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the real thing

A couple of weeks ago I was at my mom’s house and had the biggest urge to bake. Not completely out of the ordinary but when I moved, all baking materials and ingredients came with me. Which meant that I had zero supplies. No flour, no sugar, no pans. NADA. Did I mention that my mom sees baking and cooking as a chore? I guess that is what happens when you have to take cook for your five brothers and sisters when you are young. I’d hate the kitchen too if I was her.

Anyways, since my cake craving wouldn’t go away and I wasn’t about to pay $4 for a dry slice of bakery-bought cake, I decided to go the Duncan Hines route. Big mistake. Has anyone actually tasted one of these boxed-mix cakes since they started making their own homemade cakes? I know some swear by them, but the Lemon Cake from Duncan Hines was utterly repulsive. First of all, it looked like a neon sponge, and it tasted like pure chemicals… Which, I realized, was exactly what was listed on that ingredient list.

As a kid, the first cake I baked was a Duncan Hines Devil Food’s cake for a sleepover and I remember it being deliciously sweet and tasty. Perfect for five little girls who attacked the cake with five eager forks. But my palate has since changed, and in turn, my love for baking my own cakes has ruined all future boxed-cake purchases.

After my neon cake incident, I had a new found appreciation for the real cakes out there. Cakes made purely from flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. Cakes with ingredients that you can actually pronounce. Cakes that won’t leave an acidic aftertaste on my tongue. Cakes that you can actually feel good about eating. Cakes like this Sesame Seed Cake from the ravishing Pure Dessert.

I’ve grown fond of Alice Medrich, to the point that I want to sit down with her and discuss all the flavor combinations in her books and her interesting and dedicated baking philosophy. Like Alice Waters, Medrich advocates using natural ingredients and creating real homemade baked goods. Her approach is “Less is more” which fits my lifestyle completely. I love the utterly ridiculous over-the-top cakes like this one, but for everyday baking, I’m all about the simple yet tasty creations. I don’t’ need to spend two hours slaving away at the stove in order to appreciate a cake nor do I think whipping up a one-minute-boxed-cake-mix is the best route.

If you haven’t yet checked out Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, I urge to grab your keys and go. Now. Seriously. It’s up there as one of my favorite baking books. I never would have thought about making a Sesame Seed Cake but after reading her recipe and seeing Anita’s post about the cake, I knew I had to try it. Plus, her book gave me the best damn brownies I’ve ever tasted in my life, and those raspberry chocolate chunk muffins were phenomenal as well. Her trusty reputation for pure and simple desserts speaks volumes so go and grab her book.

The best part about this cake was that its depth of flavor. Thanks to the toasted sesame oil a la Trader Joes,this cake will leave you and all other tasters slightly puzzled. After taking one bite of this cake, you guys will sit and try to figure out what was in the cake could give it that spicy/nutty aftertaste. Then it will dawn on you. It’s the sesame oil! Be sure to use toasted sesame oil though as it has a deep flavor that regular oil can’t mimic. I couldn’t find my regular cake pans; they got lost in the moving shuffle. But I used my old pyrex glass pie plate and that worked fine. I would have liked a little crust around the edges, but in the end, it didn’t really matter too much. I paired this cake with a small dollop of Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and sat in my backyard, enjoying my all natural, chemical-free dessert. And life felt simply wonderful.

Sesame Seed Cake
Origin: Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert
Yield: makes one 8-in round cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 to 40 minutes

● 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
● 1/2 tsp. baking soda
● 1/4 tsp. baking powder
● 1/4 tsp. salt
● 2 large eggs, room temperature
● 2 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
● 1 tsp. vanilla extract
● 8 tbsp. butter, room temperature
● 1 cup sugar
● 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
● 1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a cake pan or a springform pan – I find the springform works really well. Make sure the pan has high enough sides as the cake really rises in the oven!

