Japanese Christmas cupcakes

What a beautiful morning!

I woke up to snowflakes falling outside my bedroom window and the sounds of people chatting and shoveling doorways. The streets of Brooklyn are covered in a white blanket of snow – I can feel Christmas coming our way! Whenever I see snow I think of Christmas, a fireplace, hot chocolate, gifts under the tree and my mother cooking in the kitchen. Warm and cozy memories 🙂

When I lived in Japan though, I had to relearn the Christmas wheel..

You’re probably thinking ‘Wait, hang on..They celebrate Christmas in Japan?’ Well, not exactly since buddhism and shintoism (kami no michi) account for 2/3 of the population. And though Christian missionaries tried in vain to bring their religious practice into Japanese homes years ago, less than 1% of the people converted. However, Japan loves American food, its culture and have a passion for celebrating almost anything. With that in mind they came up with their own way to mark the day.

KFC at Christmas in Japan

Tokyo, Japan: Lines of people waiting to get their Christmas meal at KFC. Photo: Danny Choo

Here are some ways they celebrate it:

Christmas is a commercial holiday (not considered a National holiday) hyped by TV commercials advertising December 25th as a time for romantic miracles. It’s a period when girlfriends and boyfriends reveal their true affection and feelings for each other and they do so by booking hotel rooms and high end dinners. Unlike here where Christmas is about family, romantic gestures take precedence in Japan.

Then there’s KFC’s fried chicken. Yes that’s right – KFC! HUGE on Christmas Day!

“But why??” you ask.

It started back in 1971 when turkeys weren’t available in Japan. As a way to celebrate Christmas with friends, foreigners gathered in Tokyo’s first KFC in Aoyama and ate the closest thing to turkey: chicken. That’s when the people at KFC came up with the idea of launching a campaign to promote eating KFC on Christmas day. It obviously worked because nowadays you must book your KFC Christmas dinner weeks in advance as they sell out of their menu year after year.

Japanese Christmas cake ingredients

Lastly, they eat Christmas cake (or Christmas cupcakes for this post). Stores all over Japan will carry the cake and drastically drop the price on December 25th in order to get rid of them all by the 26th. It’s a tradition to eat cake on Christmas so anything left after is considered bad and must be thrown out.

In the 1980s, business men coined the term to signify a woman 26 years and older, meaning she was ‘past her prime.’

Thankfully, the world has since evolved and being an unmarried woman in Japan no longer carries negative connotations. The expression ‘Christmas cake’ is no longer popular while the cake itself is still a big hit. And it is yummy so I’m sharing the recipe with you today!

blender eggs

This Christmas cake is a simple sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream. Since I don’t have cake pans, I made Christmas cupcakes instead using the same recipe. I came upon it while reading the Examiner and loved it instantly for its authentic taste and easy preparation.

My version is slightly different: I’m using basic, non-flavored whipped cream which makes the Christmas cupcakes less sweet and feel much lighter and fluffier.

I’m sure some crushed candy canes would also look really pretty!


These Christmas cupcakes will satisfy kids and grownups as they are sweet but not too sweet. Think strawberry shortcake (or banana puff shells) with a festive twist! Happy holidays everyone!

cake batter 2



Japanese Christmas cupcakes

Did you like this Japanese Christmas Cupcake Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!


Japanese Christmas cupcakes

Japanese Christmas cupcakes

This is the cupcake version of the traditional Japanese Christmas cake made with sponge cake, whipped cream and topped with strawberries.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Japanese


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup white granulate sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 8 strawberries (cut into quarters)
  • sugar sprinkles (for topping (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Brush the cupcake molds with oil or butter.
  3. Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. In a bowl, add eggs and using an electric mixer on high speed, mix for 4 minutes. The eggs should be thick and light in color.
  5. Slowly add the sugar while running the mixer on medium speed. Do this until all the sugar has been mix and beat for a total of 5 minutes.
  6. Put the milk and butter in a small pan on low heat, and turn off as soon as the butter has melted and transfer to a bowl to let it cool.
  7. Meanwhile, slowly add flour to the egg mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes.
  8. Add melted butter and milk and mix for a minute.
  9. Pour batter into cupcake pan.
  10. Bake for 18-23 minutes until cooked through. Test with a toothpick by inserting it at the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, the cupcakes are ready.
  11. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature.
  12. In a mixing bowl, add heavy cream and beat on high speed until thick. The cream should be thick enough to stand on top of the cupcakes.
  13. Decorate each cupcake with cream and top with a strawberry and some sugar sprinkles.


These cupcakes will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Keywords: snack, cake, sweets

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