Black Sesame Plum Cake

July  6, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Andrea Foti. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • makes one 13x4-inch or 9-inch round cake
Author Notes

Nutty black sesame and tangy plums mingle with fragrant maple, orange, and vanilla, creating a striking and delicious cake that’s sure to grab everyone’s attention. What’s more, no one will ever guess that it’s gluten- and dairy-free, and possibly the simplest cake you’ll ever bake. It’s the kind of cake that can be dressed up for dessert with a dollop of softly whipped cream or thick yogurt—if you want to keep things totally dairy-free, it’s lovely with coconut yogurt—or served unadorned alongside morning tea or coffee. This cake also travels well, and can even be eaten without a plate (or fork), making it perfect for picnic season.

This cake can actually be made with any summer fruit or berries you have on hand—that said, I do love the way the crimson plum flesh melds into the black sesame batter. Since there’s no dairy or gluten, you don’t need to worry about properly creaming butter and sugar, or overmixing the batter after adding flour—it truly is foolproof. What’s more, the simple list of ingredients can be memorized and put together anywhere, since no special equipment is required.

A few notes: This cake can be baked in round, square, or rectangular cake or tart pans. Just be sure the pan’s volume is equivalent to about a 9-inch round pan (or not much smaller), as the fruit-topped batter needs a good amount of surface area to cook well. Line any pan you use with a parchment paper overhang of a few inches—this gives a round cake a lovely rustic look and makes the cake easy to lift out.

It’s best to use firm-fleshed plums here, as a super juicy variety would tend to make the batter too wet. The exact baking time ultimately depends on the moisture content of the fruit (it may take an extra 5 to 10 minutes—keep baking it until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean). Since coconut oil solidifies when cool, it’s best to be sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. When it comes to dry ingredients, if you don’t want the pronounced flavor of sesame, or can’t find back sesame seeds, just increase the almond flour to 2½ cups (215 grams). And oat flour can be replaced with brown rice flour, or you can make your own: Grind rolled oats in an electric spice grinder or Vitamix until fine. Sift into a bowl and then measure out the amount needed.

The recipe is from Whole Food Cooking Every Day by Amy Chaplin (Artisan Books). © 2019.
Amy Chaplin

What You'll Need
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Black Sesame Plum Cake
  • 1 cup (130 grams) raw black sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups (130 grams) almond flour
  • 1/4 cup (22 grams) oat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) melted extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 ounces (340 grams, about 6 small-medium) plums, halved, pitted, and cut into 1¼-inch (3-centimeter) wedges
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 13x4-inch pan or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (see headnote), creasing the paper against the sides as needed.
  2. Put the sesame seeds in the bowl of a food processor and grind until fine, being careful that the seeds don’t start turning into tahini; set aside.
  3. Put the almond flour in a medium bowl and use your fingertips to work out any lumps. Add the ground sesame seeds, then sift in the oat flour and baking powder and whisk to combine; set aside. Beat the eggs in another medium bowl. Add the maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, orange zest, and salt and whisk to combine. Pour into the sesame and almond flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until the batter is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula. Top with the plums, arranging them cut side up.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Cover any leftover cake and store for 1 day at room temperature or up to 4 days in the fridge; allow to come to room temperature before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nadia Hassani
    Nadia Hassani
  • Fei
  • neha
Amy Chaplin is a two-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and vegetarian chef. Amy's approach to cooking is inspired by nature and the healing benefits of whole food ingredients. Her recipes have been featured in T Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Vogue, among other publications. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Upstate New York.

3 Reviews

Fei June 6, 2022
Simple cake to make, unique flavor profile and looks really special too. My basic food processor didn’t process the black sesame seeds too well so I switched it to a coffee/spice grinder in batches which did a much better job. I also did two packed teaspoons of orange zests but would go lighter on it next time. Do try it out!
neha August 29, 2021
This cake is delicious and surprisingly very easy to make! If you like black sesame, you will love this cake. It's earthy and strikes the right balance of sweetness. I found the author's notes to be spot on. I topped the cake with matcha buttercream frosting in lieu of the plums. Black sesame and matcha, what's not to like?!
Nadia H. July 26, 2021
Delicious with fresh apricots too, used a little less than 12 ounces. First cake I ever made with black sesame seeds, I have only used them for bread and rolls. If didn’t know I would think it’s poppy seed, similar nutty flavor and moist consistency. - Grinding the sesame seeds in the food processor did not work and since I had to get the spice grinder dirty for the oats anyway, I ground them in two batches, that worked perfectly.