Delicate Kinako and Black Sesame Cupcakes

These delicate Japanese cakes have a wonderfully nutty taste.

These delicate Japanese cakes have a wonderfully nutty taste.


I’ve been intrigued by kinako ever since I first experienced its unique taste.

Take soybeans, roast them, then grind into a fine powder. What you get is this golden Japanese flour that has a roasty-toasty character with a whisper of sweetness. It tastes like a cross between chestnuts, barley tea and maple syrup.

You might blanch at eating flour right out of the bag. But with kinako, you can. In fact, it’s often used to garnish desserts, such as by sprinkling on shave ice or as a coating to roll mochi balls or chocolate truffles in. It also can be incorporated into the batter and dough of cakes, cookies, and another baked goods.

Find it on the shelves in small bags at Japanese markets, then give it a try in these cute little unfrosted cupcakes.

Roasted soy bean flour known as kinako.

Roasted soy bean flour known as kinako.

“Kinako and Black Sesame Cupcakes” is from the new cookbook, “Cook Japanese At Home” (Kyle), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Kyoto-born Kimiko Barber, who teaches Japanese cooking and is the author of a handful of other Japanese cookbooks.

The book features 200 recipes made for the home-cook. Sure, you might have to make a trip to the local Asian or Japanese market. But the recipes are not terribly fussy. They have home-style Japanese cooking at their heart, whether they be traditional or more contemporary recipes.


Enjoy everything from “Green Beans and Carrot in White Sesame Dressing” to “Tuna and Arugula on Soba” to “Lamb Chops with Sansho Pepper” to “Yuzu Tofu Cheesecake.”

Unlike American-style cupcakes, these are modest in size. There’s no gob of frosting on top, either. Just a sprinkle of black sesame seeds to give them an understated presence.

The recipe calls for a small amount of self-rising flour. I included a note on how to concoct your own easily at home.

These delicate cupcakes have a light crumb. They are barely sweet, allowing the nutty taste of the kinako and sesame seeds to dominate.

Enjoy them with a cup of green tea for a perfect pick-me-up.

Fresh out of the oven.

Fresh out of the oven.

Kinako and Black Sesame Cupcakes

(Makes 12)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Heaping 1/2 cup superfine sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

8 1/2 tablespoons self-rising flour (see Note)

Heaping 1/4 cup kinako (soy flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 to 2 tablespoons 2 percent reduced fat or whole milk, as needed

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cupcake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until fluffy and pale. Then beat in the eggs, a little at a time.

Put the flours and baking powder in a fine-meshed strainer and sift over the butter mixture, then fold in with a large metal spoon, adding a little milk, until the mixture is of a dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, filling them up to about halfway. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Eat within 1 to 2 days of making.

Note: To make your own 8 1/2 tablespoons self-rising flour for this recipe, combine 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Adapted from “Cook Japanese At Home” by Kimiko Barber


More: Korean Walnut Pastry


And: Portuguese Custard Tarts by Jamie Oliver


And: Malay Sponge Cake

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