, in Japan, and with celebrating the changing season.

Um, it's not June yet. As far as I'm concerned, it's still Spring.

It's funny, because what Chika didn't know was that I had long hoped to work in Japan after graduation, and had applied to JET to teach later this year. I've been in love with the country for so long, and after my interview at the Japanese Embassy in January, it seemed so close, for somewhere on the other side of the world. And then, in March, came the earthquake - and the tsunami - and the nuclear meltdown - and I felt like something precious had been taken from me - and then guilty for feeling that way, when so many other people had lost so much more. For years, Japan had been the dream landscape I looked towards, and watching everything be destroyed on the news was so heartbreaking. By the time the package from Chika arrived, I had all but given up hope of getting there, which is why it meant quite so much to me to unpack that box, and read all the little labels Chika had translated: salt-cured cherry leaf powder; cherry blossom paste (sweetened); granulated sugar with dried salt-cured cherry blossoms & leaves. Not everything is lost.

Perhaps that's what Spring is about.

So by that logic, it's totally reasonable for me to post these cupcakes now. Right?

Matcha-Almond Cupcakes with Sakura Frosting & Cherry Blossom

The almond cake recipe I used here is based on a recipe from Love & Olive Oil (I switched up some quantities for a moister cake) but, inspired by the matcha-almond combination used for cupcakes in the
Baked cookbook, I chose to make a green tea version. If matcha isn't readily available for you (it isn't for me) you can buy it online, or just use this recipe for vegan almond cupcakes.

140g (1 c.) plain flour
40g (1/4 c.) ground almonds (almond meal)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g (3/4 c.) caster sugar
160ml (2/3 c.) oil
240ml (1 c.) almond milk
1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract - optional, they sometimes taste funny to me
1-2 tbsp matcha powder
- depends on the strength of your matcha and your own tastes; I was cautious but could probably have used more.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda , matcha and salt. Separately, whisk together oil, almond milk, vinegar, vanilla and almond extract. Add sugar and mix until incorporated. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, then mix until relatively smooth (batter will be slightly lumpy).

Fill cupcake liners with approx. 1/4c. of batter (papers should be just under 2/3 of the way full; the batter will be quite thin). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

180g (3/4 c.) vegan margarine
250-300g (2 - 2.5 c.) icing sugar -
or to taste
1-2 tbsp almond milk, as necessary
pink food colouring, optional
a few drops of sakura extract
salt-cured cherry blossoms

Beat margarine, icing sugar and sakura extract until pale and fluffy, adding almond milk or food colouring as required (if you want a thicker frosting to pipe, use less milk). Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.
I soaked the salt-cured cherry blossoms in water for a few minutes then 'popped' them in the microwave for about a minute to rehydrate them for garnish - although edible, they don't taste super good, but they look pretty adorable.

Since I made these cupcakes, my compulsive baking has taken on a definite matcha/sakura theme, so expect another pink-and-green post later in the week. Tell me I'm not the only person who gets fixated on an ingredient or theme and eats nothing but those things for weeks on end?


  1. I absolutely loved your writing on HLS and checked it periodically with the hope that you would start up again sometime... and here you are! Yay!

    These look lovely. I know exactly what you mean about ingredient fixation; one of my favorites is cilantro. Salsa! Guacamole! Thai! Indian! It does tend to exhaust itself for a couple months afterward, though.

  2. Hey Kristen, thanks so much for your support! Considering I was undecided for so long whether to go ahead with this, it feels really good to be back. Incidentally, I'm not a huge fan of cilantro/coriander, but you did say the magic word 'guacamole' to me, so I could be persuaded...

  3. You have such gorgeous photography! Mmm those matcha cupcakes sound delicious!

  4. Cupcakes look so beautiful!


  5. Those cupcakes looks awesome. Simply awesome :-D

  6. Agreed with every comment above. Beautiful. Beautiful!

    Thanks for the comment you left on my blog, m'dear! Just love meeting new bloggers who love the same stuff I do!

  7. My goodness… do I dare try something like this? I have a Japanese grocer nearby that would most certainly have this coveted matcha. Your talents far exceed mine. And, your photography is amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  8. “We must all hear the universal call to like your neighbor like you like to be liked yourself.” — George W. Bush


© papillon.Maira Gall