Saturday, June 2, 2012

indian-spiced sesame butter cake

Any time a friend's birthday rolls around, I offer to bake a cake. I like making things for people I love, but I'm also always looking for an excuse to bake--so it's a win-win situation!

Most people request the basics--funfetti, chocolate, the occasional red velvet--and I'm happy to make those. It's a special treat, though, when someone asks for something a little bit different. I get to experiment, try something new, and use ingredients other than sugar, butter, and chocolate. My friend Marriah's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, but she left this morning for the summer. We were trying out my new grill last night anyway (thanks, Emily and Jon!), so I offered to bake her a small birthday/bon voyage cake for dessert. What kind did she want? I quote from her texted response: "almost savory, or middle eastern spices, or anything with strawberries...that's all over the map, i trust whatever strikes your fancy!"

Ah, freedom!

I took her at her word and made a variation on a cake I'd been meaning to try for some time: a peanut butter cake with garam masala. I made it a touch more exotic by switching out the peanut butter for tahini. The resulting cake had a nutty, warmly spiced flavor and tasted like no other cake I can remember having. I served it with this newly popular one-ingredient banana ice cream, drizzled with honey and topped with sesame seeds. Next time I'll go with vanilla ice cream instead, as the banana overwhelmed the cake's delicate sesame flavor. I loved the cake by itself, too, and think it would make a great coffee cake as it's not too sweet. This venture made me want to try some new unusual combinations, so if your birthday's coming up soon and you want a chocolate avocado cake or an elderflower lemon cake, you know who to call! (And to be honest, I also love a good fun-fetti cake as much as the next person.)

Note: I divided the original recipe by three because only a few people were coming over. If you'd like to make a bigger cake, just use the original recipe (link below).

indian-spiced sesame butter cake 
adapted from The Luna Cafe
makes one 8-inch layer or 8 cupcakes

3/4 c flour (3 oz.)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick), at room temp
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c tahini (or peanut butter, if you're fresh out of tahini)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 c buttermilk or milk
Optional accompaniments: honey, toasted sesame seeds, ice cream

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch cake pan or line a muffin tin with 8 cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and garam masala. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar using a mixer at medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Add tahini, vanilla, and egg, and continue mixing until you have a uniform mixture. Blend in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk. Do not overmix, as this will make the cake tough rather than tender.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or muffin tin and top with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If you'd like, top with a scoop of ice cream, a drizzle of honey, and a few toasted sesame seeds.

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