Black Sesame Pound Cakes

round black sesame cake with a lotus molded on the top.
“Traditional” method black sesame cakes
Picture of black sesame pound cake: round dark brown cakes with a delicate lotus pattern stamped on top.
Sesame cakes made with baking powder and milk

Diaspora food often melds tastes from disparate parts of the world, using locally available ingredients, with delicious results.

One of the places this is most obvious is dessert. I wanted to make something that melded Asian flavors with a more traditionally Occidental dessert.

Hence, black sesame pound cake.

Pound cake is traditionally made with a pound of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar. There are just two people in my household, and Mr. Milan rarely eats sweets, so I made the 1 egg version of this, but less sweet (personal taste) and more black sesame tahini. An egg weighs about 60 grams, so...everything else follows.

There are two recipes here: one makes a lighter, fluffier cake, but isn’t quite traditional (neither is traditional) in that it has baking powder.

The other is more traditional, and a little more dense, but the denseness means it shows the finer detail on the molding better as well.


Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cream together:

60 g (1/4 cup) butter (if you can remember to make this room temperature, cool, but otherwise you can just painfully hack it to pieces until it’s vaguely like it was room temperature.)
several generous pinches of salt
35 g of sugar
50 g of black sesame tahini

When these are thoroughly mixed, add:

1 egg

NOTE: Traditional pound cake has no leavening and tends to dry out very quickly... If you want to make something that feels just a little lighter, you can also add at this stage:

40 g of coconut milk (about 1/8th of a cup).

note: you can probably use regular milk. I just don’t keep it in the house much because I’m lactose intolerant.

and mix.

Ideally, you’d mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, but I really can’t be bothered, so I just throw this all on top of the wet ingredients and hope for the best.

60 g flour
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder. This will give you a decent amount of flavor. I like things in-your-face, so I used 1.5 tsp. If you want it very subtle, use 0.5 tsp.

Again: If you want to modernize this for lighter cakes, you can also add:

1/2 tsp baking powder.

Mix dry ingredients, then pour into the wet ingredients (or just pretend you did and mix it all in the bowl).

This doesn’t make a large amount (which is my preference).

I made them in these molds. If you’re doing the semi-traditional version, you can fit all your batter in the single round mold pan (it will rise, but only slightly). If you’re doing the more modern version, you’ll have to use about 1.5 pans, leaving a little more room for rising (and dealing with the tiny extra room added by the milk).

Bake at 325 until a toothpick comes out clean. It took me about 10 minutes, but I live at altitude and so it might take you a little longer.