Black Sesame Cake

Recipe by Susan Reid

Black sesame is a nutty-tasting seed that can be ground into black tahini or black sesame powder. This dark, rich layer cake contains both for a treat that perfectly marries those sesame notes with the classic flavors of vanilla and butter.

3 hrs
23 to 42 mins
3 hrs 42 mins
one tall 6” layer cake or one 8” layer cake
Black Sesame Cake - select to zoom
Black Sesame Cake - select to zoom
Black Sesame Cake - select to zoom


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  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 6” x 2” or three 8” x 2” layer cake pans, line them with parchment, and grease the parchment. 

  2. To make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sesame powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and tahini until smooth. Beat in one of the eggs.

  4. Add about 1/2 cup of the dry ingredients, beating until thoroughly combined. Beat in the other egg and the vanilla.

  5. Add the remaining dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds.

  6. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

  7. To bake: Bake the 6” layers for 40 to 42 minutes, or the 8” layers for 23 to 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans on a rack.

  8. To make the tinted frosting: Place 1 cup (about 150g) of buttercream frosting into a medium bowl. Stir in the black tahini. Set the frosting aside to use for decorating.

  9. To make the soak: Combine the sugar and water in a heatproof measuring cup. Cover and microwave for 90 seconds. then stir to dissolve the sugar. (You can also do this in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove.) Mix in the liqueur or coffee

  10. To assemble and frost: Trim the tops of the layers so they’re flat; keep the trimmings to make crumbs for decorating. Run a thin spatula around the edges of the layers and turn them out of the pans.

  11. If you’ve used 6” pans, split the two layers horizontally. If you’ve used 8” pans, leave the layers intact.

  12. Brush one cake layer with the soak and place it on a cardboard cake circle or flat serving plate. Spread the top with 1/2 cup of the white buttercream; use a generous 1/2 cup if you’re frosting 8” layers.

  13. Place another layer on top and brush with the soak, then frost. Repeat until all four 6” layers (or three 8” layers) are in place.

  14. Cover the sides of the cake with a thin layer of white buttercream to make a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes until set (you should be able to touch the frosting and have your finger come away clean).

  15. Finish frosting the cake with white and dark buttercream; garnish the top with shards of sesame brittle, if desired.

  16. Storage information: Cover any cut edges with leftover frosting or plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Black tahini and black sesame powder may be found at specialty grocery stores and are widely available online.

  • Looking for an option that doesn’t involve splitting the cakes prior to filling and frosting? Divide the batter among three 6” round pans, using 400g batter in each pan; bake for 24 to 27 minutes. And if all you have is two 8” round pans, divide the batter between them, using 600g batter in each; bake for 25 to 27 minutes.

  • After leveling the cake layers, save the scraps and crumbs for decorating. If desired, dry them for 10 minutes in a 325°F oven to make them easier to handle. If you’re assembling the cake one day and decorating the next, leave the crumbs uncovered at room temperature overnight to dry out.

  • To make sesame brittle: Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup (198g) sugar, 1 tablespoon (20g) corn syrup, and 1/4 cup (57g) water. Bring to a boil and put a candy thermometer in the pan. Cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 310°F; it will be medium amber in color. Pour the syrup onto the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with a mixture of 3 tablespoons (27g) each black and white sesame seeds. When completely cool break the brittle into shards and use it to decorate the cake.