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.
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.
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.
Here, 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.
Black Sesame Chiffon Cake
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
To Make Black Sesame Paste:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Pre-heat oven to 160 deg C (320 deg F).
- In a measuring cup or bowl, mix water, canola oil and smooth black sesame paste and stir until well combined.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.