Matcha Pocky Yuzu Birthday Cake for the Japanese Emperor

I’m a blue-eyed American gaijin (foreigner in Japanese) who lived in Japan during the Showa Period until I was 18 years old. (As you probably know, periods of Japanese history refer to the reigning Emperor.) Thanks to Emperor Akihito’s wife, Empress Michiko, I have been fascinated by the imperial family since I was a child. Like a true princess, Michiko was kind to everyone. Her elegant sense of fashion was fantastic. I'm still an Empress Michiko fan. (She may have a few more wrinkles on her face but the loving energy she exudes is more exquisite than ever.)

The current Reiwa Period’s Emperor and Empress are pretty remarkable too. Empress Masako went to Harvard and gave up a promising career in favor of her literal Prince (at the time) Naruhito.

Celebrating one’s 60th birthday (kanreki) is super important in Japan. It’s viewed as a time of rebirth – a new life. Fortunately, Emperor Naruhito was able to gather his friends and family for a huge party last year just before the pandemic hit.

The soiree on February 23rd this year will undoubtedly be toned down. Still, as in past years, in honor of the Emperor’s birthday the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC, and all Japanese Consulates in the United States will close.

In California, I can’t invite friends to a royal shindig…But, I did want to commemorate Emperor Naruhito’s 61st birthday. So, I baked him a cake!

Emperor Naruhito’s Matcha Pocky Yuzu Birthday Cake

Fluffy light cake is topped with lemon candy-like frosting and Matcha Pocky!


Recipe inspired by Swan’s Down Cake Flour’s 1-2-3-4 Cake Recipe.

  • (8 ozs) 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • (3.5 Japanese cups 3 American cups sifted cake flour
  • (2 1/3  Japanese cups) 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • (½ Japanese cup plus 1 tablespoon) ½ American cup coconut milk
  • (½ Japanese cup plus 1 tablespoon) ½ American cup Japanese yuzu juice
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

PREHEAT oven to  (180°C)  350°F.
BUTTER and lightly flour 3 (9-inch 22.86 cm) layer pans with matcha powder.
SIFT flour and then lightly spoon 3 cups of the flour into large measuring cup.
CREAM butter in large bowl. Gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.
Sift the already-sifted cake flour with baking powder and salt.
Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
Add flour mixture alternately with milk and extracts, blending after each addition until smooth.
(Do not over beat as this will yield a dry cake.)
POUR into prepared pans.
BAKE for 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.
COOL in pans for 30 minutes or more, then remove from pans and finish cooling on racks.

Yuzu Frosting:

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ozs. / 1 pound powdered sugar
  • (8 tablespoons butter) 1 stick salted butter (softened) OR 4 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • (4.5 tablespoons)  ¼ cup yuzu juice (Lemon juice works well, too)

Note: Spoon in a tablespoon at a time – you may not need the whole ¼ cup.

CREAM butter in a large bowl.
ADD the powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time. When the mixture is too stiff, add the vanilla extract and a little yuzu juice.
CONTINUE to add powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time. Continue adding yuzu juice until your frosting is at a desired consistency.
FROST the cooled cake, starting with the filling suggestions below.

Note: You may want to double this recipe to ensure you have enough frosting to completely cover all 3 layers of cake.

2 Options to the Yuzu Frosting Recipe Above:

1. Add 2 or 3 teaspoons of yuzu juice along with ¼ cup of powdered sugar to heavy cream for a whipped cream frosting.
2. Whip up 2 or 3 teaspoons of yuzu juice along with ¼ cup of powdered sugar to a can of ready-made vanilla frosting.

Filling Suggestions:
Chocolate Frosting
Lemon Curd
Strawberry Jam
More Yuzu Frosting
Or anything else you think would be delicious!


  • Packages of Matcha Pocky and Chocolate Pocky
  • 2 ~ 3 tablespoons Japanese Matcha Powder

Crumble ½ of a package of Matcha Pocky and ½ of a package of Chocolate Pocky.

Sprinkle matcha powder on top of your cake. Next sprinkle the crumbled Pocky sticks. (You will need additional crumbled Pocky if covering the sides of the cake.)

And get creative with the remaining Pocky sticks…or enjoy separately from the cake.


The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.



Follow on Bloglovin