Black Sesame Chiffon Cake – A Japanese-Inspired Treat.

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Adapted from a Japanese-inspired recipe for black sesame chiffon cake by Okashi, this recipe uses a blend of home-made or store-bought spreadable black sesame paste as well as roughly ground black sesame to create a moist and fluffy chiffon with a deep, nutty flavour and tasty bits of crunch throughout.
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I have my dear friend, Priscilla – an avid, passionate and talented home cook and baker herself – to thank for sharing this wonderful cake recipe for black sesame chiffon cake.

The cake book by Japanese author, Okashi, as I discovered through my internet reads, is one of the most popularly blogged about, when it comes to Asian-inspired chiffon cakes. Many have gone on to adapt or tweak this particular recipe, which I always find inspiring, as baking is all about making something your own to suit your tastes and of those whom you lovingly bake for.

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I have always enjoyed black sesame in whatever way it is prepared. Whether as a spread or dressing, as crispy biscuit snacks or in breads and rolls, as a Chinese sweet soup (black sesame soup) or tong sui, or in cakes such as this Japanese-inspired black sesame chiffon cake. Black sesame seeds are rich in unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, proteins, calcium, iron and phosphorus. In traditional Chinese medicine, black sesames are representative of the black food group. Black foods are generally regarded as effective food tonics that nourish the liver and kidney, having beneficial effects on the meridians of these vital bodily organs and thus, improving their functions.

Black sesame paste is called for in Okashi’s recipe. I would like to add here that if you’ve got the time to make your own black sesame paste, I highly recommend it! It’s really not as tedious as one might think, and it is possible to get your home-made paste almost on par with commercially produced, spreadable black sesame paste available at certain supermarkets and organic health product stores. What’s the catch, you might ask? You’ll need a fairly powerful blender. That’s it. But if you’ve got so much better things to do with your time, just head out and get store-supplied black sesame paste. I have been told that NTUC Finest Fairprice supermarkets do stock these, as well as some organic food stores like Yes Natural.

Black_Sesame_Paste_2Here, I made my own in the same way that I would usually prepare some to make Chinese black sesame soup. Just dry roast black sesame seeds in a wok or skillet until toasted. (Tip! Throw in some white sesame seeds into the black sesame mix and dry roast until you see the white seeds start to turn a light, toasty brown, then you know it’s done). Then grind the toasted seeds in a fairly powerful blender, as fine as your blender will allow, till it comes together in a clumpy paste (due to the oils being released as the seeds are ground) – and while you’re at it, you’re surely going to enjoy that absolutely glorious aroma of toasted sesame!

To get from this clumpy, grainy paste to a finer, silky-smooth paste, I then add some canola oil and blend or pulverise until a smooth, fine, but very thick, spreadable texture is achieved. I use both the roughly ground paste, as well as the smooth, spreadable paste. I have found that this combination creates a deeper, nuttier flavour, plus really tasty bits of crunch throughout the cake. These little crunchy bits are not to be taken lightly – they pack a flavourful, nutty punch! Much like biting into roughly crushed bits of oreo cookies (minus the sugar)! If you have store-bought paste, just skip the first part of the recipe instructions on how to make your own.

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Black Sesame Chiffon Cake

Black Sesame Chiffon Cake

Yield: 1 round cake (20-cm/8-inch)
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Adapted from a Japanese-inspired recipe for black sesame chiffon cake by Okashi, this recipe uses a blend of home-made (or store-bought) spreadable black sesame paste as well as roughly ground black sesame to create a deep, nutty flavour with tasty bits of crunch. Recipe makes a 20-cm chiffon cake.

Ingredients

For black sesame paste (makes extra) - can be made ahead.

  • 400 g black sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp canola oil

For the Batter:

  • 5 egg yolks, (at room temperature)
  • 20 g brown sugar
  • 25 g smooth black sesame paste, (or store-bought black sesame paste)
  • 60 g water
  • 40 g canola oil
  • 70 g top flour, (or cake flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup roughly ground black sesame paste, (or 20 g black sesame seeds)
  • 180 g egg whites, (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 90 g caster sugar

Instructions

To Make Black Sesame Paste:

  1. Heat up a wok or skillet over low fire. When hot, add half of the black sesame seeds and dry fry for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. (Tip: Add a few white sesame seeds into the mix. When the white seeds turn a light, toasty brown, scoop out the batch). Repeat with the remaining half.
  2. Using a blender, blend or pulverise the toasted sesame seeds until it becomes a paste. It will clump together due to the oils being released as the seeds are ground. Do not be tempted to add any oil to grease the blades at this stage. Scoop the paste off the sides of the blender towards the blades with a spatula, and blend or pulverise. Repeat until you cannot get the paste ground any finer. Use this roughly ground paste as required.
  3. Take 1 cup of the roughly ground paste from (2) above. Add 3 tbsp canola oil and blend or pulverise as finely and smoothly as possible, until a smooth black sesame paste is achieved. Use as required.

