so, let’s talk cake. let’s talk this cake, which is – I think – the best, most complex, most subtly enticing piece in my baking repertoire, and which I can still taste even now, nearly two months after baking it. two months?!, I hear you exclaim – and yes, I deeply apologize for withholding the discovery of this confection from you. there’s been a myriad range of things like holidays and meetups and restaurant-eating, and really it’s sort of ironic that I can go on for ages babbling about this cake and not actually start writing – a little like now, really.
this is an alice medrich recipe, and so that tells you quite a bit about the pedigree of it – she’s often associated with the best chocolate recipes (her cocoa brownies are a revelation) and this is the first recipe I’ve made of hers that doesn’t involve that dark gold, but really – her name’s almost a guarantee for something lovely out of the oven.
so I’m asian, right, and that means that sesame oil is a large part of my life. anything savoury benefits from the touch of this dark fragrant amber – vegetables, meat, steamed fish, you name it. but I’ve never thought of including it in a cake, just because of its savory connotations in my head (you’ll hear this exclamation from bloggers who’ve made this cake), and so it was sort of mindboggling. not that it should be, of course, for what is sesame but a very tasty sort of nutty substance, and sesame seeds are an oft-seen ingredient in chinese desserts.
it’s a simple preparation for a very impressive cake – it has depth from the toasted sesame oil, and the cake itself is interspersed with little nubbins of sesame which provide further interest to what is otherwise a fluffy butter-cake-type texture. the cake tastes buttery and nutty, and the sesame does come through, but not nearly as imposingly as you’d expect, and remains as a lingering and addictive aftertaste – rather than hitting you at first note. I found that serving this with honey (warmed and drizzled over), or a caramel/honey type ice cream was best – it lifted the flavors, and complemented rather than detracted from the sesame oil.
I couldn’t find black sesame seeds, so I used only white ones that I toasted – and this turned out very well (which means you can too!) even if the black ones might have made the cake look somewhat prettier. you need to go at this with an open mind – especially if you’re asian and have a preconceived notion of what sesame oil is for – because my mum didn’t take more than a slice, but my partner fell a tiny bit in love with this cake too. let me know if you try it, and how it goes!
toasted white sesame cake (adapted from dessert first, who adapted it from alice medrich’s pure dessert)
85g all purpose flour
0.25 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder (I may have accidentally added 0.25 tsp and it was fine)
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg, at room temperature
1.25 tsp sesame oil
0.5 tsp vanilla
56g unsalted butter, at room temperature
0.5 cup castor sugar (about 110g)
0.25 cups buttermilk (I used 1 tsp white vinegar, and topped up milk to 0.25 cup)
20g white sesame seeds (about 2 tbsp)
- toast your sesame seeds in a dry non-stick pan until they are golden brown. set aside to cool, and preheat your oven to 175C. line the bottom of a 6-inch cake tin.
- sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. set aside. throw the egg, sesame oil and vanilla into a small bowl and whisk before setting aside as well.
- cream the butter, and then add sugar gradually while whisking on high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- beat in the egg mixture gradually, taking a minute to finish adding it in. now sift in one-third of the flour mixture, fold in, and then fold in half of the buttermilk. repeat this again, and then when you add the last one-third of flour into the batter, add the sesame seeds together and fold in thoroughly but gently.
- bake the cake until the tester comes out clean. cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, before unmoulding to cool completely on the rack.
- when cool, serve with drizzled honey or ice cream. it’s a dream!