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Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Sakura Shortbread Cookies

March 26, 2014

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

It is the start of the most majestic time of the year, Hanami season. Hanami is the viewing of the cherry blossoms (sakura) in Japan.

In order to celebrate this magical time of the year to its fullest, I have made a delicious assortment of these little rich, tender and buttery sakura shortbread cookies. There is something so special about shortbread cookies as when you bite into them you first hear the crunch and then they just seem to melt in your mouth. You can't stop at just one or maybe even two or three. Don't tell me I did not warn you up front as they are very addicting. Well they are quite dainty small cookies after all so you do not have to feel that guilty.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

This shortbread cookie recipe is pretty close to the one my mom used to make but I of course had to make some changes. Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture and it is usually made with 1 part sugar, 2 parts real butter and 3 parts flour. This is not a gluten-free recipe as no matter how many different times I tried to get the texture and consistency like my moms with gluten-free types of flours, it did not work.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

However, I did add one part cornstarch as this really makes this cookie crunchy and delicious. This recipe is of course egg free. I made one really big batch and then to one half of the batch I added some high quality vanilla and a pinch of salt and to the other half of the batch I added some delicious matcha green tea.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

It is sakura season so I decided to make my shortbread cookies into little flowers cut outs and ornately decorate them.I have to admit I had way too much fun for my own good making these very girly cookies. I sprinkled some of the sakura shortbread cookies with sakura flavored pink sesame seeds from Japan that are a little salty. You have the delicately sweet and buttery cookies with the slightly salty sakura sesame seeds and it is everything you always dreamed about for getting you fix on the sweet and salty craze.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

I stuffed some with a little Bammer's Jammers and this was a delicious way to celebrate high tea. You can use any type of jam you have available but strawberry and matcha flavors together are like a match in heaven.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

I also decorated some with some delicious wafer daisies from Dr. Oetker. Yes these are daisies and not Sakura, thanks for noticing, but I am in Hong Kong and it was the closest thing I could find to a sakura flower here. They are quite adorable, edible and gluten-free. After all, Sakura season is also the celebration of the arrival of spring and everyone around the world celebrates with the flowers blooming.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Spring arrival and  the sakura flowers open up at different times in Japan. However, in the southern areas like Okinawa Sakura can start to open as early as January and in the Northern parts of Japan like Hokkaido they can open up as late as May. However for the middle portion of Japan, depending on the weather usually is between March and early April.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

I used to live in Japan and it was one of the most amazing experiences ever. The sakura flowers only last for about two weeks and in many parks or shrines or near temples people can be seen walking along the flowers or putting down a picnic blanket and enjoying a little bit to eat or a sweet treats. Sometimes when the sakura flowers start to fall from the tree it looks like it is snowing. Even my eldest teenager went on a walk with mom to take in this very enriching cultural experience. It is an experience that is not to be missed.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

A few years ago, my husband and I were walking along Negeishi Shirin Koen, a park near our apartment in Yokohama, during the sakura season. There were many families having picnics in the park on blankets enjoying Hanami. I watched a man holding up part of his sandwich whilst he was gesturing up to the sakura in the trees and a huge hawk came down and grabbed his sandwich right out of his hand. Amazing site to see and the wing span on this little guy was huge. Everyone in the park squealed and then became very quiet as they watch this magnificent bird fly away with his prize. Even the wildlife in Japan are celebrating Hanami season.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Even if you are not in Japan, you can celebrate this lovely cultural tradition with a tea cup full of hot matcha tea and some delightful and delicatley sweet sakura shortbread cookies.  Matcha is the only tea variety that is ground into fine powder for and is a vibrant green colour. When drinking matcha you consume the entire tea leaf. Matcha drinkers consume a higher concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and fibers that other teas.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Just some hints while you are working with shortbread cookie dough. You must use real butter and you cannot under any circumstances substitute with margarine or some of those other fake butters out there as your results will not be optimal. You have to refrigerate your dough for at least a few hours or even overnight. I know it seems pointless as you first make the dough and it is nice and soft and supple so why would you want to refrigerate it and get it hard and then have to get it back out of the refrigerator and let it sit for a few minutes before working the dough. It is all to do with the glutens in the dough and you can miss this very important step as if you do your cookies will not stay in the orginal shape you formed but will end up like a big blob on the cookie sheet. Shortbread cookies unlike regular sugar cookies will remain beautiful straw color and will not brown so this is an excellent medium for matcha cookies so you can show off the gorgeous green color without browning.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

