Amped Up Sesame Cake

Tender sesame cake.

Maybe you’ve tasted sesame cake before. Well, you probably haven’t had sesame cake like this before.

Extremely moist, artful with black sesame seeds throughout, and with the haunting, revved up flavor of toasted Asian sesame oil. Wow.

The recipe is from baker extraordinaire, Alice Medrich, who never ceases to amaze. It’s from her book,
“Pure Dessert” (Artisan). It’s a simple cake to bake, and one that needs no other adornment to shine.

Sesame Seed Cake

(serves 8 to 10)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 ½ teaspoons Asian or toasted sesame oil (see Note)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature

¼ cup toasted black or natural sesame seeds

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable spray and line bottom with parchment paper.

Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt thoroughly in a medium bowl and sift three times. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs together briefly with sesame oil and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, beat butter at medium speed for a few seconds until creamy. Add sugar and beat at medium speed (high speed with a hand-held mixer) until light colored and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in a little of the egg mixture at a time, taking about 2 minutes to add it all. Stop mixer, add one third of flour mixture, and beat on low speed only until no flour is visible. Stop mixer and add half of the buttermilk, then beat only until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with half of remaining flour, then all of remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour with sesame seeds, scraping bowl as necessary, and beating only enough to incorporate ingredients each time.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then slide a thin knife or spatula around edges of the cake to detach it from pan. Invert cake onto a rack, and remove pan and parchment liner. Turn cake right side up and let cool completely on rack.

The cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 4 days. Or freeze, well wrapped, for up to 3 months.

Note: Asian sesame oil, not to be confused with Asian chili oil or light untoasted sesame oil, is available in the Asian section of large supermarkets. Asian sesame oils are toasted as a matter of course, even if the labels do not specify this. If you buy a non-Asian brand (such as any produced by natural foods companies), be sure the label says “toasted,” as untoasted oil will not deliver adequate flavor here. If you cook Asian dishes only occasionally, the sesame oil in your cupboard could be rancid; and even 2 ½ teaspoons of it can add an unpleasant flavor. Buy a fresh bottle, and keep it refrigerated unless you use it up in less than 3 months (measure and bring to room temperature before using.)

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  • Ok, here’s how I read this post in my head…

    ooooooh, never had sesame cake before!
    oooooooooh, did you just say First Lady of Chocolate Alice Medrich?
    ooooooooooooh, you included the recipe!
    oooooooooooooooh, SOLD! I will be making this!

    I think you said all the right things, Carolyn.

  • Hi CJ,
    Sounds like a winner. I will definitely be trying this. My mom will like this one.

  • Oh, I bet your Mom will enjoy this cake. It’s very moist, with a tender crumb, and of course, that surprising depth of Asian sesame oil.

  • I`b never heard of sesame cakes until right now, maybe bacause I use sesame only in savory dishes. this cake sounds very interesting, especially the seasme oil that is added.

  • Hi Carolyn,

    I made this cake too and raved about it on my blog! I’m really thrilled to have discovered you and your blog – as someone who grew up in SJ and lived in the Bay Area all her life, I’m embarassed I didn’t contact you sooner and let you know what an inspiration you are to me!

  • Carolyn:
    I have to stop reading your blog when I’m hungry. (Of course, then when WOULD I read it?)

    Can I substitute SmartBalance for some or all of the butter? I’m not sure how that would change the balance of fats, gluten etc?

    Thanks, this looks so good and I’m dying to try it.

  • That’s a good question. I’ve never used SmartBalance, so I can’t speak to that for sure. But I did find this link to America’s Test Kitchen, in which they talk a little about using SmartBalance for baking. One guy says it works fine if you use the SmartBalance that is 50 percent butter.

    Happy baking, Jackie! 😉

  • That’s so cool, Anita, that you made the sesame cake, too. Since you are a trained pastry chef, it’s saying a lot that you love this cake so much, too. Congrats on your new cookie book, too. Can’t wait to see it in the book stores.

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  • This was great. Lightly sweet, so ok for breakfast! I used 1T white sesame and 3T black, the white acting as the barometer for when properly toasted.

  • Judith: Yay! So glad it was a hit. I like how it’s not super sweet, too, so it’s not a sugar bomb to eat. 😉

  • This is smelling SO GOOD when I opened the oven to take a peek! I adore sesame foods – mochi, sesame snaps, sesame cookies… so when I saw this recipe I was there with bells on! Now it’s not even finished cooking yet, but I’m thinking this batter would work really well in little Madeleine-type fancies… maybe with a honey-lemon glaze or something… mmmm….
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Hi Sue: Ooh, I bet a madeleine version would be scrumptious. Hope you enjoy the cake. Happy baking!

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