Art lovers and foodies rejoice! Japan now has cupcakes so beautiful that they should probably be considered works of art, but are in fact delicious hand-made goodies meant for eating.
But could they be SO beautiful, so detailed, so mesmerizingly dainty in Japanese styles and patterns, that it would be a waste or even blasphemous to ruin them through our crude form of consumption, lost forever via our vast digestive tract? I probably wouldn’t go that far, but they are fantastically elegant and a slight hesitation to appreciate the detail before digging in would probably be in order, if not inevitable.
The art of cake and cookie decorating with icing, a very Western “art form,” has finally made its way to Japan via Akina Matsuhira, who designs many of her detailed goodies in a Japanese-theme. After studying cake-decoration in England at Brooklands College and then continuing her training at a cake studio in London, Matsuhira has finally made a triumphant return to Japan, and with her she brings her master “sugar artist” skills and knowledge.
Most amateur bakers out there probably understand that baking and decorating cupcakes or cookies is no easy task. But that’s nothing compared to the tireless work of competitive cake decorating. It’s indeed not a job for the faint of heart; it takes patience and a strong will.
In her big entry into the spotlight, Matsuhira entered a cake-decorating contest, where she revealed her true masterpieces, cupcakes capturing the spirit of Japan. After painstakingly decorating for two days, working through the night, she came out on top, winning the first prize.
▼A folding-fan with a beautiful wisteria design.
Now back in Japan, Matsuhira is giving lessons to aspiring “sugar artists,” and has written two books for those who can’t travel to Shiga Prefecture for an in-person course. She has published one decorating recipe book and one cookie decorating lesson book. The books span from easy tasks for beginners to more high-level challenges for advanced artists. They’re definitely worth checking out if you are at all interested in icing art.
But for the rest of us, we can just feast our eyes (and hopefully our taste buds) on Matsuhira’s masterpieces. One of her signature design themes is “Japanese wedding engagement.” Now, after seeing these intricate delicacies, it almost makes me want to get engaged myself, just so I can celebrate with my friends and family with these fashionable cupcakes.
▼ I’m pretty sure that’s a real flower, not a sugar flower… right?
Keep an eye out for the detail, especially the gold icing bordering the flowers – it really adds a regal touch and also helps the colors pop out. Her designs are always very Japanese in how delicately and meticulously she makes each sweet.
▼An obi (decorative belt worn on a kimono). Don’t forget that it’s made of frosting!
▼A very Japanese crane intertwined with a haorihimo (the decorative band on men’s formal kimono jackets worn at one’s wedding).
▼ Tree peonies. Could you eat something that intricate?
On second thought, I might not get engaged just so I can eat cupcakes, but I would, however, jump at the chance to see one of Matsuhira’s goodies in person (and then eat it!). Her work is very beautiful and manages to blend the Western cake-decorating style with the delicate and unique Japanese spirit. I can definitely see this catching on and becoming a huge trend throughout Japan, especially at weddings. Any aspiring sugar-artists out there, feel free to let me know if you need a taste-tester!
Images: JILL’s Sugar Collection