Black Sesame Cupcakes


One of my favorite flavors in the whole wide world is black sesame. Call me crazy, but it actually reminds me of peanut butter. The only other person I've met that feels the same way is my brother so maybe it's in the genes. Regardless, I love its aromatic fragrance when it's being toasted and how it adds a subtle, nutty flavor.

From my limited knowledge, the difference between black and white sesame seeds (aside from the color of the shell) is that the dark variety has a slightly stronger flavor. The rest is a mystery to me. Whatever the voo doo, it tastes amazing in desserts because it's so demure. It's ideal for people that do not like super sweet desserts - like my friend Young. 


My buddy Young doesn't do sweet. He has a more refined palette, which is shocking as I've seen this guy drink hot sauce and eat dog kibble as punishment for losing in competitions. Games were never fun for him in college if there wasn't something at stake. He and our friend Johnny came up with some cruel consequences for losing in Cranium or a hand of cards.  Such sweethearts. We love him all the same!

For his birthday, I made these lovely Black Sesame Cupcakes. It's not as simple as adding toasted black sesames to some vanilla cake- this recipe actually has tahini (sesame paste) in the batter. How exciting is that? There is a kiss of unsweetened cocoa to mellow out the flavors and vanilla extract to bring it all together. The result is a heavenly smelling, slightly brown, and moist cupcake.  These cupcakes get a gold star. My husband, whose not a fanatic like me, enjoyed them as did other non-sesame devotees. 


Where I struggled was the frosting. What goes with black sesame? Recommendations included matcha or vanilla buttercream; I even saw people pair it with lemon curd. The idea of citrus with sesame offended me at a fundamental level. The notion of a cream cheese base or meringue rattled in my brain but ultimately derailed.

In the end, I decided to play it safe. Sesame on sesame. It's a basic buttercream with a little ground black sesame added. You do not need a lot of frosting on top, I preferred only a smear because the cake can hold its own. Remember, this isn't supposed to give a toothache with sugar!


If you really wanted to lose your mind and add to the sesame extravaganza, you could core a little space in the middle of your cupcake and add a sesame rice ball (jian dui) or store-bought sesame mochi, then cover it with frosting. But that's just madness.

Note: to grind the sesames, I used a coffee grinder because I knew this was out of my food processor's league. If you don't have a fancy piece of equipment, do not lose hope. Go for the good old pestle and morter method like you're making guacamole. They don't need to be powder perfect.

Black Sesame Cupcakes
Recipe from My Name is Yeh
These don't rise terribly high in the oven so feel free to fill them past the 3/4 mark in the cupcake tin. 

Black Sesame Buttercream Frosting
lightly frosts 24 cupcakes

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons ground black sesame seeds + 1 teaspoon water
3-4 tablespoons milk of your choice (almond, soy, coconut, etc.)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a food processor or coffee bean grinder, pulverize the black sesames. Place in a small bowl and add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you create a paste. Set aside.

Beat the butter until smooth; add the confections sugar, 1 cup at a time, and the salt. Add the black sesame paste and vanilla extract. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. You can always add more confectioners sugar if it's too thin.