These matcha cupcakes are sweet, soft, and tender. They're topped with a swirl of silky, velvety smooth matcha buttercream frosting. They have a delicate matcha green tea flavor that'll take you to matcha heaven!
Matcha is one of my favorite ingredients to bake with. I'm obsessed with matcha desserts; sugar paired with grassy green tea powder is a match made in heaven. These cupcakes are no different!
These matcha cupcakes are fluffy, tender, and have a moist crumb. They're full of earthy, rich matcha flavor and topped with the best silky smooth American matcha buttercream you'll ever make. They're totally irresistible!
Making this recipe is incredibly easy. I've included all my expert baking tips and tricks to make it fool-proof. If you're a matcha lover like me, you should try my baked matcha cheesecake and white chocolate matcha muffins. More matcha recipes are on the way!
Why This Recipe Works
- Bakery style cupcakes- You won't believe you made these cupcakes at home. With the best texture and perfectly smooth American buttercream, they taste like they're from a professional bakery!
- Not too sweet- The cupcakes are lightly sweetened so that you get a lot of pure matcha flavor. Smooth buttercream compliments the delicate matcha; it isn't heavy or overpowering like ganache and doesn't immediately deflate like whipped cream.
- Moist and tender- Because of the buttermilk, the cupcakes are super moist and stay moist for 4 days with proper storage.
- Easy to make- These cupcakes require a mixer but are still easy to make!
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a powder made of dried green tea leaves. It has a slightly sweet, grassy, and earthy flavor. The leaves (or Tencha) are grown on shaded bushes because the shade increases the amount of chlorophyll in leaves. Chlorophyll is what creates the bright green color- which is packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
Traditionally, matcha is consumed in East Asia and is drank during tea ceremonies in Japan. Most matcha production still happens in Japan, with the highest quality matcha coming from Uji, Japan.
The history of matcha can be traced back to the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the 7th-10th centuries before it was introduced in Japan between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Matcha is an integral part of East Asian and Japanese culture. I've linked articles about the history and cultural appropriation of matcha. Here are some of my favorite Asian creators: Veggiekins, The Heirloom Pantry , Bee the Love.
What Matcha To Use
Here are a few things to consider when choosing the best matcha powder for this recipe:
Color- Matcha should be vibrant, almost neon green. If your matcha is yellowish, brownish, or dark green, it means that the leaves were not shaded properly or that it was made from old leaves. The best matcha will be bright green.
Texture- Matcha powder should be super fine and dissolve completely in hot water. It's normal for matcha to clump a little, but it's not good quality if it's super clumpy.
Matcha grade- There are 2 grades of matcha: culinary and ceremonial. Ceremonial is the highest quality, usually intended for drinking, but I use it in my baked goods too. It has the richest green color, best flavor, least amount of bitterness, and most caffeine.
Culinary is the lowest grade of matcha and is usually reserved for baking because of its duller color, more bitter flavor, and low caffeine content.
I highly recommend using ceremonial grade matcha to make these cupcakes, but you can opt for a premium culinary grade matcha. Avoid pre-sweetened matcha latte mixes like the one from Starbucks!
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are some notes on the ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, see the recipe card below. These are all pantry staples that can be found at the grocery store.
- All-purpose flour- This is the base for the cupcakes. Plain all-purpose flour has great structure but is tender enough for a soft and moist crumb.
- Matcha powder- Use the best ceremonial or culinary grade matcha powder you can find. My favorites are from Ippodo, Matchaful, and Encha. I used ceremonial grade matcha when testing this recipe for a rich flavor and brilliant green color.
- Unsalted butter- Use high quality butter, like Kerrygold. Pull it out 2 hours before baking. Pure butter is used without oil for a lighter texture.
- Eggs- Pull the large eggs out 2 hours before baking.
- Granulated sugar- Using plain sugar, salt, and vanilla extract helps to bring out the earthy green tea flavor.
- Buttermilk- This adds more moisture and acidity to the cupcakes. Buttermilk and baking powder give the cupcakes the perfect rise and airy texture.
- All-purpose flour: If you're gluten free, use a gluten free measure-for-measure flour blend.
- Buttermilk: Plain kefir can be used instead of buttermilk. You can also make homemade buttermilk by combining ½ cup of whole milk and 1 ½ teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. After mixing the two ingredients together, let the milk sit for about 10 minutes to curdle.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- Fine mesh sieve- Sifting the flour and matcha eliminates lumps and creates a uniform batter. It's also great for lightly dusting matcha on top of the cupcakes.
- Mixer- Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer. I used my Kitchenaid Classic mixer.
- Mixing bowls- I love my Duralex glass mixing bowl set. The bowls come in 10 different sizes and are heat-proof and dishwasher safe.
- Cupcake pan- Any 12 well, non-stick cupcake tin will work. I love with mine from USA Pan.
- Cupcake liners- You'll need liners that fit inside the cupcake pan for easy clean up.
- Piping tip and piping bag- The Wilton 1M tip has been my favorite for a while! I used it to decorate these, my prosecco cupcakes, brown sugar cupcakes, and apple cider cupcakes.
How to Make Matcha Cupcakes
- Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk.
- Bake the cupcakes.
- Make the buttercream.
- Frost the cupcakes.
Step by Step Instructions
BEFORE YOU START - Add cupcake liners to the cupcake pan, make the buttermilk if needed (½ cup milk + 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice) and set aside to curdle.
