Filed under: Cakes / Layer cakes / Spring
April 1, 2019

Cherry Blossom Cake (Inside & Out)

A wonderfully tender white cake flavored with sakura extract. This cake is incredibly special due to it’s inside which is designed to emulate Japanese cherry blossom tree branches swaying and full of pretty pink blossoms.

5 from 3 votes
Yield: 12
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cherry blossom cake

The perfect cake to welcome spring: sakura flavored white cake is laced with chocolate batter and pink sprinkles to give the look of cherry blossom branches. This is a subtly sweet, slightly floral cake that is an absolute stunner. 



Cherry Blossom Cake with a surprise design inside

I make this cake every year and it’s how I both welcome the spring season but also how I mark the decent of my favorite trees in DC. The idea came before buttermilk was a thing (the photo below is the first version of the cake from 2017).

Way back then, I had gotten the idea to make a cake that looked like a cherry blossom tree from the inside. I think it stemmed from making too many funfetti cakes in 2017, and focusing on how the sprinkles distributed within the batter. My idea was to combine a funfetti like cake with a marbled cake look – but the marbling would be very thin so that it would look like branches:


How to make Sam’s Cherry Blossom Cake

The very special part of this cake, the inside is breathtaking (I was amazed the first time it turned out, and am amazed every year lol) but also, crazy easy. You make a white cake batter, add pink sprinkles. Then (or before) make a chocolate batter, just a bit – this is going to be our ‘branches’.

The layering here is key: first some pink specked white batter then some chocolate squiggles. Then again – and repeat until the cake tin is about half full. When the cake bakes, the batter rises on the sides first and in the middle last so you’ll get some lift on the sides and sometimes, if you’re lucky you’ll get some swirling that kind of looks like trees (see above!).


cherry blossom cake


Ingredients for Cherry Blossom Cake

  • Sakura Essence: I use sakura essence in the cake and in the buttercream, you might find it in local Japanese stores or you can order it on online (the amazon link doesn’t always work and sometimes is very pricey, on a good day I’ll find it for $12). It is flowery and lovely and pairs beautifully with pure vanilla. If you cannot find it, don’t stress – use another floral essence. I’ve listed a few in the recipe.
  • Cake Flour: will yield a more tender cake but in a pinch can be subbed for all purpose flour.
  • Dutch cocoa: for the chocolate batter, the darkness of this cocoa will make for prettier branches.
  • Buttermilk or kefir: I’ve found I can either of these in most of my cakes so both are great. Sometimes kefir is very thick, if you find it overly so, use a bit of water to thin it out. If you cannot find buttermilk or kefir, thin out some greek yogurt.
  • Coconut oil: Use refined which won’t have that coconutty taste or smell. I don’t have a substitute for this. It’s okay if it’s warm and runny and it’s okay if it’s solid. Weigh it!
  • Butter: Should be at room temperature before you begin making the batter but not melty. When you press it, your finger should leave a small indentation.
  • Sugar: Granulated, not organic which often has bigger granules and will take longer to dissolve.
  • Eggs: You need whites for the white cake batter and just one yolk for the chocolate batter. For the remaining 3 yolks you can… make cookies!
  • Vanilla: Sakura is very gentle in taste so some vanilla rounds it out. Use a paste, a scraped bean or extract. Avoid artificial vanilla which will give that ‘birthday’ flavor.
  • Salt: fine sea salt. Don’t use table salt which is overly salty in taste.
  • Pink sprinkles: local cake or hobby stores usually sell small packets of bright pink jimmies. If you can test them beforehand to be sure they aren’t the type that bleed as soon as they hit the cake batter, do that. I often make my own for this cake because I like it to have two different shades. This also means I can add sakura extract to the sprinkles too!


  • cherry blossom cake

Notes on making Sam’s Cherry Blossom Cake

  • The recipe below makes two 8” round cake layers. If you want to bake it in a sheet pan, use the quantities listed below and bake it in a 13×9 pan. Check for doneness at 25 minutes.

  • To decorate big petals like I did on the layer cake, use the back of an offset spatula to gently swipe buttercream onto the cake. To do the smaller ones like on my sheet pan version use a petal piping tip and draw an upside down tear drop.

  • For the sheet cake, I did something very similar, but made a water colored background (to emulate the tidal basin against which many of our trees grow) and drew a tree with simple petals on it (see end of post for photo). I think the idea of the tree is exquisite enough that you don’t have to fuss over making any part of your design perfect as it will still turn out beautiful.
  • To decorate with the ‘splatters’: mix two tablespoons of water with some pink food coloring. Dip a (clean, foodsafe) paintbrush in the water and flick it at the cake. I got the idea to do this for my 2022 cake from this gorgeous Funfetti Cake.
  • Check out my instagram highlights here for some other versions of this cake.