To Make the Cake:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 deg C (320 deg F).
  2. In a measuring cup or bowl, mix water, canola oil and smooth black sesame paste and stir until well combined.
  3. In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks with brown sugar, on high speed (speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer) till pale, thick and almost doubled in volume. Lower speed to medium, and slowly pour in the mixture from step (2) above. Whisk until just combined.
  4. Sift flour and baking powder together into the mixture. Fold in the flour using a hand whisk or spatula. If using the mixer, mix on low speed just long enough for most of the flour to blend into the mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  5. Add the roughly ground black sesame paste (or black sesame seeds), and fold till just combined. Finish folding by hand, scraping all flour off the sides of the bowl, and into the mixture until incorporated. This will help prevent over-folding or over-mixing. Transfer to a clean deep bowl (if you only have one mixer bowl that comes with your electric mixer) and set aside. Wash the whisk attachment and mixer bowl, and dry thoroughly. Important: The whisk and bowl must be absolutely dry and grease-free to whisk the meringue.
  6. To make the meringue, place egg whites into the cleaned mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at high speed (speed 4 to 5 on my Kitchen Aid). When the egg whites just begin to foam, add the cream of tartar while whisking. A few seconds later, add the remaining sugar in a slow and steady stream. Continue to whisk egg whites until glossy and stiff peak stage. Important: Do not over-beat the egg whites, otherwise the cake will turn out dry.
  7. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolk mixture and fold using a spatula. Gently fold in the remaining meringue, ensuring that the meringue is well incorporated. Be careful not to over fold or mix, as the sesame paste in the mixture may cause the batter to lose volume and result in a dense texture when baked.
  8. Pour the batter into an ungreased 20 cm chiffon tube pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter top to eliminate air pockets, and gently run a thin spatula in an 'S' motion throughout the batter as air pockets may be trapped. Ensure that the batter reaches the same height all around the pan, and smooth the surface evenly.
  9. Bake at the lowest rack in the oven for 40 to 45 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. When done, remove from the oven and immediately invert the tube pan onto a cake rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before loosening the cake. Note: It is perfectly normal for the surface of the batter to crack during baking; however, if it starts to crack before the first 15 mins of baking has passed, it may indicate that the oven temp is too high.
  10. To loosen the cake, turn it up again so that the surface of the cake is now facing up. Insert a flat blade in between the cake and pan and run the blade around the circumference of the pan, pressing against the pan as much as possible. Then invert the pan again so that the bottom of the pan is now facing up. Gently tap or push the pan's base to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then run the blade between the base and the bottom of the cake to loosen it from the base of the pan.

Notes

  • The black sesame paste may be made ahead of time. This will save you a lot of time on the day you intend to bake this cake. You will end up with more black sesame paste (roughly ground as well as smooth) than is required. The extra will keep well if stored in air-tight containers and kept chilled in the refrigerator. I have had extras of both types of pastes keep very well for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
  • To dress up this cake, Okashi recommends frosting the cake with whipped cream and sprinkles of black sesame seeds.

20 Comments

  1. Hi Sue, thank you for replying. I’m really not sure what might have gone wrong. The only thing I can think of that could have thrown this recipe off is perhaps the black sesame paste, seeing as how all the other ingredients are the usual. I just feel awful this didn’t turn out for you.

  2. Sorry, I misspoke. I used black sesame seeds not poppyseeds.

  3. Hi Sue, I’m really sorry to hear this happened. I used black sesame seeds, not poppy seeds, and they are quite different. I’ve never had the ‘wet’ mixture feel like cookie dough. I’ve tried this recipe countless times to say that it should turn out.

