black sesame cake (a story)

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Repetitiveness and discipline are the secrets of cake decorating. The art comes from the meticulous technique, the way it does for a dancer.
Ron Ben-Israel

I laughed the entire time I was making this cake. Laughed at myself.

So I had this vision in my head that I wanted to execute– a small, mini, tall cake with clean layers, and naked frosting. Because for the longest time, I’ve just been in love with the many naked cakes of the world. There’s less frosting (usually overly sweet, and just a nuisance), you have more layers in between your cake layers and show those off, plus it lends itself better to floral decorations, or just minimal decorating.

And I wanted to do it with black sesame, black tahini, and banana, with as little sugar/fat as I can get away with. For a higher flavour and nutritional payoff.

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Stir, stir, stir. Oh, the batter seems a bit too wet. That’s okay, I’ll just bake it a little longer. (Note: I have an irrational fear of over mixing, and over baking). Take it out of the oven– first thing I notice, the 2 cakes are of uneven height. That’s okay, I’ll just trim the taller one once they’re cooled.

I busy myself for a few hours, and now it’s slightly past midnight. I prefer to bake at night, and shoot the next morning. This can only happen on non-busy weekends. I usually don’t get a chance to shoot with natural light on a weekday– I’m up before it’s bright, and back as the sky is dimming.

The cakes have cooled, and I whip out my KitchenAid mixer to beat together my mascarpone frosting. Dad: “you know, if we lived in an apartment, you wouldn’t be able to do this”.

Yes, Dad. I’m lucky we have cool neighbours. I mean, they tolerated twelve years of my piano practicing. Who can be cooler than that?

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I find my piping tip, and plop my frosting into the bag. The layers aren’t as uneven as I thought, so I just leave them as is. Pipe, swirl, pipe. There’s air bubbles, and my frosting’s not piping smoothly. Is this because I cheated, by improvising…Do I really need butter and icing sugar to create a workable frosting?

I peel off the parchment paper from the bottom of the second layer, and gently place it on top. Pipe, swirl, pipe. Wait, that swirl looks uneven. There’s a small gap here. I pipe some frosting in between, but that only makes it worse– the smoothness is ruined.

12:36am.

Open my drawer, find my palate knife. Deep breath. Scrape off the giant mound of frosting. Pipe, swirl, sigh. I repeat this more times than I’d like to say, and before long, crumbs have wandered into my cream-coloured frosting. Messy, messy. So I admit defeat, and frost it as plain-jane as I could, then placed it in the fridge.

1:13am.

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Okay, I don’t know what spurred that mini narrative there, but here’s the epilogue: the cake gets photographed, on what’s supposed to looked like a white, marble counter top. But the cake knows. The cake will not be deceived. It knows it’s just sitting on four, small, marble tiles placed on the carpet, beside a large window. It’s 8am, but even then, the sunlight isn’t coming through. Just to its right, the baker is scrolling through the pictures, one-by-one. The cake could hear her sighs of dissatisfaction, see the lines forming on her forehead, and feel the heat of her frustration, as she deletes awkward photo after awkward photo. Her eyes hurt. The placement, the props, everything! Is it that hard to compose a picture? Does she not see at least a dozen inspiring, well composed photographs every day?

The bird eye view pictures are the worst of them all.

She takes a few more pictures, then stops. She turns her camera off. Puts the lens cover back on. Zips up her camera bag. The cake starts to feel uneasy. Usually she takes more time. Usually she’s a little more inspired.

It goes quiet, and the next thing the cake knows, a cold, sharp blade glides through…

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OKAY that was weird. I knew I was going to write about my cake making experience gone awry, but that just came from nowhere. Ignore that you just read a horror story about a cake. Even though that exists, you know. It was based on a true story. That makes it even scarier.

Anyway.

ANY.

WAYS.

Please don’t make this recipe (that I will post anyway) below. The cake is moist, and wet. Straight up, I admit it. I love underbaked goods, and this was bordering on the too-moist side, even for me. The texture is like a confused pudding, tres leches cake, banana bread hybrid. (Actually, doesn’t that sound good?) I’m suspecting the black sesame flour is the culprit– its liquid-sucking-up ability is poorer than all purpose flour, and what I did was sub it in 1:1. Duh, Colleen. Please. I gotta tweak the recipe a bit for a more conventional texture, but the taste of it was pretty phenomenal.

I think I’m seeing black sesame popping up more and more on food blogs, which is fabulous because I think black sesame should be hyped up everywhere (please, someone bring me a black sesame cream stuffed doughnut…), but I’m always disappointed when they add like 2 tablespoons of black sesame and call it a day.

No. That’s not what you do. You gotta roast ’em. Grind ’em. Release their oils and set their flavours free. Hence the black sesame flour and black tahini and black sesame seed on top.

I’ll let you know when there’s a part 2 to this black sesame cake story…

Black Sesame Cake

  • Servings: one 4 inch, 2 layer cake
  • Difficulty: apparently, it's not easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

cake

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup black sesame flour (1 cup black sesame pulsed with 3 tablespoons AP flour until fine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup almond milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, allowed to sit until the milk has curdled (I’d probably omit this if I were to remake it)
  • 3/8 cup black tahini (aka i eyeballed 3/4 of my 1/2 cup measure. you can easily just use 1/2 cup but man, black tahini is so precious to me)
  • 1/8 cup apple sauce (can omit if you used 1/2 cup of tahini)
  • 5 bananas, ripe

mascarpone frosting:

  • 1 eight-ounce container of mascarpone
  • splash heavy cream (i used about 1/4 cup)
  • your favourite honey, to taste (i used just under a cup)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line two 4-inch cake pans with removable bottoms.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together both flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and maple sugar.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the two eggs, soured almond milk (omit this for a less-wet cake), black tahini, and apple sauce.
  4. In another medium bowl, mash the bananas until smooth, leaving a few large chunks.
  5. Add the bananas, and wet ingredients, into dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
  6. Divide evenly into the two pans (you should use a scale to be perfectly precise), set on top of a baking tray, and place in oven.
  7. Bake for around 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. While the cakes cool, beat together mascarpone (at room temperature), a splash of heavy cream, and half a cup of honey. Beat until fluffy and smooth, and adjust sweetness accordingly with honey, if desired.
  9. For assembly, frost as you like. If you don’t want your cake to end up like mine, freeze your layers, and frost them the next day 🙂
  10. Enjoy!

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