Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunshine Inside: Black Sesame Cupcakes with Lemon Curd


I've always been inspired by color, but after seeing the gorgeous charcoal shade that occurs naturally in black sesame confections, I've been even more inspired by its absence. (Believe it or not, the picture above is in full color!)

Black sesame paste is needed to create these cakes and can be found at most international markets. I couldn't find any locally so I made my own! The homemade paste creates a deep shade of grey and the flavor is wonderfully nutty and subtly smoky.



Life is full of contrast, and oftentimes you don't have to look too far to recognize it.  It can even pop up in a batch of cupcakes! As an artist I loved creating contrast in my paintings, and now it shows up in my baking!

con·trast  v.
To set in opposition in order to show or emphasize differences. The use of opposing elements, such as colors, forms, or lines, in proximity to produce an intensified effect in a work of art.

Lemon curd was a no-brainer for a cupcake filling. The sunny color contrasts perfectly with the inky grey cake, and the bright flavor perfectly balances the subtle smoky undertones of black sesame. This may sound a little dorky, but the finished cupcake reminds me of sunshine after the rain - both in flavor and appearance.



Black Sesame Paste

This is often served alone as a dessert, but I use it to create black sesame confections. Be sure to use a blender on the liquefy or puree setting to grind the seeds finely. I tried using a food processor, but it did not work as well at grinding the sesame seeds. You'll also need glutinous rice flour, which can be found at international markets and online.
Adapted from Allrecipes
Yield: about 1 2/3 cups                                                                                 [click for printable version]

1/2 cup black sesame seed
1/4 cup glutinous rice flour (often called “sweet” rice flour or Mochiko)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 cups cold water
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds.  Stir constantly to prevent burning.  It’s difficult to see if black sesame seeds are toasted, so heat them only until they become fragrant.
  2. Put the toasted seeds, sugar and the glutinous rice flour into a blender.  Add one cup of cold water. Blend together on the puree or liquefy setting until you cannot see any whole sesame seed.  This may take up to 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the blended mixture to a saucepan and add the remaining cup of cold water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk constantly.  Mixture will quickly thicken and become very dark.  Remove when mixture is thick like pudding and has a pasty consistency.
Black Sesame Cupcakes with Lemon Curd 

Yield: about 15 cupcakes                                                                               [click for printable version]

Black sesame cake:
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup black sesame paste (recipe above)
8 oz.  jar of lemon curd for filling (buy or make your own with this recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake tin with cupcake papers.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside.  Add flour mixture and black sesame paste alternately, beginning and ending with flour.  Batter will be thick.
  3. Fill cupcake papers with 1/4 cup level measures of batter.  Bake for 17-22 minutes.  Do not over-bake! Allow cupcakes to cool completely.
  4. Cut a divot into the top of each cupcake and fill with lemon curd.  Trim the cut-out cake pieces flat to make a "lid" and place on top of the filled divot.
Zesty lemon frosting:
2 sticks of butter softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1-2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. black gel food coloring or black powdered food coloring 
2 tbsp. black sesame seeds for decorating
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream softened butter and powdered sugar together.  Once the frosting is thick and fluffy add the vanilla and lemon zest.  Beat in the food coloring until uniformly grey.  
  2. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large French piping tip.  Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
Notes:
The cloud toppers are made of gum-paste adhered to a lollipop stick with white candy melts.  I drew my own template, but you can find plenty of cloud templates online.  I brushed corn syrup over the surface of the gum paste and then sprinkled it with silver sugar sprinkles.

Black powder food coloring will create a more true grey in the frosting than gel food coloring.  The latter tends to have a subtle purple tint.



60 comments:

Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking said...

Oh, Heather!!! These are so incredible!!! I do so love the contrast and the flavor intrigues me.
I've never heard of black sesame seeds ~ will have to check them out. And that lemon curd, I'm ALL over it!!

Alma said...

