Black Sesame & Strawberry Chiffon Cake

Black sesame has always been a favorite dessert flavor profile of mine. Popular in the Asian culture, I practically grew up on eating black sesame desserts, like the oh-so-comforting Chinese sweet black sesame soup and black sesame dumplings. There’s just something about sweetening that nutty and slightly bitter taste that makes my heart, and stomach, full.

I also recently learned that the seeds are rich in calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin B. I mean, really, they are just a win-win.

Given that my mom’s birthday was coming up and this has been her latest health kick, a wild thought crossed my mind: I’m going to try to make her a black sesame birthday cake.

Admittedly, I was nervous about this idea because A) a few recipes exist online, but it is not a common cake flavor, even in the Asian culture, B) I’ve never made a birthday cake, and C) my mom is particularly picky, especially with the sweetness level. I almost wanted to buy a backup cake, just in case. The pressure was on, but I knew it was pressure that I brought onto myself and I better succeed.

After digging around online, I found a black sesame chiffon cake recipe from Story of a Kitchen and decided to give it a shot. My coworkers approved (bless their souls, and stomach, for being my taste testers), but I knew there were adjustments to be made in order for it to be mom-approved.

I also felt like it needed something more to balance out the nuttiness and slight bitterness of the black sesame. I eventually decided on fresh strawberries, but I was nervous about this as well because I’ve never had, or even heard of, a black sesame-strawberry flavor combination. I just had no clue if it would even taste good together.

On the day we were going to celebrate my mom’s birthday, I threw a prayer. I was making this cake for the second time ever and adding strawberries for the first time ever, for my mom’s birthday. All I could do was hope it turns out at least okay at that point.

The verdict? One bite in, I was immediately sold on my own cake. Even mom approved—what a RELIEF. So if you’re a black sesame lover like I am, give this recipe a try!

Black Sesame Chiffon Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup + 2 tbsp black sesame seeds, ground
¾ cup water
½ cup canola oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cream of tartar

Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1½ cups strawberries, diced

Black Sesame Whipped Cream Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
1½ tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp dry milk powder (for stabilization; optional)
1½ tbsp black sesame paste

8-inch tube cake pan with a removable base (such as this one)
Cooling rack
Serrated knife or cake leveler

Black Sesame Chiffon Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
02. In a large bowl, sift together flour, all but 1 tbsp of sugar, baking powder, and salt.
03. In a medium bowl, use a mixer, or whisk, to mix together egg yolks, ground black sesame, water, oil, and vanilla until well combined.
04. In another medium bowl, use a mixer to whisk together egg whites, 1 tbsp of sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
05. Add the black sesame mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
06. Add ⅓ of the stiff whites to the large bowl and gently fold until just combined. Repeat twice.
07. Pour the batter into pan.
08. Gently bang the pan on the counter a couple of times to release any large air bubbles.
09. Bake until the cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
10. IMPORTANT: Place the pan upside down on the cooling rack and let it cool to prevent the cake from collapsing. (This may take up to an hour or two, but you can’t skip this part, so be patient!)
11. Once it is cool, carefully run a butter knife around the pan and the inner circle to release the cake.
12. Gently remove the cake from the pan.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling:
01. In a large bowl, use a mixer to whisk together heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
02. Add diced strawberries to the bowl and mix until combined.
03. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

Black Sesame Whipped Cream Frosting:
In a large bowl, use a mixer to whisk together heavy cream, powdered sugar, dry milk powder (if using) until soft peaks form.
02. Add black sesame paste to the bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form.
03. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

Once the cake is completely cooled, use a serrated knife or cake leveler to cut the cake in half horizontally. Optional: Cut off the dome for a flat top cake.
02. Spread the strawberry whipped cream filling on top of the bottom layer.
03. Place the top layer on top of the bottom layer.
04. Frost the entire cake with the black sesame whipped cream frosting.
05. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour (cake tastes best when chilled).
06. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Story of a Kitchen.