Japan Today

Frosty feeling - Jamaican takes cupcakes to new heights

By Chris Betros

If you have trouble finding great cupcakes in Japan, then help is only a click away. Jamaican Sasha Lee Seals makes fantastic cupcakes and sells them through her online store yummcupcakery.

Where are you from and what brought you to Japan?

I am originally from Jamaica. When I was there, I saw a “Harajuku" girl and wanted to know more, so I found out about Japanese fashion. Then I was dating a fellow Jamaican who was in Japan; after finishing university, I moved to Japan 10 years ago to work in the fashion industry. I spoke no Japanese at the time, so a job in fashion wasn't possible. I started working as a kindergarten/elementary school English teacher. After that, I worked as a recruiter in the fashion industry for a few years before the market crashed.

How did you get the idea to start yummcupcakery?

When my first daughter was one year old, I wanted to have cakes and cupcakes and there were none here that I liked, so I decided to make my own. That is how yumm started.

Is your recipe an original one or has it been handed down by your mother?

I grew up in a house where my mom and aunts would always bake for any and all reasons, so baking is in my blood. I had a tiny mixer and blender and learned all my baking from my mom and my aunts. Some of the recipes are from my mom; others I experiment.

What is the difference between a good cupcake and a great one?

A good cupcake is basic icing and cake. A great cupcake has the perfect amount of icing to cake ratio - 1:2, is made of fresh ingredients, and you can tell all the flavors. They are not just sweet with silky or grainy buttercream/frosting.

How is business?

Business has its good days. Some weeks I have very few orders and others I bake non-stop.

Are you only selling cupcakes online or are they available in stores or restaurants?

I sell mostly through my website www.yummcupcakery.com and recently we have started selling them at the Pink Cow in Roppongi and cookies at King George Cafe in Daikanyama.

Would you like to have a dedicated retail outlet one day?

I would love to have a café. It would be more like a home away from home, with awesome drinks to compliment the cupcakes. Have you thought of offering baking lessons?

I have taught a few lessons to my eldest daughter’s friends and their moms. I plan to have more structured lessons that teach Japanese women and men who want to learn to make cupcakes.

Do Japanese like the same flavors as Americans? Do they prefer them to be sweeter or about the same?

I had to cut the sugar way down so my Japanese customers enjoy it. Also, Japanese want natural colors. For example, I have never had a Japanese customer order red velvet but for my foreign customers, red velvet is a winner.

How many cupcakes do you and your family eat each week?

My husband will eat six vanilla cupcakes in one sitting. The amount of cupcakes is a secret…well, actually I have no idea when you add up all the cupcakes, cookies and Jamaican desserts.

© Japan Today

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This is a nice bit of promotion, but these do look good. I wonder how well they survive being shipped nationally ? I might have to find out...

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These look delicious but I was wondering whether these people you promote on Japantoday (I remember another lady making apple related sweets) have the food service/sanitation management licences etc.that are required to run such a business in Japan.

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Great job Sasha!! One of my old pals from my Tokyo days!!!

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She makes the best cakes!!!

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That's an inspiring story. It's really nice to read about people like her, the people who follow their dreams and really work at life. I'm looking forward to eating some of these cupcakes someday soon!

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I used to be into red velvet cakes and cupcakes. Sooooo inviting... Be strong! Resist! Must hit the elliptical! =p

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Well, I have placed an order. I did it so that you don't have to.

The efforts at cupcakes I have tried so far in Japan have been sad, dry, artificially flavoured efforts. I have high hopes for these.

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