Black Sesame & Kinako Loaf
Words & Photography by Sophia Real
My siblings and I learned an important lesson early on in our lives: the colour of food matters. While my parents were generally against us playing with food (no salt dough crafting for us), they were happy for us to raid their food colouring stash every so often. One such raid lead to my older brother, Ruben, applying some blue food colouring rather liberally to a batch of vanilla custard, turning said custard different shades of mouldy green and blue. Although we tried to eat it, the colour was just wrong and the custard remained almost entirely untouched.
The days of using food colouring with abandon are behind me, yet I continue to be drawn to intensely coloured food. At the market, I cannot walk past a basket full of bright yellow lemons without stopping for a moment to take in all that sunshine. I love the way freshly whipped cream contrasts against the deep red of ripe strawberries. And any raspberry topped tart immediately has me reaching for jewel-hued pistachios.
The number of naturally black foods is fairly limited. And most of it is savoury. Squid ink and caviar come to mind, so do black olives, but beyond that? There is not much else. Black sesame seeds are one of the few naturally black foods that regularly find their way into sweets. Since a trip to Japan in 2010, ice cream made with toasted black sesame seeds has become my go-to dessert whenever I eat at a Japanese restaurant. Black sesame is one of my favourite flavours for macarons and this black sesame loaf might be my favourite new loaf cake. Its charcoal colour is as beautiful as it is unusual, the earthy, almost savoury flavour of the toasted sesame seeds a wonderful change from more traditional loaf cake recipes.
Note: This cake is made with rice flour so is suitable for those following a gluten-free diet. However, the recipe will also work with all purpose, spelt or einkorn flour. You could use white sesame seeds instead of the black ones, although it would mean missing out on a gorgeous charcoal coloured loaf. Kinako is roast soybean flour which is commonly used in Japan (and is easily found in Asian supermarkets – unless you plan on baking a lot with kinako, buy a small bag as kinako can go rancid pretty quickly!). While it is often described as tasting ‘beany’ I find kinako’s flavour is closest to roasted peanuts, which contrasts nicely, both in colour and flavour, with this cake. And while I have a weak spot for glazed loaf cakes, the glaze is entirely optional. This recipe makes quite a small loaf cake which will stay firmly within the walls of a regular loaf pan – for a tall loaf cake simply double the ingredients (and increase the baking time to approximately 60 minutes).
For the black sesame loaf:
150g black sesame seeds
150g butter, at room temperature
150g brown sugar
A pinch of salt
150g rice flour or all purpose flour
For the kinako glaze:
60g powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a loaf pan with butter or oil.
In a dry frying pan toast the sesame seeds over medium heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Set aside to cool.
Cream the butter together with the sugar until pale in colour and fluffy (around 5 minutes). Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Add the pinch of salt and rice flour and whisk to combine.
In a food processor or pestle and mortar, roughly grind the sesame seeds. Fold into the cake batter.
Fill the cake batter into the loaf pan, smooth the top and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing the loaf cake from the pan. Leave to cool completely on a cake rack.
For the kinako glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and kinako. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you have a thick but pourable glaze with no lumps. Pour glaze over the loaf cake and leave to set (the glaze should set within 1-2 hours).