  4. I followed this recipe and the cake didn’t rise at all. The problem (to me) is that the poppyseed mixture (egg yolks etc) were the consistency of cookie dough so trying to fold in the meringue mixture successfully doesn’t work. Something needs to lighten the mixture before folding in the meringue. This is terrible.

  5. Hi Forest, I’ve not ever tried making a paste out of black sesame powder. It may work out better mixing the powder with a bit of oil, just enough to make it into a thick paste. The paste should ideally be thick, and not too runny. Using water might tip the balance of liquids in the recipe. Hope this helps, and if you don’t mind, would love to hear if it works out this way! Cheers!

  6. Hi Celia, I have some sesame powder on hand, can I just add water and make it into the paste and add into it?

  7. Hi Samantha, my apologies that this reply is coming late. An overbeaten meringue will start to ‘weep’, meaning that you’ll see whites turn a little liquid at the base of your bowl. One way to know that the meringue has reached stiff peaks, is when you lift the whisk, the whites will hold a fairly stiff shape on the whisk, with ends ending in a slight hook. Another way is to SLOWLY overturn your mixer bowl, and if the meringue stays ‘fixed’ to the bowl when held upside down, it has reached stiff peak stage. If it helps, visit my post for a citrus chiffon cake at https://www.foodelicacy.com/golden-citrus-chiffon-cake-orange-lemon-chiffon-cake/ which shows what stiff peaks should look like.

  8. hi celia,
    how can you tell if you’ve over beaten your meringue? What should the meringue look like when you stop beating? thanks.

  9. Hi Jesslyn, any brand of raw (untoasted) black sesame seeds will do. If you happen to have some white untoasted ones, sprinkle them in with the black when dry roasting them in the pan, it’s easier to tell when the black ones are toasted enough once the white ones turn a toasted brown.??

  10. Hi Celia, may i ask if I would like to check if the black sesame seeds are raw before I dry roast them? What brand did you buy?

  11. Hi Rae, thank you for writing!?I’m not sure how to adjust for a 26-cm chiffon cake tin. You could try doubling the recipe – it’s probably easier to re-calculate the recipe amounts that way though I’m sure you’ll have leftover batter as you can only fill your chiffon tin up to 2/3 full. You could bake the leftover in paper muffin cups if you like. You’ll need to bake muffins separately as they take a shorter time. Hope this could be of help to you! ?

  12. Hi Celia,
    Would love to try your recipe for your black sesame chiffon cake however instead of a 20cm chiffon pan i only have a 26cm. Do you have any suggestions on how to adjust the quantities of ingredients in your recipe?

  13. Hi Jessica, yes, you certainly could do that if the paste has a significant sugar content. It might be a good idea to do a taste test of the paste you have (I’ve used the Japanese variety which hardly has much sugar at all). The cake recipe, as is, isn’t very sweet to start with, in my humble opinion. Hope this helps!

  14. If I use store-bought black sesame paste, would you recommend reducing the sugar content, as the paste would contain extra sugar.

  15. Hi Nicky, yayyy!!! I’m so happy to hear of your successful bake! Thank you so much for sharing…keep your feedback coming, ya? Enjoy and happy baking! Cheers, Celia

  16. I just tried this today and it was sooo good! I was really excited cos it’s my first chiffon cake and it was a success.
    Thank you for the detailed recipes and I’ve bookmarked a few more that I’ll want to try too:)

  17. Hi Shasha, it sounds like your oven temperature was okay if the surface started to crack only after 25 mins of baking, and it’s perfectly normal (I’d even say almost unavoidable?) for chiffon cakes to crack (just not too early into baking as that could mean that your cake is rising too quickly and could deflate later). I adjust my baking temperatures anywhere between 150 to 170 deg too, so baking at 150 deg should be okay but might take a little longer. More importantly though, how did you find the texture of the cake? Do share…Cheers, Celia

  18. Hi Celia,

    My cake did crack while baking but only after 25mins. You were saying maybe the oven temperaute is too high, so I bought an oven thermometer to judge. But unfortunately, it didn’t help much too . Recipe says to bake at 170’c, my oven thermometer says 150’c..but cake still cracked.

  19. Hello Athena! Thank you so much for trying this cake, I’m so happy you liked how it turned out! Hope you’ll find more recipes here to interest you…keep the feedback coming too! Cheers! Celia

  20. Hi! I just tried this recipe and it was really good! The black sesame flavour really shone through and the colour was gorgeous! Thanks for the recipe

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