Tahini and sesame seeds are not ingredients I often associate with cake, but I was intrigued when I came across this recipe in a very old edition of Bon Appetit magazine. It is a typical butter cake, with a soft, fine crumb and rich flavor. The addition of tahini and toasted sesame seeds gives the cake a hint of Middle Eastern influence. With its cinnamon-scented streusel, this not-too-sweet cake would be a terrific addition to a breakfast or brunch bread basket.
Sesame Streusel Cake
(makes one 9×5 inch loaf cake)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste), stirred well before measuring
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange flower water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seed
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon tahini
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed
Make the Batter:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Cream the 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup tahini, and olive oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer (I find that my hand mixer does a fine job of small cakes like this one). Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Blend in the vanilla and orange flower water. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing only until blended. Fold in 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seed.
Make the Streusel:
Blend the brown sugar, flour, butter, tahini and cinnamon in a small bowl with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
Turn the batter into the prepared pan, spreading slightly higher at the sides. Sprinkle the streusel evenly atop the batter. Top with 2 teaspoons sesame seed. Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
(adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, November 1983.)