When working with your shortbread cookie dough, it is best to use a scale for weighing your measurements but you can also use cups and teaspoons but your effects may vary. I have included both for your convenience. If your dough is really crumbly, you can salvage it by adding just a couple of drops of cold water and work into the dough. If your dough is too wet, then add flour as needed just until the dough starts to pull together.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Sometimes, depending on your climate and humidity levels you will have to adjust. You can choose to just form your dough into logs, wrap tightly and put in the refrigerator for a few hours and them cut them and bake. However, if you choose to roll out your dough and use cut outs you need to work quickly. Sometimes you may need to refrigerate your dough in between batches so the dough is easier to work. In addition, I found putting the cut out cookies back into the refrigerator for just 15 minutes before baking ensures that the dough stays uniform in size.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Some other helpful hints include...

If you want to add colorful sprinkles to your cut out sakura cookies, use a little beaten egg white brushed on your cookie before you bake and then dip into sprinkles and then bake.

If you want to add sesame seeds to your dough your can either mix 1 -2 tablespoons of black or white directly into the dough and mix or you can put sesame seeds on top of your cookies right before you bake them but just use a little pressure so they stick on the cookie.

Matcha (green Tea) should be used according to the directions as in high concentrations it can be bitter. A little goes a long way. However, with just enough there is a subtle matcha taste that balances nicely with the powdered sugar. You can obtain matcha from your Asian or Japanese market. In some places it may be difficult to come by and that is why the vanilla shortbread cookies are a nice option instead.

If you want to use Dr. Oetker daisy flower wafers then you add these after the cookies are baked and cool and use a little royal icing as glue. Here is my link to royal icing if you choose to drizzle your cookies with a little color or glaze.

Wilton's cake decorating supplies now has all the beautiful pastel colors out such as light yellow, green and pink to make all of your cookies look festive for the spring season. Beautiful cookie cutters, sprinkles and anything you need to make your sakura shortbread cookies beautiful.

Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Sakura, sakura
Ya-yo-I-no so-ra-wa
Mi-wa-ta-su ka-gi-ri
Ka-su-mi-ka ku-mo-ka
Ni-o-i-zo i-zu-ru

Ka-su-mi-ka ku-mo-ka
Ni-o-i-zo i-zu-ru

Wishing everyone a glorious spring and a delightful hanami season.



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Sakura Shortbread Cookies/

Sakura Shortbread Cookies

By HWC Magazine  , , ,   

March 26, 2014

Rich, tender and buttery sakura short house cookies in both matcha and vanilla to celebrate Hanami. (Made 34 small sakura cutout cookies)

  • Cook: 2 hrs 20 mins
  • Yields: 32 Cookies


cornstarch - 1/2 cup (65 grams)

powdered (icing) sugar - 1/2 cup (80 grams)

flour - 1 cup (140 grams) all purpose and a little extra for rolling out the dough

butter - 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks)- (170 grams) softened and unsalted (use unsalted so you can control the taste to your liking)

salt - 1/8 teaspoon (pinch- as there is no eggs in recipe you can go ahead and taste the dough)

vanilla - 1 teaspoon (add only if making vanilla shortbread cookies do not add to match shortbread cookies)

matcha (green tea) - 2.5 tablespoons (15 grams) (Do not add if making vanilla shortbread cookies)

sesame seeds - optional (Can use black or white and they can either be mixed into the vanilla dough or used on top as a cookie garnish)


1Sift cornstarch, icing sugar, flour and salt into a bowl.

2a) Matcha cookies:  Add the 2.5 tablespoons matcha green tea now and sift into the mixture. Do not add matcha if you want to make vanilla shortbread cookies.

3b) Vanilla shortbread cookies: Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla after you have completed the sifting. Do not add if you want to make matcha shortbread cookies.

4Place either your matcha green tea or vanilla flour mixture into a food processor and add the softened butter. You do not want you butter melted but just at room temperature, if you forget to soften your butter you can put it in the microwave at 50 percent power for 10 second intervals until softened and you can put a dent easily with your finger). Optional: If you want to add sesame seeds directly to vanilla shortbread cookie dough, you can add one tablespoon of either black or white sesame seeds at this time. Pulse together gently until a dough ball forms. Alternatively you can process your dough with your hands or a spoon.

