Adapted from Maialino's Olive Oil Cake, this off-road version swaps out olive oil for sesame oil, a nutty and pungent alternative. Although sesame oil was a pantry staple for me growing up (and a regular fixture in my kitchen now), I rarely—if ever—saw it applied in sweets. But if olive oil cake exists, surely there’s potential for sesame oil cake, too, right? I wanted to find out.
Because sesame oil’s flavor and aroma are so distinct, too much of it can easily render a dish one-dimensional at best and inedible at worst. I wanted to infuse sesame oil’s characteristically rich flavor into a cake without overpowering the whole dessert—admittedly a lofty aim. As with an olive oil cake, citrus zest and juice in the cake batter added some brightness and acidity, but I found that incorporating another key ingredient, honey, helped further balance and complement the sesame oil. In this recipe, a honey syrup is spooned over the cake while it’s still warm in the pan, then right before serving, the cake is topped with a honey whipped cream.
The result is a warming, sweet-but-not-too-sweet cake tinged with an interesting savory element. Finished with a handful of colorful berries, it’s a perfect way to celebrate spring and summer. —Joy Cho
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- makes One 8-inch round cake
- Sesame Oil Cake
(1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
(¾ cup) granulated sugar
(¼ cup) light brown sugar
(¾ cup) whole milk, at room temperature
(6 tablespoons) pure sesame oil
large eggs, at room temperature
(3 tablespoons) sour cream, at room temperature
freshly squeezed orange juice
finely grated orange zest
- Honey Whipped Cream
(1 cup) heavy whipping cream, cold
1 to 2 tablespoons
honey, to taste
Fresh berries, such as blackberries or raspberries, for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, line the pan with parchment paper, and grease the parchment.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add both sugars and whisk until combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, oil, eggs, sour cream, orange juice and zest, and vanilla until completely smooth.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients, then carefully pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk just until smooth with no lumps, taking care not to overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, make the honey syrup: Mix the honey and 1 teaspoon of warm water in a small bowl until smooth. While the cake is still warm in the pan, poke small holes all over the surface of the cake with a toothpick and spoon the syrup on top. Let the cake sit for 10 to 15 minutes until the syrup is absorbed, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream and 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey using a stand mixer, electric hand mixer, or by hand, until medium peaks form. Top the cake with dollops of whipped cream and garnish with berries, if desired.