Spring is abloom.
The longer and warmer days has reinvigorated my baker's instincts, so this week, my oven has been seeing more action than usual. I've been toying with this idea of a honey and sesame cake, two flavors I adored as a kid. I would dip bread into a jar honey and sprinkle each bite with toasted sesame seeds. The cleanup, mind you, was no easy feat for my grandmother. The perfect opportunity came in the form of a cupcake challenge, hosted by HomeMadeS. The rules were very simple, make a cupcake, frost it, and post a picture and recipe!
Honey and sesame together taste truly divine. Extremely nutty, it tastes almost like sweet peanut butter. I use buttermilk in the cake to yield a moist, delicate crumb texture, and then a simple buttercream, with whole eggs, as the frosting. Tahini, which is simply a sesame paste, can be easily made in your own kitchen, but you can also find jars of it in Middle Eastern markets and health food stores, and even some supermarkets now (I've seen it at Giant and Safeway). I prefer to use white sesame seeds over black ones, as the white ones have a milder taste.
Honey Sesame Cupcakes with Sesame Buttercream
yields 12-15 cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp tahini
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tbsp white sesame seeds
scant 1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp tahini
1. For the Cake: Preheat oven to 375F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream together butter, sugar, honey and salt until pale and glossy, about 3 minutes. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk and vanilla.
2. With the mixer running, add the egg to the butter-sugar mixture, until well blended. Continue beating in the tahini. In 3 additions, alternately blend in the flour and buttermilk, ending with flour. Mix in the sesame seeds.
3. Spoon batter into cupcake pan, lined with paper liners. Use 2 large spoons, or a medium size ice-cream scoop. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top of the cakes are lightly golden. Letcool completely on a wire rack.
4. For the Buttercream: In a double boiler, whisk together eggs, sugar, honey and salt. Use a candy thermometer to control the temperature. Let the mixture come to 160F. Remove from heat.
5. Beat the egg mixture on high for about 5 minutes, until they become shiny and pale. With the mixer running, cut in the butter, piece by piece, waiting between each addition for it to be well incorporated. At the end, you'll have something that is thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla and tahini.
6. Frost the cakes any which way you like, with a knife or a piping bag.