Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tahini Cake – a dangerously addictive, classic chocolate cake with a hint of sesame & a smooth buttercream you could eat by the spoon. Jump to Recipe
“Camera Clinic has tried to recover your card but it is damaged beyond recovery.”
Ouch. That’s the text that just popped up beside me. My camera SD card stopped working for this first time in its 2 year career when I was back at ground level after that whole Top of the Rock moment a few weeks back. Though I bought a new card for the rest of the trip, I’d optimistically assumed that data recovery was advanced enough to somehow scrape those precious pictures from the unintelligible code. Apparently not. The only evidence is the picture at the top of my last post – thank goodness for needing an iPhone photo for my instagram story.
I’ve managed to slot so seamlessly back into Melbourne life and the routine of study, exercise, university, Orange is the New Black, sleep, hospital, study, bake and repeat that I can hardly believe that I was even in NYC at all. Left is a whole heap of memories, jumbled together in probably the most action-packed week of my life, zillions of photos on my phone, and a bunch of eclectic items I convinced myself were necessary (including hibiscus powder, a bench scraper and momofuku freeze dried corn). It’s the smaller moments that stand out the most: sitting on a bench in Central Park with a flat white and a slice of buttery, layered chocolate babka; watching the bustle in Union Square armed with a punnet of raspberries from the greenmarket; standing atop the William Vale hotel with the other Saveur nominees, staring out at the fiery lights of Manhattan. I know I’ll be back, and sooner rather than later!
In the meantime, it’s 4 weeks until exams hit, and I’m looking forward to summer home in New Zealand and more time to spend on this blog. Exam study is relentless and boring – even if you find something interesting, who actually wants to cram-learn every little aspect of it to prepare for five hours of stressful multi-choice questions and a two hour on the spot practical with multiple unknown stations. However, I know I’d much rather put in the hours of slog now than be disappointed with the results later. So we’ll get through it – with coffee breaks, and group study sessions, and baking to look forward to. Like this cake.
It’s a chocolate tahini cake from Molly Yeh’s new cookbook, Molly on the Range. I don’t know Molly personally, but it almost feels like I do – her blog posts are vibrant and cheerful, utterly likeable and make her seem like the sort of person you’d want as your best friend. I’ve had “tahini/halva cake” on my list to make forever, and even have a container of chocolate-swirled halva sitting in the cupboard, taunting me daily. Seeing this recipe for Molly’s Chocolate Tahini Cake last week tipped me over the edge. I didn’t have much time to bake between learning about spinal cord lesions (exciting, I know) so it was perfect – a sheet cake that didn’t even need a stand mixer, all of the ingredients were already in the pantry, and there was no fiddly frosting or cake-leveling or crumb coats or multiple cake tin requirements. Plus I was really bored of studying and #procrastibaking was definitely the solution. The main issue was that I couldn’t decide which frosting to make – the tahini buttercream from the book, or a chocolate -tahini buttercream I noticed on one of Molly’s previous posts. Doing both was much easier than attempting to make that decision!
It’s now two days later, and we’ve managed to polish off the entire cake. It’s dangerously addictive – a classic, moist chocolate cake with a note of nutty, sweet sesame, and a smooth buttery frosting you could eat by the spoonful. It’s the sort of cake you keep coming back to sneakily slice off one bite, then another, until you realised you’ve probably eaten about three pieces. Yesterday it got us through a study session, and this morning it helped celebrate a friend’s birthday lunch in the sun – with sprinkles, to boot.
In the end, we decided that the tahini frosting was our favourite, and if you like tahini it’ll be yours too – it goes with the chocolate like how miso goes with caramel. However, if you’re a chocolate lover or you’re serving to anyone who might be on the fence, the chocolate-tahini frosting delivers a hit of fudgy, intense chocolate with a side-note of sesame. And if you’re indecisive like me, it’s easy to make both – just set aside half the frosting and add cocoa to the rest (more instructions in the recipe).
Or all three. As evidenced here, my decision making skills with food choices are particularly poor.
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 3/4 cup espresso OR boiling water + 1 tablespoon instant coffee
- 230 g butter (1 cup), softened
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 2 cups icing sugar , sifted
- pinch of salt
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoons vanilla
- ± cocoa , sifted: 1/4 cup for half the icing, 1/2 cup for the full icing. If doing the full icing, add the sifted cocoa along with the sifted icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a deep 20x30cm tin (if yours is very shallow, like mine, increase the height of the sides by using cut strips of cardboard from a cereal box or similar. Line the cardboard strips with baking paper).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil, tahini and espresso or boiling water.
Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Set aside to cool.
Beat together the butter and tahini until creamy and combined. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the vanilla, salt and cinnamon.
If wanting the vanilla tahini icing: taste to adjust flavours. You’re done!
If wanting to make the half/half icing: remove half the icing at this point and set aside (just estimate). To the remaining icing, add 1/4 cup sifted cocoa and beat to combine.
If wanting just chocolate-tahini icing: add 1/2 cup sifted cocoa to the full icing at the stage where you beat in the sifted icing sugar, or at the end.