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!
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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 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)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake papers.
- 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.
- Fill cupcake papers with 1/4 cup level measures of
batter. Bake for 17-22 minutes. Do not over-bake! Allow cupcakes to cool
- 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
2 tbsp. black sesame seeds for decorating
- 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.
to a piping bag fitted with a large French piping tip. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and
sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
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.
Products and supplies to make these cupcakes: