March 3rd in Japan is known as Hinamatsuri. Literally meaning Doll Festival, it’s a day to celebrate the healthy growth of girls. Families with daughters will display special dolls in February and keep them out until the day after Hinamatsuri. Many people are superstitious and believe that dolls not being put away right after the celebration will result in their daughters dying an old maid. I haven’t taken out my small set of dolls in years… wonder what that means.
One of the traditional desserts that are eaten on this special day is hishimochi, a three layer rice cake. The bottom layer is green representing new plants waiting to sprout in spring, the middle layer is white representing the snow on the ground, and the top layer is pink representing the peach blossoms that grow in early spring. I wanted to create a dessert inspired by these colors and came up with this recipe.
For the cupcake, I decided to tweak my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe from Cupcake Project. I left out the vanilla bean and extract, and instead added 2 tablespoons of matcha powder to the dry ingredients. You could increase to 2½ tablespoons if you want the green tea flavor to be extra strong.
When you combine the dry and wet ingredients, the batter turns a vibrant green. Your batter might not be smooth with tiny bits of butter floating around, but fear not! Trust me, it’s going to be great so don’t try to get the batter smooth by overmixing.
When these babies come out of the oven, your kitchen is going to smell like a Japanese tea house. Pop them out of the cupcake pan immediately and let them cool on a wire rack. And resist the urge to eat one.
I used edible pickled cherry blossoms to top my cupcakes. Yes, pickled flowers are a thing. People put them in hot water and drink it as tea or mix it into rice to add flavor. Soak the blossoms in a bowl of water for 30 minutes to get the salt out and dry them on a paper towel before using them. If you can’t find these, or you’d rather look at flowers instead of eating them, topping the cupcakes with strawberries would be just as good.
While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. You want this to cool down before adding it to the frosting to avoid melting the butter. No one likes soupy frosting.
I love the combination of white chocolate and matcha. The creamy and sweet vanilla flavor of the white chocolate and the earthy green flavor of the green tea really pairs well. Since buttercream frosting is already so sweet, I was quite wary of adding white chocolate into buttercream frosting. So I opted for a cream cheese frosting and it really helped to cut the sweetness. Alternatively, you could just top the cupcakes with melted white chocolate and call it a day.
When I was roaming in the baking goods store I found freeze-dried cherry blossom powder. I added 2 teaspoons of it to a cup of frosting and totally ruined it. The powder contained salt and made the frosting too salty. I had to add all of the white chocolate frosting to save it. Don’t make the same mistake I did. The white chocolate frosting is so delicious on its own. No need to get fancy with powdered flowers. But if you do choose to use the powder, start by adding ¼ teaspoon of it to a cup of frosting and gradually build up the flavor.
These are probably one of the most elegant and ladylike cupcakes I’ve ever made.
Can you see how moist and fluffy the cake is? Good luck not eating the whole batch.