A good friend once told me that if I were an ice cream flavour, it would be black sesame.
‘What’s that supposed to imply?’
I still don’t know. Nevertheless, I love attempts to associate people with things, endeavouring to understand or replicate nature, auras, psyches. The memory was jolted alive last week, when I was prancing around the supermarket aisles, sometimes stopping to peruse labels, flipping through half-hearted ideas in my head. I was ready to take on something tame for today’s post, working with ingredients I already had at home. But (there’s always a but). When I passed by the gourmet Japanese section, the urge to experiment with black sesame was so profound I felt like it would be a cardinal sin not to leave without a loot. It almost came as a shock because firstly, I’ve never done so before, and secondly, I’ve always been enamoured by its sweet, oil-rich, nutty flavour. What’s taken me so long?
“Even if you decide, as part of a little intellectual exercise, that you are going to sit around and do nothing because you have concluded that you have no free will, you are eventually going to get up and make yourself a sandwich.“–Greene and Cohen, from a book I’m reading right now on the brain.
I love that. You see, sometimes, you just have to do something and stop wrestling internal needs or expectations. To sustain yourself and this life. Satisfying that urge was worth it.
So I’ll say it: I wasn’t expecting the results of this experiment to turn out so well. Somehow, the oven works its magic the first time. All worries were alleviated when my first batch of black sesame cakelets emerged (almost) perfectly round, just slightly risen and browned along the edges, from the hot-house. Working with the black sesame powder I found along that aisle was pure joy. The powder by itself is mildly sweet, carrying all the aromas and flavours of the seed. It is imperative that you sieve the powder first into the dry mix, to yield the finest and smoothest texture possible. If you can’t find the stuff in the grocery store, try your hand at black sesame seeds, and grind them up at home, in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. You will get a paste instead of a smoother powder, but I expect it will work just as well. Gosh, I’m excited for you! Soft, moist (I actually like this word for all the grief it gets, poor thing), slightly cakey with an incredibly tender crumb. The nuttiness and mild sweetness formed the perfect backdrop for the ever-familiar cream cheese frosting on top. The two together are sublime if sinful.
I topped these with oreo crumbs, sprinkles and chopped bits of dark chocolate. Go crazy here. It’s the perfect cross between a pikelet, an adorable mini pancake, and the top of a cupcake. Can you imagine? I hope you can. If making these means having to go to the grocery store to buy some black sesame powder (or seeds), then I guess you have no choice.
Black Sesame Cakelets with Cream Cheese Frosting (makes around 8 3-inch wide cakelets)
For the cakelets:
105g plain flour
25g (around 2 1/2 tbsp) black sesame powder, or the same amount of black sesame seeds ground into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
57g (4 tbsp) softened, unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g (half a cup) white sugar
30ml (2 tbsp) whole milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar, left to rest for 5 minutes before using. Alternatively, use the same amount of buttermilk or yoghurt
For the frosting:
40g softened unsalted butter
75g cream cheese, at room temperature (take out and leave on the counter for a while before using, or microwave for half a minute if cold from the fridge)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g powdered sugar
crushed oreos/ sprinkles/ dark chocolate/ whatever you want!
Preheat the oven to 177C (350F) and line and grease 2 cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, sieve (yes, a sieve is necessary here!) the flour, baking powder, salt and black sesame powder. In another medium bowl and with a whisk or handheld electrical whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla extract, egg and milk mixture. Pour this wet mix into the dry mix and stir with a tablespoon or wooden spoon until just combined and the batter has a nice dropping consistency, and is not too wet or thick. With 2 tablespoons or an ice cream scoop, dollop the batter into little circles onto the cookie sheet, spaced at least an inch from each other. Pop into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Mine took 8 minutes exactly. Whilst they bake, make the frosting. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Beat until all is nicely incorporated.
Once the cakelets are done, a toothpick inserted into the centre of one should come out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack, which will take around 10 minutes. Frost the tops with cream cheese frosting using a knife, then top with whatever toppings you desire. These cakelets surprised me and gave me feels. They will do the same to you.