Some of the token Asian flavours that comes to mind when people think about sweets are green tea, black sesame and sometimes red bean. Between the three of them, green tea is the most popular. Even though both green tea and black sesame are somewhat of a funky colour, I guess people are much quicker to want to eat green food, than black food. … and sweet beans are just plain weird so it is quite oven ignored altogether.
Growing up black sesame is my go-to flavour in all the desserts available. Tangyuan, which is a sticky rice ball with fillings(usually red bean, peanut, or black sesame, or sometimes, white sesame); sweet black sesame “soup”; black sesame jelly roll, which I like to call “film” because it looks like film. What, you are too young to know what film is? … well it’s black, it rolls, and we used to use it to take pictures!….It doesn’t matter, the point of this is that a lot of people I know get turned off by black sesame because of its colour. It’s black, which isn’t a very common colour in food stuff, especially not one you usually associate with desserts.
WELL I SAY TOO BAD! Because black sesame is wonderful. Chinese believes that eating black sesame gives you luscious locks, amongst other health benefits. Maybe that’s why my hair is so dark and resist all attempts of colouring. Har! Sesame is a seed, so like all seeds, they are super aromatic when toasted and adds a great nutty flavour to anything. Also, nice black specks on your teeth so you can grin like a real maniac after eating some.
When I first starts to practice making Chiffon cake, black sesame flavour was high on the list. The first time I did it I grinded some black sesame in the food processor and mixed it into my dry ingredient. The result was sorta… it looked like poppy seed. It was a yellow cake with some black specks, everyone thought it was poppyseed and I hated it. The correct colour of black sesame things is dark grey!
Turns out the key ingredient to turn black sesame cake the right colour, you need black sesame paste, or I have also seen it referred to as Black Tahini. Though personally I have never seen it sold as black tahini before. You can try to find the Asian version “Neri Goma” in Asian grocery stores, or try making it at home. It is a bit of a pain to make so if you do attempt it, make extra to put on your toast, or plan a black sesame dessert feast.
Now some people will tell you chiffon cake is a tricky cake to make. Those people are not wrong. In order to have a nice, tall cake there are a few things you must know!
1. The bowl you beat your egg white and the whisks you use must be CLEAN. Wash with warm soapy water, make sure they are dried properly. And you can also give it a quick wipe down with white vinegar or lemon juice.
2. Your chiffon tin cannot be a non-stick one. The traditional tin for chiffon cake is the optimal shape for a nice tall cake. The cake batter needs to be able to climb up the wall of the tin, so unfortunately there is a bit of washing up afterwards but it’d be worthwhile! In addition to that, don’t grease your tin for the same reason.
3. Once the cake is done, you will cool it upside down. My chiffon tin has little feet that help lift the cake up from the surface. I put it on top of a wire rack. I have also seen people fit the flute in a glass bottle for cooling. Since chiffon cake is so light, if you don’t turn it upside down it will collapse in on itself and leave you with a sad, sad cake.
Once you master the technique though, you can experiment with all of the flavours! And the chiffon cake world is your oyster! The water in this recipe can be substitute with milk, so you can make tea infused chiffon. Earl Grey being my go to flavour. Or coffee. Or chocolate. Or, if you want to make a citrus chiffon, you can use orange juice! Or some lemon juice and zest. The flavour combo is infinite! Isn’t that exciting?
Before we get to the recipe, you can also use white sesame in place of black if you don’t want grey cake but want to try the flavour. I am guessing in that case you can just use regular tahini for the sesame place. I haven’t tried it myself so tell me how that goes!
Recipe adapted from many internet searches
For the Black Sesame Paste
200g Black Sesame
2Tbsp Sesame Oil OR Honey
1. Toast your sesame on a fry pan. Stir often, till you can smell fragrant of sesame. Let cool.
2. Put the sesame into your food processor, or a motor & pestle and grind the sesame up till you see the oil being released. Add the liquid. The point of the liquid is to help the process along. If you are adding sesame oil, don’t add more than 2Tbsp. If you are using honey, start with 2Tbsp and add as you need. You will have to be patient with it, eventually the sesame will release enough oil to make this into a paste.
For the Cake in a 17cm Chiffon Tin
20g Black Sesame Paste （練りごま）
20g Ground Black Sesame（すりごま）
3 Egg Yolks
25g Flavourless Oil
60g Cake Flour
45g Granulated Sugar A
4 Egg White
45g Granulated Sugar B
1. Preheat your Oven to 170°c/338°f
2. If making ground sesame. Just throw the same toasted sesame into food processor and grind till you are happy with the texture. Now, if you grind it for too long the oil will come out of the seeds and you don’t want that. So just grind till it is aromatic.
3. In a bowl. Mix the yolk + sugar A till smooth. Add in Oil, water, black sesame paste and ground sesame. Mix till completely combined into a nice, dark grey mixture. I know! I love it! Sift cake flour into mixture. For Chiffon cake, always sift. Sift twice if you can.
4. In a separate, clean bowl, beat your eggwhite with an electric mixer. Once it gets foamy, you can slowly add sugar B into the white mixture little by little, don’t stop mixing. Until you get nice glossy soft peaks. I explained previously in my post on Swiss roll why I think soft peaks for chiffon is better than stiff peaks, but you can beat it to stiff peaks if you are confident with your mixing.
5. Gently fold in your meringue into the yolk mixture. 1/3 at a time. Make sure to scrap the bottom as you do, the mixture will lighten by a lot.
6. Pour your mixture into the tin. Bang it on the counter a few times. Do NOT touch the middle bit if you are using a 2-pc removable bottom chiffon tin.
7. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. The top will bloom and crack, that is fine. Insert a long skewer once time is up, if it comes out clean, it is done.
8. Take the cake out and immediately flip it upside down on your cooling rack. It is really important that you do. Or the cake will sink back. Let the cake cool completely.
9. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the cake out of the tin. Eat the whole cake, it is so light it doesn’t really count!