This post is also available in（こちらの言語版もある）: Japanese
Taking a shot at macaron-making was certainly a good experience, but they are definitely more difficult to make with less room for experimentation in terms of ingredients than my go-to cupcakes. As such, when I received an invitation to my friend’s house party I knew it was time to go back to my old stand-by the mini “cocktail cupcake” as those require minimal fuss and the possibilities for experimentation and creative recipe customization are nearly endless. Said house party was being held to celebrate his 2,000th day (5.5 years) living in Japan as well as birthday, so I figured it would be thematically appropriate to make a cupcake inspired by Japanese flavors and went with matcha green tea cupcakes filled with sakura liqueur pastry cream and topped with sakura liqueur butter cream frosting. The result was the beauty of contrast in cupcake form: the less-sweet flavor of the matcha cupcakes paired nicely with the fruity sweetness of the sakura liqueur frosting and pastry cream, not to mention the natural green of the cupcakes made for a beautiful contrast with the vibrant pink icing. These were by far my best-received cupcakes to date, so do yourself a favor and give this feast for your eyes and your stomach a try for yourself★
Despite making those macarons, I still had a little bit of sakura liqueur pastry cream left to use up and making Japanese-inspired cupcakes for my friend’s celebration presented me with the perfect opportunity to finally get it out of my freezer. I briefly considered an all-sakura flavored cupcake, but sakura season is now long past, plus I feared it might be a bit of a sweetness overload, so I decided the sakura liqueur should be paired with another contrasting Japan-inspired flavor.
When I think of a flavor often used in Japanese sweets that isn’t too sweet the first thing that comes to mind is of course matcha green tea. From green tea cakes, to donuts, to Kit-Kats, matcha sweets are everywhere–in fact, the candy section at the convenience stores here have taken on a distinctly green hue as the current en vogue seasonal flavor for all of the chocolates seems to be matcha. I actually really like matcha flavored sweets, but for some reason or other I have never really made any myself. However, the time had finally come to rectify this so I baked up a batch of matcha cupcakes and filled them up with the last of the sakura liqueur pastry cream using the same technique I did for the pink champagne cupcakes with sakura liqueur pastry cream.
I then finished off the cupcakes with the same sakura liqueur butter cream I used in the macarons as frosting, but with a little bit of extra food coloring to punch up the pink. The resulting contrast between the rich green cupcakes and the bright pink frosting made these hands down the prettiest cupcakes I have made to date.
But how did they taste? Trust me, they tasted as good as they looked. The less-sweet matcha cake was definitely the right way to go in terms of pairing with all of that sakura liqueur cream filling and butter cream: cupcakes can definitely get too sweet very easily, but the flavor of the green tea tempered the sweetness of the sakura liqueur frosting and filling, resulting in just the right level of sweetness.
But don’t just take my word for it. The party guests and the man of the hour himself all praised the cupcakes for both their striking appearance as well as their flavor. There was also quite a bit of interest in obtaining the recipe, plus even with the promise of a big cake from a famous fancy bakery later in the evening, everyone still gobbled up these homemade mini cupcakes with gusto. All in all, these were by far my most popular cupcakes to date so you can bet I will be making them again. Until then, however, give them a try for yourself!★
- For matcha green tea cupcakes:
- 1 cup (201 g) granulated sugar
- 1¾ (224 g) cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp matcha powder
- ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ (82 g) cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
- ⅔ cups (160 ml) milk
- For sakura liqueur pastry cream:
- ½ (100 ml) cup heavy cream, divided
- ½ (100 ml) sakura liqueur (I used Japone Sakura by Suntory)
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- For sakura liqueur butter cream frosting:
- ½ cup (114 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups (612 g) of powdered sugar
- ¼ cup (50 ml) sakura liqueur
- 1 tsp vanilla
- red food coloring
- Make matcha cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and prepare your cupcake pan with liners.
- In a large bowl mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and matcha powder.
- Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.
- Whisk the oil, eggs, and yogurt together in a small bowl until smooth.
- Add the egg mixture to flour mixture and beat on medium speed until combined.
- Slowly add milk while mixing on low speed until combined. The batter will be quite thin and liquid-y--don't worry, this is normal.
- Fill the cupcake liners about half full and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter stuck to it (about 7-11 minutes).
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the sakura liqueur pastry cream. Whisk together cornstarch and ¼ cup (50 ml) of cream in a medium bowl.
- Add the egg and egg yolks and beat thoroughly with a hand mixer.
- Put the remaining ¼ cup (50 ml) of cream, sugar, and sakura liqueur in a pot, bring to a boil, and then remove from heat.
- Pour ⅓ of the boiling sakura liqueur mixture into the egg mixture and whisk constantly so the eggs don't cook.
- Return the sakura liqueur mixture to a boil and slowly pour in the egg mixture while whisking.
- Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, then remove from heat and beat in the vanilla and butter.
- Let the pastry cream cool a bit and transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip.
- Insert the tip into each cupcake and squeeze in a small amount of cream.
- Make sakura liqueur butter cream frosting. Whip the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and mix on medium speed until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go.
- Add the sakura liqueur and food coloring and mix on medium-high speed until combined and fluffy. If the frosting is too soft or runny, add more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
- Frost the cupcakes and enjoy!
★ I bought the sakura liqueur I used from this Rakuten Ichiba seller here in Japan, but I admit I am not sure where one can procure it overseas. I would imagine some other variety of cherry liqueur might be alright, albeit a little different.
★ Matcha green tea is powdered green tea. If you live overseas you can likely find it at an Asian supermarket.
★ If you have leftover pastry cream you can store it in the fridge for a few days. I have also had pretty good luck freezing it, but from what I have read online the texture of pastry cream has gone funny on other people when they froze it so proceed at your own risk.
Matcha cupcake recipe adapted from http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2013/09/green-tea-cupcakes-with-red-bean-azuki-buttercream-frosting.html