I never really understood the beauty and nuance of the flavor of sesame seeds until I once accidentally bought a bar of halvah instead of a Snickers. I was busy multitasking—’gramming a killer pic while also picking up a sugar-fix snack. I figured any candy bar that sat right next to a Snickers must be in great company. How different could it be?! Turns out wildly so. The feel of halvah is light and airy, textured with curious sugary splinters. And its flavor, bitter yet nutty, is much more sophisticated than peanut butter. It’s made from sesame seeds ground into a paste called tahini, and it opened me up to a world of baking with tahini. This cake is part toffee, part sesame, and out of control with some fresh fruit jam and a pat of butter.
115g unsalted butter, melted 1 stick (8 T)
110g buttermilk 1⁄2 cup
75g tahini 1⁄3 cup
3 large eggs
250g sugar 11⁄4 cups 60g light brown sugar 1⁄4 cup + 1 tsp (packed)
185g cake flour 11⁄2 cups + 2T
4g baking powder 1 tsp
4g kosher salt 1 tsp 170g sesame seed brittle 11⁄2 cups (below)
5g cake flour 11⁄2 tsp
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, tahini, and eggs together in a large bowl.
3. Whisk both sugars, the 185g (11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate large bowl.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir to combine. If the batter looks lumpy, use a whisk to break up all the lumps.
5. Toss 112g (1 cup) of the sesame seed brittle with the 5g (11⁄2 teaspoons) cake flour, then stir into the batter.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining brittle on top. Bake until the cake rises and puffs, 60 to 70 minutes. At 60 minutes, tap the top of the cake with your fingertips: The cake should bounce back firmly and the center should not be jiggly at all. If it doesn’t pass this test, leave the cake in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 45 minutes, then run a small butter knife or offset spatula between the edge of the cake and the pan to help release it. Invert the pan onto a wire rack to fully release the cake. Turn the cake right side up and let it cool completely before slicing and serving.
8. The cake will keep in the refrigerator, wrapped, for up to 1 week.
sesame seed brittle
100g sugar 1⁄2 cup
70g sesame seeds, untoasted 1⁄2 cup
1. Line a quarter-sheet pan with a silicone baking mat.
2. Make a dry caramel by heating the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as the sugar starts to melt, use a heatproof spatula to move it constantly around the pan so that it melts evenly. Cook and stir until the caramel is a deep, dark amber, 3 to 5 minutes after it just starts to melt.
3. Once the caramel has reached the target color, take it off the heat and quickly stir in the sesame seeds. Once the sesame seeds are completely covered in sugar, pour them out onto the sheet pan and use a spatula to spread them out as thinly as possible. Work quickly because the caramel will set fast and become impossible to spread around. Let the sesame seed brittle cool completely.
4. Once cooled, use a rolling pin or mallet to break up the sesame brittle into tiny lentil-size pieces. Use a blender or food processor to break it up further into a sandy consistency.