Black Sesame Cupcakes


I had a cupcake craving but no desire to make plain vanilla or chocolate, the only two flavors I had ingredients for. I decided to give black sesame a whirl. I checked Pinterest and found these two recipes. The first one looked beautiful but seemed too much work. The second one had matcha cream cheese icing on top which made me cringe. I decided just to see how much sesame they put in and modify a vanilla cupcake recipe. I went with the Hummingbird Bakery recipe as I know it works well.

I really enjoyed them and the husband gave two thumbs up. These are not too sweet and are suitable to make for people in Japan. I made a half batch of icing and still had leftovers. This could be because I used tall cups so I ended up with only nine cupcakes instead of twelve.

You can see that I don’t use a lot of icing. This is a result of living in Japan so long. I can’t stomach a big swirl of icing on top. If you make these for Japanese people (or anyone from a country that doesn’t use much sugar) or long term expats, I would recommend a thin layer of icing and reducing the sugar to half.


Modifications to the cupcakes

  • reduced the sugar to 100g (you could go down to half and not miss the sugar)
  • used rice milk instead of whole milk (that’s what I had)
  • took out one tablespoon of flour (to balance for the ground sesame)
  • added two tablespoons of ground black sesame
  • used a hand mixer (whipped butter, added dry ingredients, added wet ingredients)

Modifications to the butter cream

  • made a half batch
  • added in one tablespoon of ground black sesame before the powdered sugar
  • didn’t actually measure the powdered sugar (I have followed the recipe properly before and it was great)
  • used a hand mixer

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Do you have a go to recipe that everyone should try? Leave a comment below.

Bus cake 3

The bus birthday cake adventure

My son turns two this week and we had the first of two parties this weekend past. I decided to do a bus cake so I tested out the buttercream and cake recipes for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Everything tasted good and since it was a city bus and completely square I didn’t have to worry about entering the lovely world of carving round edges. I used this cake recipe and this buttercream recipe. I halved the sugar for the cake and after living in Japan for so long, I could reduce it further. I have a sweet tooth but North American sweetness levels can be over the top. If I had a stand mixer I think I would make a merengue buttercream instead of a basic buttercream since the sweetness can be reduced.

I found this excellent buttercream decorating tips page via pinterest.

The gear

  • two small loaf pans bought at the 100 yen store (similar to a dollar store)
  • a cake decorating set from the 100 yen shop
  • cardboard and tin foil for the base
  • a jar of hot water

I started with the picture from my son’s book.

bus cake picture

Next I did a crumb coat chilled it in the fridge for a couple of hours and then started decorating. I found that when room temperature is in the upper twenties, chilling the cake does nothing as the icing softens almost instantly.

Bus cake 1

I decided to start at the bottom and work my way up. Until I got this.

Bus cake 3

Not bad for my first decorating job. I have to say that with the small size of this cake it was a bit of a challenge. My perfectionist brain was not impressed that it was too small for me to smooth out the icing properly.

Overall it was a fun experience. I will do a theme cake for the kiddo every year methinks.

Rice Cooker Love

As you can imagine, now that I’m working on a rice cooker cookbook, I have been making a lot of food in the rice cooker. I love how easy it is. With summer in full force, I don’t seem to have the usual cooking energy and five minutes of active prep works for me.

I’ve been having a harder time with cakes because I have a three cupper and cakes need a wider area like a five cupper. What a great excuse for a new rice cooker.

Here is what I’ve been working on.

Pineapple Curry Chicken

Roast beef

Daikon and chicken in a gochujang sauce

Coconut Kabocha Pie

Coconut Kabocha Pie

Coconut kabocha PieMarch 14th was Pi Day. π, not pie. For the last three years I have not remembered until I read someone’s recap in the late evening and could not participate. Confession: I just realized this year it is pi day because the date is 3.14. How could I forget when it happens? It’s also White Day in Japan. Luckily I saw a Facebook update in the morning and had time to bake a pie to celebrate. I also got to try out the little coconut mild powder packets I recently spotted at the supermarket. This solves a dilemma I used to have. I don’t really cook with coconut milk so whenever I but a can pack of powder it is usually for a purpose that only uses a bit of it. Now no waste as the pack is only 18g. Anyway, back to the pie. It was fabulous. I used my usual pumpkin/kabocha pie recipe and crust and just made a couple of changes. I used coconut oil in the crust because the lovely Soness gave me a big tub of it. I don’t think that really changed the flavour of the crust so regular cooking oil as per the recipe will still be great.

Coconut Kabocha Pie

1/4 cup kabocha squash, cook and puree (you can peel or not peel it)

milk to thin out the kabocha until it is like a really thick soup

1/2 teaspoon salt

27 grams coconut milk powder (1 1/2 packets of the stuff below)

2 well beaten eggs

1 cup sweetened condensed milk (sold for strawberries in Japan)

Whisk everything together until smooth.  Bake in your favorite pie crust for ten minutes at 220C and then turn the oven down to 160C and bake for 40-60 minutes more.  Cool before serving.


Coconut Milk Powder

This is the only package of coconut milk powder (or any coconut product for that matter) in Japan that I have seen without English on it. This one was in the curry section while canned coconut milk was in the Asian food section. It’s made by S&B, the company that makes those red cans of curry powder.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

This is called rennyuu (れんにゅう 練乳) in Japanese and is mainly sold for strawberries. I have seen it in many different locations in supermarkets, sometimes right by the strawberries. Probably best to ask as it will probably be on the top shelf in a seemingly random place. Image source.

Kabocha Miso Vinagrette


I went into Tokyo today and had planned on bringing my lunch. When I realized how much stuff I had to take to daycare for my son, I gave up on the idea. That is the reason for the bento box presentation. Beautiful, isn’t it? I threw the dressing together in a minute. Salad dressings are all about personal taste so I’ll just give you the ingredients list and you can find your ideal mix. Just put everything in a jar and give it a shake.

In the mix: kabocha puree, miso, cider vinegar, sugar, water and salad oil

In the salad: lettuce, zucchini, carrot and red peppers