Amazing. As always.

Yolanda Modamio Chamarro said...

Simplemente geniales!

http://lacocinadelarana.blogspot.com.es/

Besis

Chez Georgette said...

You are a very talented baker and photographer. It is amazing that you bake well, make beautiful creations, AND take great pictures of them. A triple threat. Rare. I always love your posts! So inspiring. I need to make a gluten free cake for my mom's 70th birthday party. I'd like to make it a 3-tier. Any recommendations for me?

Melissa {Being a Bear} said...

These are so amazing. The visuals of the cupcakes themselves are astounding, and the added clouds create an entire story, all wrapped up in a baked good. Brava!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very pretty! I love that color and flavor combination.

Cheers,

Rosa

Katherines Corner said...

lovely, and I am a lemon lover so I know I would enjoy these beauties. xo

Michelle @ MakeMeCake.Me said...

Stunning!! That's all I can say. Just stunning!

Amber Nicole said...

What a brilliant concoction. You never cease to amaze me!

Pint Sized Baker said...

Beautiful! You never stop amazing me!

Lora said...

Wow! Just stunning.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

These are so unique!! What an awesome idea!

Rachel @ The Avid Appetite said...

So beautiful! Methinks these would be perfect for a 50 Shades of Grey book club discussion party :)

Annie @ Annie's Noms said...

Oh wow! These look amazing :D I love the contrasting lemon curd too :)

Heather said...

What a cloudy day treat! That photo with the revealed lemon curd really got me! I LOVE how you gave the special tools used at the end of the recipe! EVERYONE needs to do this! :-)

Heidi said...

Dude, my mind is blown! I know it's in color.....but, it's not, but it is! It looks so yummy too. :)

good times tora said...

these look incredible. who knew black cupcakes could look so appetising? yum

Tiffany said...

Oh yum! These sounds FANTASTIC!

Maggie @ A Bitchin Kitchen said...

Gorgeous! It's nice to see something different like this - I'll always be happy to eat a cupcake with a big dollop of pink buttercream, but it's nice to see something new and creative!

Lucia said...

Original cupcakes!!
I will try it... if I found all the ingredients :)
Thanks for sharing

Kelsey from {ps:heart } said...

These are beautiful! I love the little pop of colour from the lemon curd. Amazing work!

Becs @ Lay the table said...

Beautiful colours - they've made me feel happy despite the grey!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Making a mental note to try these the next time I make cupcakes!

Christy Davis said...

Absolutely beautiful. Never thought to combine sesame with lemon. Definitely want to give these a try!!

Www.lifeofamodernhousewife.com

Gloria said...

My favorite color is black, so when I got your email on this new post... WOW! I had to come over to say that they are gorgeous. I used your PIN IT button so I can share! http://pinterest.com/pin/135319163774841322/ Great job, Heather. As always, you are the baking master.
Best,
Gloria

Gloria said...

p.s. I was incorrectly logged in for my other account for my comment above, but am logging in again (hopefully with my correct blog name!)
Best,
Gloria

wallflourgirl said...

My family has been using black sesame paste since forever to make dessert soups and fillings, but I can't wait to give this innovative new twist a try. I love when an old classic is revamped, and I can't think of a better example than this beautiful lemon curd-filled cupcake. Thanks so much for sharing!

Suzanne Perazzini said...

The cakes themselves are a little dull though interesting but once you add the pale mauve frosting and yellow interior, you have a work of art.

beckyabroad90 said...

These have to be some of my favorite cupcakes I've ever seen-I love the rainy day idea, it's not only cutely executed by the little clouds but really, the coloring of the frosting had me thinking about that before I even looked closer at the pictures. Sincerely I hope I have an opportunity to make these sometime!

Vera Zecevic – Cupcakes Garden said...

Absolutely fantastic! Really nice post.

thegoodfoodroom said...

Black sesame is also packed with iron, I heard! So double the goodness :)

Regina @ SpecialtyCakeCreations said...

