Haw Berries & Kumquats

Black sesame yogurt cake 黑芝麻酸奶蛋糕

black sesame yogurt cake

Recently we’ve started ordering organic yogurt from Green Yard Organic Dairy, based in Yanqing County. Though it’s not as thick and creamy as unsweetened Herun Yogurt ( 和润酸奶), I’ve come to prefer Green Yard because it’s local, organic, and comes in a recyclable  paper carton. I loved Herun, which is also local, but it’s sold in little plastic tubs that have been piling up in my house, and I’m running out of ways to reuse them.

The only real downside to Green Yard is that they deliver 8 cartons at a time, a bit overwhelming. Even after giving away a few cartons, we still had too many. Freezing them wasn’t an option: the few I tried became oddly grainy after defrosting.

And then I remembered my favorite yogurt cake. Perhaps I’m a fickle person, but I’m always moving on to new recipes. This is unfortunate for G., who rarely gets a second try at something he loved the first time. My excuse is that it’s more fun for me to always be making something new – anything that he really likes, he can learn how to make them.

Fortunately, this yogurt cake satisfies both my desire for something new and his fondness for an old favorite.  The original recipe is a wonderfully versatile blank canvas, ideal for any flavors you fancy. I’ve made blueberry, lemon, and hawthorn berry before, with excellent results. This time I also added about two tablespoons of my sourdough starter, leftover from feedings, which I think help gave it some extra rise.

And happily, the black sesame version turned out to be one of the most delightful yogurt cakes yet. The crumb is moist, fluffy, and tender, a beautiful shade of purple-black. The sesame was nutty and mellow and sweet, exactly what I wanted it to be. I wanted to bake a second one immediately upon finishing the first, but I was saved from this uncharacteristic maneuver by one small detail: we were out of yogurt.

Black sesame yogurt cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini’s gâteau au yaourt

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup ground black sesame
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
250ml (1 cup) plain, unsweetened yogurt
1 tablespoon rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons discard sourdough starter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F), and butter a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan.

Sift together the flour, ground sesame powder (which does not, in fact, sift very well), baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.

In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Add in the unsweetened yogurt, vegetable oil, rum, vanilla extract, and sourdough starter (if using). Mix well.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into wet ingredients; mix until just combined. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown (golden-black?).

Submitted to Wild Yeast’s Yeastspotting.

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  1. clotilde says:

    It looks gorgeous, Shelley, I’ll have to try that variation!

  2. baobabs says:

    YUMs!!!! this looks great! I haven’t actually tried a yogurt cake before! ps love the plate and that bowl… is it egg shells on lacquer?? :) Happy holidays!

  3. shelley says:

    Thanks, Clothilde!

    Julia, you must be very talented at identifying egg shells on lacquer, for that’s exactly what it is! I got it in Vietnam and use it for my seashell collection.

    Happy holidays!

  4. Pinjing says:

    This looks so delicious! My dad’s favorite flavor in the world is black sesame, so I’ll be making this soon.

  5. tian says:


    I made this recipe last night and replaced a little bit of the veg oil with sesame oil. Mine was quite black; it looked like a dark choc cake. It was indeed moist and tender.

    We couldn’t really taste the black sesame. I wonder if the flavour will develop more over time. Perhaps more sesame oil would help

    Thanks for the recipe

    1. shelley says:

      Hi Tian,

      I’m glad to hear that you tried the cake!

      It might be that the black sesame flavor is dependent on the kind of ground sesame that you used? My seeds were pre-roasted and freshly ground when purchased, and I found the black sesame flavor to be very full-bodied and powerful.

      You could also trying adding another 1/4 cup of ground black sesame seeds if it helps!

      1. Tian says:

        that’s a good point. mine was from a packet from taiwan, not even sure if it was roasted prior to it being ground.

        maybe i should toast them before using them

        definitely would like to experiment more with bsesame, it’s one of my fav flavours

        1. shelley says:

          Yes, I think what my mom does in the US is that she dry-fries raw sesame seeds in the wok on low heat before running them through the food processor. You have to stir them a lot in the wok to keep them from getting burnt!

  6. Jason says:

    Looks good. I’ve never had a cake with black sesame in it before. Thanks.

  7. tian says:

    I made this again! (:
    toasted the bsesame powder, added lots more sesame oil,
    made it gluten free via almond meal + gluten free flour

    it turned out so different .. more bsesame tasting. ultra moist & delicate.
    we thought it felt and tasted like we’re eating bsesame bao.

    1. shelley says:

      glad you like it! I’m thinking of trying this one with sesame oil too, but usually I associate sesame oil with savory Chinese salads and the like.

  8. baobabs says:

    @shelley lol i had an eggshell lacquer bracelet and it cracked and broke in beijing because of the dry weather so I will forever remember the beauty of eggshells on lacquer! I also got it in vietnam :)

  9. Rosie says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I baked it for my grandma’s birthday. The cake was nice! I did make several changes, though…left out the rum, halved the recipe into a 6″ cake pan, and used cake instead of plain flour. The cake was light and not too sweet!