Sakura Recipe: Sweet-Tart Meringues Featuring Pickled Cherry Blossoms

By Rika Hoffman
Updated: December 29, 2022

While peak sakura season is just behind us in Tokyo, the appreciation for these fast-fading springtime blossoms doesn’t have to end. (Nor does the hanami-permitted day-drinking and general picnic revelry—that’s just revving up as the weather stabilizes.)

These crisp, airy sakura meringues preserve the spirit of the season, melting on the tongue and leaving behind a lingering floral fragrance that’s punctuated by the salty-sourness of pickled cherry blossoms. 

Like the sakura season itself, these meringues won’t be around for long. Enjoy them at teatime (or at one of our favorite cherry blossom viewing spots) for a momentary escape from the everyday that’s as sweet as it is brief.

Kiss-shaped sakura meringues arranged on a baking tray

Sakura Meringue Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (25g)
  • 3/8 cup powdered sugar (38g)
  • 1/2 tsp sakura flavor 
  • Freeze-dried salted sakura flakes
  • Salt pickled sakura blossoms

Makes enough for 2 quarter sheet trays of bite-size meringues. 

If you have to bake the meringues in batches due to limited oven space (Looking at you, Japanese convection ovens!), know that it’s usually possible to revive deflated, unbaked meringue with a vigorous re-whipping. See Meringue Tips & Troubleshooting below for more FAQs.

Freeze-dried sakura, salt-pickled sakura, and sakura flavoring laid out on a marble tabletop

Method - How to Make Sakura Meringues

If there’s one thing we should do, even before dusting off our hand mixer, it's check the weather. Humidity is the enemy of crisp meringues and, by association, us. This is not the best time for our man vs. nature story arc, so we should pick our battles (meringue baking days) wisely.

Hand mixer, bowls, and eggs laid out on a marble tabletop

Wash the bowl and beaters thoroughly to ensure that there is no residue or fat on them, as this can prevent the egg whites from whipping. If you’re feeling especially meticulous, you could even wipe down the inside of the bowl and beaters with vinegar.

Bowl of egg yolks and bowl of egg whites on a marble countertop

Separate egg whites from yolks (it’s easiest to do this while the eggs are cold), and let the egg whites come to room temperature. Take care not to get any yolk in with the egg whites.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and prepare a piping bag.

Bowl of pickled sakura blossoms floating in water on the backdrop of a striped tea towel

Rinse pickled sakura blossoms in water 2-3 times to remove excess salt.

Salt-pickled sakura blossoms drying on a striped tea towel

Gently separate the blossoms and pat them dry between the folds of a kitchen towel.

Aluminum bowl of frothy, beaten egg whites

Beat egg whites until frothy.

Cream of tartar container held up in front of a bowl of whisked egg whites

Add cream of tartar and continue beating on low speed until doubled in volume, for about 1 minute.

Spoonful of granulated sugar in front of a bowl of frothy egg whites

Add granulated sugar one spoonful at a time, beating until the medium peak stage (approximately 5 minutes).

Bowl of soft peak-stage meringue with bowl of powdered sugar in the foreground

The peaks should mostly hold their shape at this point; defined, but with a slight flop.

Spoonful of powdered sugar being added to a bowl of meringue

Introduce the powdered sugar gradually, beating the mixture until the meringue is glossy and perky, forming stiff peaks on the beaters when lifted (around 10 minutes).

Beaters with stiff peak-stage meringue

Add the sakura flavoring, folding it in gently with a spatula.

Preheat the oven to 100C (approximately 210F).

Dollop a tiny amount of meringue under the corners of the parchment paper to secure it to the tray. 

Piping bag full of white meringue

Transfer meringue into a piping bag and pipe rounds onto the parchment.

If you don’t have a piping bag or prefer a more organic look, free-form meringues are also quite pretty. Just add dollops to the parchment with a spoon or spatula and work with the natural swoosh of the meringue.

Kiss-shaped piped meringues on a baking tray

To decorate, sprinkle with freeze-dried sakura flakes and/or (lightly!) press the pickled cherry blossom buds onto the meringues. Note that there is no additional salt in the recipe, so this is our chance to “season” the meringues.  

Piped meringues decorated with cherry blossoms and freeze-dried sakura on a baking tray

Bake low and slow. At 100C or 210F (the lowest my Toshiba convection oven allows), I let them go for approximately 55 minutes. Feel free to bake at a lower temperature for longer if you prefer your meringues to have a brighter white appearance.

Turn off the oven and let the sakura meringues cool in the residual heat for at least 30 minutes or until they are dry to the touch and release easily from the parchment paper.

Meringue Tips & Troubleshooting

Overhead shot of bowl of fluffy meringue

1. What is a good substitute for cream of tartar in meringue cookies?

Found yourself in a pinch – or rather – without a pinch, of cream of tartar in your cupboard? Used to stabilize the delicate meringue, if you find yourself lacking this helpful ingredient, substitute an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. I have tried subbing in an equal amount of vinegar for cream of tartar and found no noticeable difference in taste.

2. Can you revive collapsed meringue?

French meringue is the least stable of the three types of meringue, and if left unbaked it will collapse over time. In my experience, it is possible to revive deflated meringue that’s been left out for a couple of hours. Simply break out the hand mixer again to whip the meringue back into shape.

3. How do you know if the meringue cookies are done?

A gentle poke test may have you doubting whether or not it’s time to turn off the oven. While warm, the meringue cookies will be a little tacky to the touch but they should still feel firm. After letting them gradually cool in the turned-off oven, the meringues will stiffen and dry out completely.

At 100C (about 210F), my lowest oven setting, the meringues will start to turn from white to a shade of cream around the 50-55 minute mark. If your oven can manage an even lower temperature setting (around 90C or 195F), this would prevent browning and ensure a thorough low-and-slow drying out process.

4. How do you store sakura meringues?

Keep the meringues in a well-sealed container at room temperature or freeze for longer storage (up to a month).

5. How long do sakura meringues keep?

Meringues can stay fresh for up to two weeks. If they start to soften due to humidity, you can crisp them up again in the oven at a low temperature. 

Have some salt-pickled sakura flowers leftover from this recipe? Join byFood's Intensive Wagashi & Mochi Making Course and learn how to use this ingredient in an ephemeral raindrop cake that celebrates cherry blossom season.  

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Rika Hoffman
Rika is a sourdough enthusiast, amateur film photographer, and pun-lover, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A carb-based lifeform, she is always on the lookout for tasty bakeries in Tokyo.
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