Cherry Blossom Cake Recipe

Cherry Blossom Cake

A cake that brings to life spring's most gorgeous trees: a cherry blossom surprise inside!
cherry blossom cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 41 minutes
Yields: 12
5 from 3 votes


Sakura White cake

  • 360 g cake flour
  • 226 g butter unsalted and softened 2 sticks
  • 75 g coconut oil
  • 440 g fine granulated sugar 2 cups
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sakura extract can sub with rose water orange blossom water
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 250 g buttermilk or kefir 1 cup
  • ½ - ⅔ cup pink sprinkles homemade or storebought

Chocolate Squiggles

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup cake flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tablespoon dutch cocoa
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk or kefir

Sakura Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter unsalted and at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or milk
  • ¼ teaspoon sakura
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Make the chocolate batter:

  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. add the egg yolk, baking soda and vanilla and beat for a few more minutes. Sift in the flour and cocoa, add the buttermilk and stir until just combined. Set aside. When it is time to build the cake, put some of this batter in a small piping bag.

Make the white cake batter:

  • Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour two 8” cake pans.
  • Beat butter, sugar and coconut oil together until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add egg whites one at a time, beating for a good 2 minutes after each addition. Scrape down bowl. Add the salt, vanilla, sakura extract, and baking powder and beat well. Scrape down bowl. Sift in flours, fold a bit with a spatula so it doesn’t make a mess when you turn the mixer back on, and with mixer on low, slowly pour in buttermilk. Mix until just combined. Fold in pink sprinkles and ensure all batter is homogeneous by scraping the bottom of the bowl.
  • Add some of the white batter to the bottom of each pan and smooth it down - just enough to make a 1/2 inch layer.
  • Grab your piping bag with the chocolate batter and snip off just a bit so you have a small opening. You’ll squiggle it (this is the best word I can think of to describe it, see pic) around the batter, shaking it as you go and overlapping (don’t make straight lines) so that it kind of looks like branches that are intertwined. Don’t overdo it or it will weigh down the center of the cake.
  • Add more white batter, smooth the top down very gently without disturbing the squiggles and pipe more squiggly lines.
  • Repeat until all the batter is equally distributed between the two pans.
  • Bake cakes for 40-50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.

Make the Buttercream:

  • Beat butter until very light in color, about 7 minutes. Add the vanilla, sakura and salt and beat to combine. Sift in powdered sugar and beat until combined and fluffy. Add cream or milk and beat to combine.

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Other Cherry Blossom bakes:


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Recipe Reviews

  1. Hi,
    I read a reply you wrote about the chocolate squiggly lines, and I wanted to clarify it. The posted reply was that when you layer the white batter, then chocolate squiggly lines, then another white batter layer, then again chocolate lines until all the batter is used….. you replied that you end on the chocolate squiggly lines. Is that correct? The top of the batter that goes into the oven has the chocolate lines on top?
    I want to make this for my son’s birthday. He just returned from Japan and tried a cake like this. I want it to look beautiful like your picture. Thanks for any input.

  2. Hi, could you let me have the quantities in grams please as I’m not sure of your cup measurements. Thanks it’s a truly beautiful cake

  3. Hi, trying to make this cake soon but Amazon is out of Sakura extract. I saw you mentioned rose water and by that do you mean ‘rose water extract’? or just rose water?– Additional question, if I were to try the Orange Blossom (exact?) would it turn the color of the cake orange? Thanks!

  4. I LOVE the look of this cake! I’ve been wanting to make it but I’m on the fence with Sakura Essence. Based on the reviews on Amazon and other sites, I feel like I won’t like it. I’m worried that it’s going to be like cilantro – you either love it or you hate it; no middle-of- the-road stuff. What if I used almond extract or plain cherry extract? I’d love your thoughts on this. Plus, I don’t want to invest the time and money for the Sakura Essence and then have all this anticipation and then be let down. I have some WONDERFUL Mexican Vanilla that would definitely be good in this cake but trying to decide whether almond extract or cherry extract. Please advise. I’m really excited to try this. I’m a really good baker and I’m up for this challenge! Also, I have the 7″ pans and the 8″ pans. I would prefer using those but need your advice on how much better to make for each, whether three layers or two! I DO want it to be dramatic so, I’m okay making more batter. Want to try both sizes and I’m okay with two layers or three of whichever I decide to make. Thanks so much in advance! Sorry this is so loooong!

  5. 5 stars
    This cake is great! I made the layer cake version, but decided to decorate mine using the design Sam used on the sheet cake version. I love the texture of the cake, it’s really fluffy and beautiful. My lines and sprinkles worked exactly like they were supposed to! I was nervous because I’ve never tried to make such a specific effect before– I’ve added zebra stripes and stuff but never something this fine. The only thing I will change for next time is to increase the sakura essence, which was mostly my fault for not measuring/not wanting to put my whole tiny bottle into the cake. Overall, I will definitely make this cake again!