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs together in a bowl with a whisk. Add the sesame oil and vanilla and thoroughly combine.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium for a few minutes to soften it up. Add the sugar and beat for several more minutes until it is light-colored and fluffy.

Add in the egg mixture a little at a time while the mixer is still running, letting it slowly combine over a couple of minutes.

Stop the mixer and pour in a third of the flour mixture, and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add half the buttermilk and beat until combined.

Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour mixture with the sesame seeds. With each addition, beat it only until it is just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on the rack for a few minutes before unmolding. If you baked the cake in a regular cake pan, invert it onto the rack, and turn it right side up to finish cooling.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Printable Recipe here.

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April 23, 2009 - 6:28 am

MariannaF - very interesting! i think definately worth a try! thx for sharing the recipe!!

April 23, 2009 - 10:24 am

snooky doodle - nice cake! I d like to try it with sesame seed cake really interesting and yummy.

April 23, 2009 - 10:31 am

Jennifer - Now this is one very intriguing cake, I’d love to try!

April 23, 2009 - 6:40 pm

Chantal - I so agree! There is no going back, kinda like cheap vs quality chocolate. That cake looks delicious.

April 23, 2009 - 7:21 pm

Steph - It looks gorgeous and unfrosted too! I used to be obsessed with cake mix when i was young. Now that i’ve been baking from scratch, I can’t even eat more than a bite. There are some weird flavours going on..haha. And the dry bakery cake.. I totally agree. I think bloggers can make desserts better than sooo many bakerys.

April 23, 2009 - 7:55 pm

hannah - this sounds amazing.

April 24, 2009 - 9:49 am

Gina - Love your site!

April 24, 2009 - 12:15 pm

cindy - i totally agree on the boxed cake issue…i thought i wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but now i definitely can.

i’ve been hearing great things about pure dessert, so i think it will have to jump to the top of my list.

April 24, 2009 - 5:21 pm

Sylvia - I agree, sometimes cheap means expensive, because low quality could ruin your recipe and make it again.
The cake is intriguing and sounds delicious.
Nice blog !!

April 24, 2009 - 5:37 pm

Kevin - That sesame cake looks really good!

April 24, 2009 - 7:03 pm

melissastefanic - Your food photos are amazing!! That looks especially scrumptious!! :-)

Melissa @ For the Love of Health

April 25, 2009 - 1:16 pm

joythebaker - This cake is totally gorgeous Amanda! Can I make a confession? I still totally love Funfetti cake mix. That shit is like crack… chemicals and all! I love it… and I feel a little terrible about that fact. Hope your weekend is groovy!

April 25, 2009 - 7:23 pm

Amanda - joy, I forgive you for your boxed ways but only because I love you!!

April 26, 2009 - 2:39 am

syrie - Simply stunning. I’m going to try my hardest to make this gorgeous recipe. I agree about packet mix cakes – they taste so strange and chemically. Your photos are lovely.

April 26, 2009 - 4:57 pm

milkandhoneycafe - really. now that you put it that way, home baked goodness sounds truly awesome. i know exactly what’s going in there plus there’s always a heaping of some “lovin”. i’m glad i’m a bake-from-scratch snob! muhahaha!! :D

April 30, 2009 - 11:13 am

Bites from other Blogs | That's Cooking! - [...] and vanilla cakes, you might want to do what Slow Like Honey did and try Alice Medrich’s Toasted Sesame Cake. Generously studded with black sesame seeds, the cake has an unusual look and an unusual flavor due [...]

October 20, 2009 - 6:45 am

jan - These look delish… but once you mentioned that it was second to Alice Medrich’s recipe… I just gotta have it. Pretty plz

December 29, 2009 - 11:51 am

Sesame seed cake « got no milk - [...] very delightful cake, light and nutty tasting. I’ve seen this dessert in many places on the internet. The original is by Alice Medrich from Pure Dessert. Mofidications for a dairy-free [...]

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