The bundt version of my cherry blossom cake: a tender white cake flavored with real sakura essence, and speckled with homemade pink sprinkles of various shades which give it a beautiful effect to resemble the Japanese tree flowers.
I make this cake, or a version of it, every year! I started four years ago and since then whenever the first cherry blossom varieties start to bloom in our neighborhood, I feel the itch to make it again. Some years I make 2-3 times, because I can’t help myself.
It’s a special cake to me because not only is it a sign that spring is here, and a tribute to the city we live in but because I invented a way to get it to look like the beautiful trees on the inside. A little chocolate batter does the trick!
This year I went to make the cake as usual, and found myself out of pink sprinkles and unable to find them in any store nearby. I decided I’d make my own using Stella Park’s sprinkles recipe as a template. And instead of going with just the one hot pink, I did colors of various pink shades which would look more like the real flowers. There are quite a few varieties of cherry blossoms here, and they usually bloom at the same time, creating an ombre of pink around the city.
Note: The cherry blossoms in DC have a super interesting backstory involving worms, beavers, a ‘cherry blossom rebellion’ and one woman’s life dedicated to planting them around the tidal basin. Read this!
Sakura, aka the cherry blossom, essence is an extract derived from the flowers. It’s got a delicate, sweet floral scent and taste, and even though we have tons of flowers here, you must go to the source of these beautiful trees for the extract: Japan. In previous years I’ve bought mine online (takes a few weeks for it to ship!) but last year a friend who made a trip to Japan brought me some, and it’s better than anything I’ve had before. I found the same bottle via this online store.
Before we get to the how, let’s talk about the why. You can absolutely buy pink sprinkles but they will be one shade so you won’t get the variety in shades you can create at home. Most pink sprinkles are hot pink (the ones that are more naturally colored will turn orange once baked!) so to get the prettiest effect homemade is the way to do it. Plus, well, they taste better, no wax!
It sounds complicated but making sprinkles is like making a glaze, except with egg white, and then piping it out into long sticks so it can dry. If you have a piping tip with one hole (not the super tiny one, and not a big one, it should pipe a line as thick as a jimmy sprinkle) you can use that but it will take a long time and you’ll overwork your hand. I use a two-hole piping tip which speeds up the process considerably. Once they are dry you break them up into smaller sticks and… you have sprinkles!
Notes: Avoid adding too much water or using water based food coloring. This will cause white spots to appear in the sprinkles. You want it to be loose enough to pipe but not watery.
If you’ve seen my original cherry blossom cake, it looks like branches within the cake. I do this by piping a bit of chocolate batter into squiggles within layers of the cake batter. You can do it here too if you like: simply take a bit of white cake batter (not more than ¼ cup) add some cocoa (about a tablespoon) and some more keffir/buttermilk to thin it out again (more info on the technique available in that recipe).
What tools do I need to make homemade sprinkles?
A piping bag and a two-hole piping tip. You can use a single hole but it will take you a lot longer (and your hand will ache!). You’ll also need cookie sheets and parchment paper to pipe the paste onto.
Where can I get sakura extract?
Check a local Japanese store, occasionally they might stock some. The bottle I have is the same as this one. Amazon also sells it. If you can’t find it, rose water and orange blossom water can be used as an alternative to get the ‘floral’ taste (although sakura is far better imo!).
What size bundt pan should I use?
A ten cup bundt pan, these are the large ones. This is the one I used.
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