  6. This cake is breathtakingly beautiful!!! I like the suggestion of rose water, but how about cherry? Does sakura taste anything like cherry flavors?

    • Sakura is quite floral which is why I suggested rose water. Orange blossom would be another floral. If you’re planning to use a cherry extract that could work too – a lot of DC restaurants and bars use ‘cherry’ when they are on the cherry blossom theme!

  7. Hi, I was wondering if you had any suggestions if you cannot get ahold of Sakura extract, I have been trying to find some but I’m not sure if it’s because it’s summer time or with the issues with the pandemic but I cannot find any. I love your idea so much it’s really beautiful and I thank you for sharing it and for your time to hopefully help me out.

    • Hi Carrie, I have a link to the one I bought via Amazon in the notes section but it’s not always available. You could check the local Japanese stores around you if you have any. Alternatively, I have had some people use rose water as the floral qualities are quite similar to sakura. If you can’t get either, you could just use a bit more vanilla. Good luck!

  8. This cake looks amazing! I am going to make this as a wedding cake for a friend and will be making it in a 12” round pan. How would you suggest I alter the recipe and bake time to accommodate that?

    • Oh my gosh what a project you have taken on! Well, normally I’d say double it (since my recipe is for a two layered 6″ round) but honestly, I’m not sure. It is really hard to say if I haven’t tried it myself! What if, to start with, you made the recipe as is and baked it in a 12″ to see how it came out? That way if it doesn’t work out at least you hadn’t doubled it yet.

  9. Can you tell me what pink sprinkles you used??? I’m going to make this for my twins bday cake on April!!!!’nn

    • Hi Stacey! I get those $1 wilton packs from Michaels. Amazon probably sells them too! Don’t get ‘naturally colored’ ones though, they won’t hold shape in the cake and tend to change color under heat. The waxed commercial brand is best.

  10. Does this cake normally rise a lot? I just tried it in one 8" tin, it’s domed with cracks all-over! 🙁
    My chocolate mix was also really runny while my white mix was rather stiff. What consistency should they be?

    • Hi Wendy!

      So sorry you had troubles with this cake!! I definitely know what it’s like to invest a lot of time and energy into a bake and be disappointed with the results. Let’s try to troubleshoot this…

      If you did the entire batter in one 8" tin that would definitely lead to some baking problems as there wouldn’t be enough room for expansion in a small pan and the batter would rise up and crack as the cake tries to bake thoroughly. My listed recipe is meant to be split into two 6" pans and I suggest baking at 325 because the lower temperature will prevent the cake from doming too much (they almost always dome just a bit unless you use cake strips).

      As for the batters, the chocolate should not be too runny and the white should be pourable – this if all ingredients were at room temperature when used (if you check my IG stories, I have a few more pictures of the batter). If some of the ingredients were too warm or too cold it could cause some changes in consistency. Also, sometimes the way we measure our flour can have an impact, if you have a scale weigh your flour at 120g per cup (for both cake and AP flours). If you don’t, I suggest to fluff it and gently spoon it into your measuring cup. This way you ensure you’re not packing in too much that would lead to a dense batter and cake.

      I hope this was helpful! Feel free to email me or DM me on IG with any questions should you try to make the cake again.

      • So excited to try this! If I’m using cake strips, what temp and cooking length would you recommend? Or would you advise against using them at all?

  11. When layering the batter do you end with the white batter or the chocolate lines? It’s a beautiful cake. I would like to make for my mother’s birthday in July. What if I wanted to make a larger 9 inch layer cake?

    • Hi Lisa! I would end on the chocolate lines. If you want to make two 9" layers I would increase the white batter by 50% . As for the chocolate, I always end up with extra so I think you wouldn’t need to increase that batter. If you do end up making it for your mother, I’d love to hear about it!

    • Hi Stefanie! I definitely recommend against other oils, anything like canola/olive/grapeseed and such are not solid at room temperature, will not cream with the sugars and simply will not work. If your objection against coconut oil is taste, I can assure the taste does not come through – it’s effect comes through in texture, in lending very tender cake. If it is some other reason, I suggest using another white cake recipe you like.

      • Thank you so much for your reply, the reason is because I don’t have any on hand. This was a great explanation, many thanks!!

  12. I love the cherry blossom cake! I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing cherry blossom trees in person so I am so envious of you but this just so stunning. Big ups. Definately can’t wait to try this recipe. Bless you ?

    • thank you so much angelique (what a beautiful name!) One day you must try to visit DC – tell me if you do (I know all the spots 😉 ) and if you do make the cake I’d love to hear about it!