5Shape your dough into a round disk if planning on making cut out cookies and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Do not overwork the dough or it will make your cookies tough. The less touching the dough the better. If you want to just cut slices out of your dough form your dough into a log about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide and wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. (Refrigeration is a very important step)

6Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F or 150 degrees C. Take your dough out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap.

7a) If you are planning on just slicing the cookies from the log then cut into about 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a greased baking sheet or one lined with waxed/parchment paper about a couple of inches apart. Your cookies should not expand. Really you can shape the dough in any form you like. My mom used to press the dough into a plastic lined baking dish and refrigerate and then cut them into rectangles and then decorate with fork holes before baking.

8b) If you are planning on making cutout shortbread cookies with sakura flower cookie cutters, remove the plastic wrap from the circle dough and allow to soften slightly before trying to roll out the dough.

9Generously flour your work service. Roll out your dough so that dough is about 1/4 inch thick. The little bit thicker dough results in a lovely cookie. Flour your cookie cutters and firmly press into dough and repeat the process for the rest of the dough. I used a spatula to move the cookies from my counter to the parchment line or greased pan. Repeat the process for the rest of the dough. Sometimes the dough will be soft so just wrap it back up into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for a few minutes until it firms up again, roll flat and repeat the process.

10Decorate the cookies with sesame seeds or sugar confetti as desired. Press the sesame seeds down into the dough so they stick. If you want to ornately decorate the side of the cookies with sprinkles then first brush on a little egg white and then dip into sprinkles. (For an extra layer of security to make sure that my cookies did not expand I put the cookies on the cookies tray in the refrigerator for just a few minutes before baking. You probably can skip this step.)

11Bake sakura shortbread cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are slightly tan.

12Cool on a wire rack.

13Decorate cookies with royal icing, sprinkles, and decorations as desired.

14Enjoy Sakura Shortbread cookies with a nice hot cup of matcha, tea or coffee. Store your cookies in a plastic sealed container and if for some reason your family does not eat them within 3 days put them in the freezer and they can be stored up to 3 months.


  • Bams Kitchen

    I am really sorry if you are having problems leaving a comment or that this post says closed for comments. I am looking forward to hearing from you and appreciate your responses. I am trying to workout this wordpress issue and hope to have it resolved soon. Thank you for your patience.

  • Joanna

    These cookies look amazing! So beautiful!

  • kitchenriffs

    Happy Hanami! I love shortbread, so this is such a treat. We still make things using volume measures rather than weight, and so need to change. We have a scale that we use multiple times a day, just haven’t converted our baking recipes yet (it’s such a better system). These would go great with tea, and speaking of which, the tea we scored in your giveaway arrived! Really good stuff. Thanks again for that, and for this terrific post.

  • I love shortbread and these cookies are so pretty! Perfect for spring! 🙂

  • Such lovely and cute cookies! I love their colors!

  • These cookies are so pretty!

  • These cookies are beyond cute, so delicious and adorable 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  • I woukd try to take dainty bites of each! They’re all so pretty!

  • Hi Bam, what a great informative post, great tips too. Your cookies are just so beautiful! Happy Hanami!

  • What beautiful pictures!! Happy Spring!!

  • OMG! These cookies are so cute…I love the color and the flower shape…absolutely perfect to celebrate SPRING!
    Happy Hanami Bobbi 😀

  • Now this is just what I needed to see and read this evening! I’m so delighted by your beautiful cookies, you’ve taken gorgeous photos of them as well. They’re such sweet and pretty little bites of spring! My mom sent me photos of the cherry blossoms in Victoria, so they must be in Hanami season (if I’m using that word correctly) at the same time as you? I can just imagine how absolutely gorgeous and fanciful it must be to picnic in a park where several trees have cherry blossoms and petals floating down through the air. Oh, now this is going to be on my bucket list.. and so are these cookies!! Isn’t it fun to just take the time to make such pretty cookies?xx

  • I was in Japan last august… I loved it… the only regret is to not be able to have admired the cheery tries bloom… so thanks a lot for your beautiful photos and for those amazing cookies!