STEP 1: Sift the dry ingredients. First, preheat the oven to 350F. Then, sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha into a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine.
STEP 2: Cream the butter and sugar. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar together on high. Let it run for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
STEP 3: Mix in the eggs. Beat in the eggs one at a time on low speed until fully combined. Then, beat in the vanilla.
STEP 4: Mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk. With the mixer on medium-low, mix in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Alternate between the two 3 times, starting with the dry and ending with the buttermilk. You can do this while simultaneously mixing or stopping and starting the mixer each time.
STEP 5: Fill and bake. Gently spoon the batter into the cupcake tin, filling the wells ⅔ or ¾ of the way. Then, bake at 350F for 17-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
TIP - Clean your mixer while the cupcakes are cooling so you can make the matcha buttercream.
STEP 6: Cream the butter. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream the butter on high for 8-10 minutes. This is essential for a super fluffy buttercream. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
STEP 7: Beat in the powdered sugar and matcha. Beat in all of the matcha powder and half of the powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes. Then, add in the other half of the powdered sugar and mix on low for another 3 minutes.
STEP 8: Add the heavy cream. Once the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the cold heavy cream 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached. The buttercream should have soft peaks.
STEP 9: Fill the piping bag. First, prepare your piping bag with a piping tip and make sure the cupcakes are completely cool. Then, fill the piping bag with buttercream.
TIP - If you don't have a pastry bag, use a Ziplock bag. First, snip off one corner with scissors and prepare it with a piping tip. Then, fill the bag with buttercream and close it, squeezing out any extra air.
STEP 10: Frost the cupcakes. Start at the center of the cupcake and pipe a bit of buttercream to create a base. Then, slowly lift the bag up as you pipe a circle around the cupcake, leaving room near the edges. Next, pipe another ¾ circle moving upwards towards the center. Then, quickly twist your wrist and pull the bag up and away from the cupcake, creating a point of frosting.
Tips for the Cupcakes
- Read all instructions and recipe notes before you start to make sure you don't miss any important steps!
- Make sure the butter and eggs are at room temperature so they blend into the batter easily.
- Measure the ingredients with a kitchen scale for the most accurate bake. If you don't have a kitchen scale, measure the flour using the spoon and level method. Fluff up your flour with a fork, scoop it into a measuring cup, and level it off with a knife.
- Sift your dry ingredients. Matcha and flour both tend to clump together, so sifting creates a uniform batter.
- Make sure the batter is evenly distributed between the cupcake liners. This helps prevent some of the cupcakes from rising too much and spilling over. Use a small measuring cup, ice cream scoop, or cookie scoop to distribute the batter.
Tips for the Buttercream
- Whip the butter by itself for a long time. This creates a creamy buttercream that isn't greasy.
- For the smoothest buttercream ever, sift in the matcha and powdered sugar.
- Add heavy cream 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the consistently looks good. I usually add 3 tablespoons of heavy cream so that the buttercream is fluffy and creamy but still holds its shape when piped.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting, about 1-2 hours. The buttercream will melt and slide off if the cupcakes are too hot.
Additions and Variations
Feel free to use different frosting, such as whipped cream, cream cheese frosting, or a chocolate ganache (with white, milk, or dark chocolate). You can also flavor the buttercream with lemon, raspberry, or strawberry extract. All these flavors go great with matcha!
Make Ahead and Storage
These cupcakes can be made a few days ahead and stored at room temperature for 3-5 days without the frosting. I recommend making the frosting immediately before serving.
- Counter- Store the unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container or Ziplock bag on the counter for 3-5 days.
- Refrigerator- Store leftover buttercream and frosted cupcakes in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let the buttercream come to room temperature before using.
- Freezer- Both unfrosted cupcakes and buttercream can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Store them in separate airtight containers or freezer bags. The day before serving, thaw the cupcakes at room temperature and the buttercream in the refrigerator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, use vegan buttery sticks and plant milk for dairy free cupcakes and buttercream.
Absolutely. If matcha isn't your jam, you can use hojicha, genmaicha, or butterfly pea flower powder.
Do not reduce the sugar. The cupcakes need ¾ cup of sugar to rise properly.
More Cupcakes to Make
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-2 tablespoon matcha powder
- 2-4 tablespoon heavy cream as needed
- Read all recipe instructions and ingredient notes before beginning. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder together and mix. Set aside.1 ¼ cup all purpose flour, 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon matcha powder
- Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes on medium high. Scrape the sides of the bowl.½ cup unsalted butter, ¾ cup sugar
- Mix in the eggs 1 at a time on low speed. Then, beat in the vanilla until well combined.2 large eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk on medium-low speed. Do this by mixing the dry ingredients in ⅓ at a time, alternating with the buttermilk until just combined.½ cup buttermilk
- Using a large (3 tbsp) cookie scoop or spoon, fill the cupcake liners ¾ of the way full. Bake at 350F for 17-20 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven. Let them cool in the baking pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
- Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, beat the softened butter for 8-10 minutes on high speed. Stop occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.½ cup unsalted butter
- Once the butter is creamy, mix in the vanilla.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes. Then, repeat with the remaining powdered sugar and matcha powder.1-2 tablespoon matcha powder, 2 cups powdered sugar
- Add in the heavy cream 1-2 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. 3-4 tablespoon is usually perfect for piping.2-4 tablespoon heavy cream
- Scoop the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a piping tip. Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes and enjoy!