Black Sesame Orange Layer Cake


Kitra: Jordan loves Halloween. I love… cake.

Jordan: It’s my fault. I ruined Halloween for Kitra by forcing her to have Halloween birthday parties throughout her childhood.

I maintain that there is no such thing as a “seasonally appropriate theme party” and that if my birthday was near any other holiday we would not do that.

I always thought she was wrong about this, but no. It has taken me almost twenty-six years to realize that I would have a New Year’s/Fourth of July/Halloween themed birthday, but normal people would not. Clearly I was always an event planner at heart.

Anyway, this is why we always make a Halloween cake and I don’t even make myself cake for my actual birthday. #TeamEatonMess

Halloween cakes are great because you get to be ridiculous with them. Hence the way this looks a little like a Halloween carnival threw up on a cake plate.

Even though it looks like circus peanuts, I promise it doesn’t taste like them. For one thing, it’s not stale. Yet.

The cake itself is black sesame, which has a nice mild nuttiness


and we included a slick of marmalade in between each layer, which gives it a little bitterness.

Also same.

The frosting is fairly sweet, but it’s also light. We discovered this bizarre cooked frosting a while back—you start by basically making a bechamel, which seems so, so wrong—that provides a nice neutral base for a little bit of orange flavor. (Side note: I now want to make a cheese frosting using this base.)

I don’t buy the idea that this would be anything other than horrifying. And I LOVE cheese.

This cake is also the culmination of two long-held food dreams.

Back in… 2013? I got a tube of sweet black sesame paste, which I mostly ate with a spoon and a glass of orange juice. I always said I would start a food blog only if I could come up with a good black sesame/orange cookie.

For me, I’ve been holding onto this recipe for probably five years and finally got an opportunity to make it, or at least something like it. Considering that half the point of Cake Day was to use up my many bookmarks, I’m pretty happy with that.


Black Sesame Orange Layer Cake

Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

This cake would also be good scaled down into something of an afternoon tea cake, with a thin orange icing and/or a simple layer of marmalade, no frosting.

The first part of this recipe walks you through making a sweet sesame paste; if you have access to a good Asian grocery where you can find the pre-made stuff, it would likely work with that too. Make sure you find one that is sweetened, not just plain black sesame paste. The recipe will make more than you need; you’ll need about 2 cups total, whether homemade or store-bought.

Glutinous rice flour is the kind used to make mochi and other gloopy treats; it is not the same as regular rice flour. It’s sometimes sold as sweet rice flour or mochiko.

Finally, we highly recommend finding pre-ground black sesame seeds (sometimes called black sesame powder) if possible, but you can also try lightly toasting and then grinding them as finely as possible in a blender or food processor. Be sure to toast them first, as the raw seeds will have a lot more bitterness. For best results, measure the seeds by weight and grind them along with the rice flour and sugar–the extra volume will help.


1 cup (85g) ground black sesame seeds
½ cup (80g) glutinous rice flour
½ cup (100g) sugar
2 cups cold water, plus more as needed
½ tsp sesame oil
1 cup (8oz, 227g, 2 sticks) butter, softened
2c (400g) sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3½ cups (440g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
orange frosting (see below)
2 tbsp orange marmalade, stirred so that it is easily spreadable
black sesame seeds, for topping


Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round pans with parchment and lightly grease the insides of the pans.

In a medium saucepan, combine ground sesame, ½ cup sugar, rice flour, and 1 cup of cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flexible spatula, until the mixture is fully combined and starts to thicken. Add the second cup of water and continue stirring.

Let sesame paste cook, stirring consistently, until it is the consistency of warm pudding: it should be able to ooze off the spatula when you scoop it up, but it shouldn’t be runny. The mixture may come to a very slow boil at some point, which is fine. If you find that your paste has thickened up too much, add a little more water and stir until it thins back down.

Stir in the sesame oil, then remove pot from heat and set sesame paste aside to cool to room temperature. (You can move it to a separate bowl and/or put it in the fridge/freezer to hurry this along.)

In a large bowl, cream butter and 2 cups sugar together with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined, then add vanilla.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Once the sesame paste has cooled, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, beating until mostly combined. Beat in one cup of sesame paste until mostly combined. Repeat with two more portions of flour and one additional cup of sesame paste (for two cups total) and mix batter until fully combined. The batter will be very thick.

Divide batter into three prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then remove onto a rack to cool fully.

To assemble cake, spread a thin layer of frosting onto the top of one cake layer, followed by a very thin layer of marmalade. Don’t spread the marmalade all the way to the edges, as it can make for a messier frosting job on the outside. Repeat with second layer and top with the final layer (no marmalade needed here). Frost the outside of your cake and top with sesame seeds as desired.

Orange Frosting

Adapted from Food52


slightly full ¼ cup (35g) flour
1½ c milk
¾ tsp salt
1½ c (300g) sugar
zest of 1 orange
1½ c (12 oz, 340g, 3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp orange extract
food coloring (optional)


In a small saucepan, combine milk, flour, and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture just comes to a boil. It will thicken significantly as it does so. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, until it is a little warmer than room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest. Use your fingers to rub the orange zest into the sugar; this helps release the flavor. Add butter and beat using an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.

Once the milk mixture is cool enough that it won’t melt the butter, add it one spoonful at a time to the butter and sugar, beating throughout. As you add more, the frosting will become light and fluffy; continue beating until you’ve added all of the milk mixture. Add orange extract and food coloring, if using.

2 thoughts on “Black Sesame Orange Layer Cake

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