Chocolate Tahini Cake with Tahini Frosting
Not many things in life are better than a rich, moist chocolate cake covered in buttercream and doled out with birthday songs and birthday wishes. But as my old timpani teacher used to say, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” Chocolate cake, meet tahini.
Chocolate cake and tahini go together fantastically, but not like bacon and eggs or peanut butter and jelly: They’re not splitting the spotlight 50/50. Chocolate cake and tahini are more like my favorite ice dancing pair, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Meryl is the cake, the star, the real-life Disney princess who has the power to make everything she touches turn to solid gold (see: Dancing with the Stars, season 18), while Charlie’s the tahini, the support, the knight in shining armor on his horse to meet his princess. Yeah, he’s pretty freaking magnificent on his own, but tahini kind of needs to latch onto something in order for him to deserve a spot on the podium, like chickpeas to make hummus, or sugar to make halva, or an outstandingly terrific chocolate cake. So when the two come together and chocolate cake is able to shine her absolute brightest thanks to the strong support of a smooth nutty tahini, an X-factor happens that makes this pair one of the best in the world.
Someone once told me that they “don’t like cake,” but that they “love this cake.” The tahini here sends an otherwise classic chocolate cake right over the edge into no-going-back territory.
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 1¾ cups flour
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup flavorless oil
- ½ cup tahini
- ¾ cup boiling water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans or one 13-by-9-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil and tahini. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk in the boiling water.
- Pour the batter into the cake pans or baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes for round cakes and 32 minutes for a sheet cake. Let cool in the pans or dish for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and tahini until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the salt, cinnamon and vanilla.
- For a layer cake, level the round cakes and stack them with a layer of frosting between them. Frost the top and sides of the cake.
- For a sheet cake, spread the frosting on top and cut into squares, or chill in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm and use a biscuit cutter to cut into mini cakes.
- Reprinted with permission from Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh (Rodale 2016).