  • Robyn

    So glad to see comments are working, BAM. These are fabulous cookies! So lovely I’d be reluctant to eat them, lol. In Victoria, there are so many beautiful Japanese Cherry trees and in the Spring the streets and lawns are covered with the blossoms. I love to email friends with pictures and say ‘it’s raining petals in Victoria while the rest of you are buried in snow’ lol. Cruel, I know!
    I am always fascinated with your creations, BAM, beautiful!

  • These cookies are just beautiful and I loved all the beautiful pictures! Amazing!

  • I LOVE THESE!!!! Matcha & Sakura – perfect combination for spring! OH how beautiful these are, Bam! Amazing! I’d love to celebrate spring with these cookies. I’d make matcha to go with this! 😉

  • Lisa

    Holy Moly, Bam, these cookies are gorgeous! What a stunning and delicious way to welcome in Spring! I would have loved to have been there when the hawk came down to grab the sandwich. So breathtaking and awesome when you see the sheer size of one. You’re an artist 🙂

  • What beautiful cookies! They are perfect to usher in spring. I’m hoping we see signs of the season, too…but till then, I will gaze at your cherry blossom photos and wish for warmer weather 🙂

  • These are to cute to eat-but I would if they were in front of me. I wish my daughter were home to decorate them. She loves to decorate. I love to eat! So, so pretty Bam!

  • these look so pretty, you almost don’t want to eat them! I am so going to look for matcha powder when I am in the UK 🙂

  • Hanami season must be so so beautiful – speaking of beautiful, these cookies are just gorgeous!

  • I love shortbread cookies! Who doesn’t?! These are so so pretty especially to celebrate Spring. I love that you added green tea. It gives them lovely color and I bet tastes great. 🙂

  • So pretty!!! Love it!!!

  • Your cookies are so beautiful Bam!! I wish I could experience sakura season, I adore blossoms. I guess I’ll just have to reminisce about the cherry blossoms in Regents Park in London. They would look like snow too when they fell.

  • Your cookies look so beautiful! They held their shape perfectly And I love the detailed instructions you give for making them.

  • Just gorgeous! I am so happy just seeing your cookies. : ) I love those beautiful cherry blossoms and how much sakura is incorporated into Japanese culture and food. It’s lovely how you are celebrating that.

  • these are beautiful! I will have to try them out soon!

  • What gorgeous cookies, BAM. I remember last year’s posts on the Sakura and hanami season and the foods you associated with the Sakura are so elegant. Now I’m intrigued, too, because I’ve had matcha powder in my cupboard and didn’t really know what else to do with it. I LOVE the idea of adding it to shortbread and I’ll bet it would make good ice cream or sorbet, too. I’m inspired to experiment…thanks to you. 🙂 Happy Spring!

  • These little cookies are so pretty and lovely for a celebration! I really love using matcha green tea in shortbreads. The color is so nice.

  • What beautiful cookies full of lovely colors! You really make me feel like it’s Spring time.. thanks for the smile!

  • What gorgeous cookies!

  • OMG!!! You know how much I love MATCHA so i Must must must make these sakura cookies soon! So sorry I didn’t get the chance to see you in HK a couple of weeks ago when I was there! But hopefully we can meet when I come back in July!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Hello Daisy, I just love matcha too and these cookies are just divine with a matcha latte. I would love to catch up when you come back to HK in July. Sometimes, it really does seem like a small world. Looking forward to finally being able to meet you. Take care, BAM

  • Your sakura cookies are so cute and springlike. 🙂

  • wow, what a georgeous and beautifull cookies!!!

  • Sakura season is when I especially start missing Japan, and your beautiful, colorful, and yet incredibly delicate cookies bring all those memories right back to me. I love them so much! I guess indulging in a sweet sakura cookie would be the next best thing to enjoying the flowers in person.

  • Oh what a beautiful breath of spring air – thank you. Those cookies are just so beautiful & they do look like fun to make. Thanks for that suggestion about refrigerating the dough – I’ve had problems with these cookies in the past & that’s probably where I went wrong.

  • Oh WOW BAM!!
    These are the most gorgeous spring cookies I have ever seen!! Just beautiful!!!

  • Ooh, how good do those look?! So pretty – a very fitting cookie for the season Bam!

  • Hi Bam,
    These are so pretty!

  • These are so beautiful! The color of the matcha is stunning.

  • These are so beautiful and just scream Spring!!

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