Green Tea Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

I know a lot of people believe that green tea is magical. The arguments for its numerous health benefits are pretty convincing – preventing and fighting cancer, decreasing cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, clearing up skin, and fighting obesity? Sounds pretty good. So what do you do when you have a packet of powdered green tea, chock full of antioxidants and just waiting to help you lose your winter weight and lower your cholesterol?

You use it to make cupcakes, of course.

Yes, I’m aware that converting green tea into a baked good does a pretty good job of negating all the positive things it can do for you. Counterpoint: cupcakes.

I think we all know who’s winning this debate. Cupcakes always win.

With cold season in full swing, I wanted these to be as close to a warm, comforting mug of tea as you can get in a cupcake – and honestly, it was so close that after tasting these, I wondered for a minute why I hadn’t just brewed myself a cup of green tea and called it a day. This is definitely a subtle, grown-up cupcake, but that’s not to its detriment at all. The fresh, slightly grassy flavor of matcha powder* is balanced perfectly by the tartness of lemon, and the light-as-air Swiss meringue buttercream allows the distinctive sweetness of honey to shine through without being lost under cups of powdered sugar. They may not cure cancer or lower your cholesterol, but I’d argue that they reveal a whole new layer of green tea’s benefits.

*Matcha powder is dried, powdered green tea – it can be found at most Asian supermarkets or specialty tea shops. It’s also great in smoothies and ice cream.

Green Tea Cupcakes with Honey Frosting
Yield: 20 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp lemon extract
For the Frosting:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup raw honey (I used raw because I think the taste is more pronounced, but any honey is fine)
Make the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners and set aside (note that this recipe makes about 20 cupcakes, so line your pans accordingly).
  2. Sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder into a medium bowl. In a larger bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat milk, eggs, oil, and lemon extract on medium speed until completely incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until fully mixed, about 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly among lined pans, filling about ⅔ full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for five minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely.
Make the Frosting:
  1. Fill a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over saucepan, whisking constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is white and glossy (note: to completely pasteurize the egg whites, they must be heated to 140 degrees).
  2. Remove mixer bowl from heat. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until cooled and the egg whites hold stiff peaks, about 8 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter two tablespoons at a time. Beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3-5 minutes, or longer if necessary. Have a mild emotional breakdown when it appears your frosting has curdled and is ruined. Celebrate wildly when it comes back together. Beat your chest in victory. Add the honey and continue beating until incorporated.
  3. Frost cupcakes and dust with a light sprinkling of matcha powder. Enjoy with or without a steaming mug of freshly brewed green tea.

45 Responses to Green Tea Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

  1. I had a question about the frosting – when do I add the honey in?

    By the way, the recipe Sounds great! If I don’t want a lemony flavor though and a stronger green tea, what other extract would you recommend as a substitute.

    • Doh! I can’t believe I left that out – you add it after you’ve added the butter and beaten it for 3-5 minutes to bring it back together. I fixed the post as well – thanks for catching that!

      For the extract, you could substitute a teaspoon of almond or vanilla, but I also think you could omit it entirely if you don’t want anything to overpower the green tea flavor. You could also add an extra teaspoon or two of matcha powder to boost the green tea flavor even more.

  2. Made these this morning using vanilla extract instead of lemon and they turned out delicious. I also used my family’s favorite icing recipe and they tasted just like Starbucks green tea frappacinos.

  3. Hahaha! I had a great laugh when I got to the end! Your description of a ‘mild emotional breakdown’. YES I know that one. BEAUTIFUL picture and brilliant recipe…Thank you!

  4. I have never tried matcha powder, but I have always wanted to. These cupcakes are super cute and I love how you frosted them. Could you tell me what tip you used to frost?

  5. This recipe sounds absolutely amazing, and I plan on making them tonight for a friends bday, however as a college student, I’ll be honest, I have enough emotional breakdowns as it is (and they aren’t always mild…) So to avoid another one, I was wondering if you could suggest a different type of icing I could make (or perhaps even buy 😉 and flavor, if that’s even possible). Thanks!

    • Hey Stephanie – I bet a honey cream cheese frosting would be really good with this. I would do:

      1.5 sticks butter
      4 oz (half a package) cold cream cheese
      2 – 3 cups powdered sugar
      1/3 cup honey

      Beat the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix well after each addition. Add the honey and beat until fluffy.

      And if you want to go with storebought, you could just buy a can of vanilla frosting and add some extra matcha powder to it for a green tea-flavored frosting.

      I hope you and your friends enjoy them!

  6. I was looking for a green tea cupcake recipe and happened upon your blog. I’m really enjoying your postings! I tried this recipe the other day (but with the cream cheese frosting because was scared to to try the egg white kind) and everyone loved them. Thanks 🙂

  7. These look wonderful and I truly love your description of the “mild emotional breakdown” however had I tried this on my own without knowing about this…you can bet my kitchen wall would be covered with a new “design” of egg white “stucco” as the entire bowl would have flown across the room! LOL
    Love your recipes and so proud to brag and say I know you! 🙂

    • It usually comes together for me within 2-3 minutes – I have, very rarely, had to beat it for 10 minutes or so before it comes back together. If it still hasn’t smoothed out, you can try throwing it in the fridge for ten minutes or so in case it’s gotten too warm, then remove and continue beating.

  8. Hi…
    I love green tea and I can’t wait to try your green tea cupcake recipe. It looks really nice.

    But, I have question about the frosting. How many grams is 1 stick of butter ?


  9. These look AMAZING! I am so excited to make them, I just have a quick question- how does the honey frosting taste? I always worry that with 3 sticks of butter, the butter taste will be overpowering.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe!

    • Hi Sarah! Honestly, the frosting is pretty buttery. If you’ve had Swiss meringue buttercream before, you’ll be familiar with it – if not, it’s light as air but you can definitely taste butter. There’s an alternative frosting with cream cheese and honey further up in the comments if it sounds like it might be overpowering. Hope you enjoy!

      • Thank you, sorry didn’t know why I didn’t catch that! Last question- I can’t seem to find cake flour at my local grocery store. Is there anyway I could just use all purpose flour? Thanks!

        • Sure, you can use all-purpose – just remove two tablespoons of flour from each cup and replace it with two tablespoons of cornstarch.

    • Kelly, I tore apart my cabinet looking for the packet and I think I must’ve finished it off last time I made these. All I can tell you is that I got it at the Asian supermarket near me and it came in a small green envelope. I’ll reply again next time I get more!

  10. I made two batches with this recipe, andi got less than 40 cupcakes 🙁 I made one batch with powdered sugar in the cupcakes, and one with granulated sugar. Only because the recipe didnt specify…so i tried both. It took me forever to make the frosting, felt like i had to beat the batter foreverrrrrrr. lol.
    All in all though, the cupcakes turned out great! I love them.

    -oh, and i got my matcha green tea from the Teavana store that is in most malls.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m sure i will end up making them again 🙂

    • Hi Megan! I’ve updated the recipe to specify granulated sugar.

      The frosting is definitely painful! When I first started making SMBC, I ended up throwing away probably half the batches I tried because I convinced myself they were ruined. Ugh.

      Glad you enjoyed despite the minor snags!

  11. Hi Julie,

    I am looking for a great green tea cupcakes recipe and I found your blog. Your blog and green tea cupcakes are outstanding! thank you for sharing!


    • Yes, it is granulated sugar. Powdered sugar would not work in this – this a Swiss meringue buttercream which requires regular sugar. If you’d like to make a traditional American buttercream, you can beat 2 sticks of butter, add 3-4 cups powdered sugar, then beat in honey at the end.

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