Sakura Cupcakes: Vegan Cherry Blossom Cupcake Recipe

Vegan sakura cupcakes! Spring is here, and I couldn’t be more excited for cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms usually hit Japan at the beginning of April. With that, people start to come out of their winter caves and out into the sunlight for picnics and parties.

sakura cherry blossoms

For hanami this year (a kind of sakura viewing party), I wanted to prepare some yummy vegan snacks to take along with me. I made some savory and tasty miso tofu skewers, but I also wanted something sweet that reminded me of spring to bring along, too.

My first foray into vegan cupcakes was when I bought Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World WAY back in the day, and it changed my life. I had never seen or heard of purposely curdling soy milk to make vegan buttermilk, and it blew my mind! I still use that technique to this day, but rest assured: if you don’t have any apple cider vinegar, you can also use a tablespoon of lemon juice to get a similar effect.

sakura cupcakes

Anyway, when I was browsing the shelves at my local baking goods store for inspiration, I came upon a bottle of sakura liqueur and some salt pickled cherry blossom flowers. Looking at these two in combination, inspiration struck! Sakura mochi is a kind of Japanese sweet that is often eaten at hanami parties. Pounded rice mochi is wrapped around sweet red or white bean, and either wrapped with a pickled cherry leaf, or topped with a preserved blossom. You can see one in the background of the photo below.

tofu skewers and sakura mochi

I drew upon sakura mochi as the inspiration for these cupcakes: pink sakura-infused cupcakes filled with sweet red bean and soy cream, and topped with a delicate cherry blossom flower.

In the end, I added some sprinkles and crushed pistachios as decorations on my sakura cupcakes, but you can add whatever you like!


Cherry Blossom Sakura Cupcakes

For the cupcakes…

1 cup unsweetened soymilk

1 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sakura liqueur (or sakura essence)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling…

1 container of soy whipped cream

1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons sakura liqueur

1/2 to 2/3 cup of sweet bean paste (you can find this at most asian markets)

For the frosting…

2 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (or vegan margarine if available)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

a splash of soy or nut milk (if needed)

To make the sakura cupcakes…

Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C. Mix apple cider vinegar with soymilk and set aside for a few minutes, or until it curdles. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the vegetable oil and sugar, then add the soymilk mix and extracts/liqueur. (You can use vegan butter/margarine in place of oil, but use a bit more than 1/3 a cup, and scale the salt back to 1/4 tsp.) For pink cupcakes, add a few drops of pink food coloring, or a few drops of beet juice. Finally, combine the liquid and dry ingredients, and mix until no lumps remain.

Line a cupcake tray with paper liners, and fill them 3/4 of the way with your cupcake batter. Tap on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out dry. Once warm, but no longer hot, poke the middle of the cupcakes with a chopstick (your finger will be much easier, and I recommend using it instead) and hollow out the inside. Allow to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling…

If using a liquid soy whipped cream, whip it in a clean bowl with a hand mixer until firm. If using an already stabilized vegan cream (something like this), simply spoon it into a bowl. Add sweet bean paste and mix gently until incorporated fully. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag or a ziplock bag, and pipe it into the cupcakes.

To make the frosting…

Measure out 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening, and let it warm to room temperature if refrigerated. Add powdered sugar and cut/mix it with a fork. Yes, it will seem impossible at first, but just keep mixing. Once it reaches a sandy texture, add the vanilla extract and keep mixing. If it seems too dry, add a tiny splash of soy/nut milk, and mix again. A little bit really goes a long way here! If it looks like you added too much milk, add more powdered sugar to stiffen it up again.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag or ziplock. If you like more cupcake and less frosting, you can sift a bit of powdered sugar on top of the cupcakes before frosting to make them a bit more photogenic. If you’re on the more frosting to cupcake train, go all out and pipe the frosting to cover the entire cake. You can top the cupcakes with crushed pistachios and sprinkles to give it a fancy look, then top with a salted sakura blossom. If there are none in your area, you can use any edible flower for a fresh, springtime look.

As always, I love seeing your creations! If you make these cupcakes for your next party, picnic, or treat for your bad self, let me know! Please make sure I see your sakura cupcakes by tagging me on twitter or instagram with the hashtag #heytaylorb and I’ll check it out!