Sakura Mochi (Cherry Blossom Sweet Rice Cakes)

Sakura mochi cherry blossom sweet rice cake recipe

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 3 hrs
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Total Cook Time: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Yield: 16 to 18 mochi (6 servings)

Sakura mochi is a Japanese dessert that is pink, just like the sakura (cherry blossom flowers) and is made of sweet glutinous rice and filled with a sweet red bean paste. It is wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf which is edible. Traditionally, this dessert is enjoyed during Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girls' Day) to celebrate the beginning of spring, as well as to wish good luck and good health for all of the little girls in the family.

The recipe for sakura mochi requires three major steps:

  1. Making the filling of koshian (sweet red bean paste)
  2. Making the sweet glutinous mochi (rice cake)
  3. Making the pickled sakura leaf

Two shortcuts can be used for making sakura mochi to minimize preparation time. First, the koshian filling can be purchased pre-made at most Japanese or Asian supermarkets. Second, pickled sakura leaf can also be purchased at most Japanese stores or even online.

Sakura mochi is best eaten on the same day it is prepared. However, it may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days and warmed in the microwave prior to eating. It is best to wrap each individual mochi securely with plastic wrap and then store them in the refrigerator. 

Pickled sakura leaves can be purchased at most Japanese supermarkets or online. If you are making this, do so at least 2 days in advance. Young leaves can also be used decoratively without pickling.

Ingredients

  • For the Koshian Filling:
  • 2 cups azuki beans (red beans)
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the Sweet Mochi Rice Cake:
  • 3 cups sweet rice (glutinous rice)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups water (divided)
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • Optional: 16 to 18 pickled young sakura leaves

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this sakura mochi is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Koshian Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for cherry filling
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  2. In a large bowl, soak azuki beans in water overnight. 

    Soak azuki beans
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  3. Rinse beans and drain.

    Rinse beans
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  4. Transfer beans to a large pot, add water and bring to a boil.

    Transfer beans to large pot
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  5. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer beans for about 10 minutes. Skim foam and any residue that floats to the top of the pot.

    Turn down heat
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  6. Turn down the heat to low and simmer the azuki beans for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until softened. Stir beans occasionally to make sure that the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. (Most of the liquid should boil off, but the azuki beans will have a slightly watery texture. Don't worry if it looks too watery. As the koshian filling cools, this water will be absorbed into the beans, and you will end up with a thick, creamy filling.)

    Turn down heat to low
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  7. Add sugar and salt into the koshian mixture and stir constantly for about 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat. (Koshian may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or stored in freezer.)

    Add sugar and salt
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Make the Sweet Mochi Rice Cake 

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for mochi rice cakes
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  2. Wash rice until water runs clear and drain. Let drained rice stand for 30 minutes.

    Wash rice
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  3. Heat sugar with 1 cup of water in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve and let cool.

    Heat sugar with water
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  4. Add 2 drops of red food coloring to the sugar mixture. This will make the rice pink.

    Add red food coloring
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  5. Add the pink sugar mixture to the rice.

    Add sugar
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  6. Fill the rice cooker with 3 1/4 cups of water, but please heed the water guidelines according to the measurements of your rice cooker. Let the rice soak in the pink sugar mixture and water for 1 hour before cooking. (Allowing the rice to soak in the water will help to ensure that the cooked rice grains are soft and not hard in the center.)

    Fill rice cooker
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  7. If available, use the setting on your rice cooker for "glutinous or sweet rice" and cook the rice. After the rice cooks, don't open the rice cooker and let the rice steam for 30 minutes.

    Cover
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  8. Gently smash the cooked glutinous rice with a shamoji (rice paddle) or spatula. Allow the cooked rice to cool so that it is warm. (Tip: It's easier to work with mochi if it is warm because it's pliable.)  

    Smash rice
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  9. While the cooked rice is cooling, soak the pickled sakura leaves in water for 15 minutes to remove the salt.

    Soak sakura leaves
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  10. Drain the leaves on paper towel.

    Drain leaves
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  11. Use a piece of saran wrap large enough to generously cover the palm of your hand so that the mochi doesn't stick to your hand. Take about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mochi and spread on your palm in an oblong shape about 2 1/2 inches long. Be careful not to spread the mochi too thin, because then your koshian filling will break through the mochi when you are wrapping it.

    Use saran wrap
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  12. Place a round 1 to 2 teaspoon scoop of koshian filling near the bottom center of your oblong mochi. 

    Add filling
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  13. Fold over the top half of the oblong and seal it by pressing the ends of the glutinous mochi closed. Repeat until all of the mochi is made.

    Fold top over
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  14. Wrap in the sakura leaves.

    Wrap in sakura leaves
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  15. Serve and enjoy!

    Sakura mochi cherry blossom rice cakes
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

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