I love Asian black sesame treats, and just recently I had a black sesame flavored macaron in Malaysia. So I can only imagine how awesome these cupcakes must be!

Marci J said...

These cupcakes are stunning!!

PSbyDila said...

Oh my, these look so amazing!

honestysprotegee said...

These cupcakes are the first in a long time that made me say 'wow!' out loud.

Стефка said...

Gorgeous little clouds and lovely hidden sunshine inside, just beautiful.

Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings said...

what beautiful cupcakes!!!

Tip Top Shape said...

Such a unique recipe! I love it!

Eleanor said...

those look absolutely amazing...so.. peaceful cupcakes!
can you please share how you frosted those?

Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel said...

These are incrediballs, Heather! How cool are those cupcakes? And I LOVE the little gray clouds. You're too cool for school.

Bake Me Cakes said...

They look so elegant!

Darla | Bakingdom said...

Okay, so, gorgeous flavor combo aside, I adore these!! We haven't had rain in weeks and weeks, and I loooooove rain, so these "gloomy" little cakes are just the sweetest things ever!

Lumlet said...

So adorable! Did you make the clouds too? If not, where did you get them?

Joss said...

This looks so beautiful! Wonderful combo of w/w and yellow...

Heather said...

FABULOUS! Wow! Showed this to Charlie and he just said, "Where is that cookbook?" I loves to look at the Sprinkle Bakes cookbook.

And....here he comes with it to show me his favorite. He's 5. He's a fan.As am I.

Javelin Warrior said...

I'm blown away - you've really outdone yourself with these! The contrast in texture and color is amazing and I'm sure the flavor and sensation on the palette is just as incredible. I'm featuring this post in today's Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution as always). Thanks for always inspiring me with your creations...

Anonymous said...

I'm making them right now and never filled a cupcake before. I noticed you cut a divot vs. piping the lemon curd into the cupcake. What's the difference? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me if I can substitute sesame seed with powder and how much?

lyndsay said...

super cool! i love it when a food artist can make black and appealing colour to eat and enjoy. love the combo idea of black sesame and lemon curd...

also reminds me of a beautiful version of a chinese 100 year old egg, also - black with a precious yolk inside... :)

Sue said...

Love the sparkly cloud and the surprise sunshine inside!

Anonymous said...

Made them yesterday. Were a hit with everyone! Don't be shy with the lemon curd. Thanks for such a great recipe!

Magdalena Toczydłowska-Talarczyk said...

so nice!!

Nicki said...

What a wonderful idea!

Lili said...

What an incredible contrast of color. I just cannot get enough of your photography and artful creations. You are a true master! xoxo ~Lili

Genia said...

These cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous! I am making them this weekend and just made the black sesame paste in preparation. I found that my paste was a bit bitter from the sesame seeds even though I double checked that they aren't burnt after toasting (I even did two batches to make sure). Is it supposed to be a bit bitter? Thanks!

Whippoorkill said...

Made these today for a party. Fortunately, only 12 fit on my platter leaving three unprotected cupcakes to lose a vicious battle for domination. They are delicious. The texture is perfect - this is the best batter I've ever baked in my (horrible, sub-standard, red-headed) oven. I predict success at the party - even if I don't take them out of the car.

Rebecca Swanner said...

Hi! Would it be ok to create these and sell them for the Depressed Cake Shop in Los Angeles? All the cakes and baked goods are grey and all proceeds will benefit NAMI Westside LA. (more info: http://depressedcakeshop.com/)

Heather Baird said...

Hi Rebecca - I don't see why not - go for it!

Anonymous said...

These cupcakes are my favorite by far. I have made them twice...I know, only twice, but yum! Thank you so much for the recipe! Karen

Josephine said...

These cupcakes look adorable! I'm sure they'd cheer someone up if they were feeling down! :D Amazing photography by the way!

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