The Ingredient Just as Good in Salads as in Cake

June 23, 2016

I cried about a cake during a week when there were more important things to cry about.

During a week when the huge wrongness of the world did not motivate me to take action or to protest or even to post to Facebook, but cloaked me in an inert, itchy malaise.

During this week, all I wanted was to add a blueberry swirl to the Sesame + Tahini Teacake from the book Falafel for Breakfast. And I couldn't even do that.

I made a quick blueberry jam for the center, layered it in between layers of cake batter and swirled with hesitancy, barely incorporating the two. I turned the cake out of the pan and the bottom layer plopped out. A moat of deep-dark jam glued the crown of batter to the base of the pan.

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It was 95° F in my kitchen. The fire alarm was going off. I had spent two and half hours baking. I was feeling sorry for myself. I was having trouble with the whole "perspective" thing. So I cried. I cried about what was immediate and right in front of me and my fault and mine alone. I cried about what I could have fixed. I cried about something trivial but graspable, stupid but frustratingly immediate.

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Top Comment:
“Loved your blog. I can relate to cry-days like that. Thanks for articulating it so well. :)”
— Kira

When I complained about my failure to Caroline, she told me, sensibly, to make it into a trifle. I refused. I needed to be angry about this; and at myself for this.

This is not what it's supposed to look like.

And then the next time I made it, the cake was right. Less blueberry jam, swiped into the cake batter with more assertion did the trick. The Bundt inverted onto the serving plate in one piece: an anti-climax. The tall slices, freckled with sesame seeds, ribboned with blueberry curlicues, tasted really good. But they were not world-changing. They were not right-making. They were not important enough to measure myself by. But they were as good a place as any to put my homeless emotions, at least for that moment.

And that first cake did turn into trifle—with orange zest and honey and whipped cream—just like Caroline suggested.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Now less about me, more about the cake:

  • The foundational cake here is lush and bronzed, a dessert with effortless summer glow. It's like the Genius Maialino Olive Cake, but with a bitter edge that bites back against sweetness.
  • It works without the blueberry swirl—which is a great option for the non-summer months (but try not to think about that yet!).
  • Instead of buttering the pan, you brush it with tahini, then sprinkle it generously with sesame seeds (I like a mix of black and white, but you can use all white if you'd like, or all black). Make sure to brush all the ins and outs of the pan thoroughly so that your cake does not stick. (You can also spray with nonstick spray for extra reassurance.)
  • For the jam layer, the blueberries get blitzed first, then cooked down with citrus juice and cornstarch. This reduces cooking time and means you don't have to transfer hot mush from your stove to your blender or food processor.

Ever cried over a cake? Did you feel silly? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kira
  • MichelleMags
  • Gena Hamshaw
    Gena Hamshaw
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Kira June 23, 2016
Loved your blog. I can relate to cry-days like that. Thanks for articulating it so well. :)
MichelleMags June 23, 2016
How much sugar is in the cake? The recipe says 1/12 cups (300 grams).
Sarah J. June 23, 2016
Sorry about that! It's 1 1/2 cups (300 grams).
Gena H. June 23, 2016
Must veganize this!
Sarah J. June 23, 2016
Please do!! It's a very, very good cake.
Caroline L. June 23, 2016
Seconding! A very, very, very good cake. (Add at least two more "very"s when eaten with coffee.)
Alexandra G. June 23, 2016
I'm trying it with flax eggs!