This dark goddess that I've named Vanessa after the name I always wanted as a teenager, is a real beauty. She is a chiffon sponge with a dark grey exterior and a mysterious black sesame flavour base. The rest is a beautiful lightness where she is lifted to the heavens with whisked egg whites and sugar. Last but not least, her decoration is a jewellery box selection of the prettiest, brightest berries, cut to glisten on top. Approach Vanessa with nothing but adoration!
I did get a bit carried away there but I think if it were possible to fall in love with the look of a cake, it would be this one (for me at least). The collar of rubied berries is perhaps one of the easiest ways to decorate a cake and is ideal for anyone that doesn't like complicated icing. The fruit produces a simple but devastatingly pretty adornment. Black sesame is a beautiful flavour-usually thought of in the context of Asian desserts. It's slightly smokey, sweet and enticing and lends its beautifully to a chiffon sponge cake. And well you know what I'm like with sponge cakes at the moment. Like a black dress, you can never have too many.
This year I travelled with some really lovely writers, well most of them were except for one lady-it was a case of mutual disinterest. Every time I started to talk she would get up and walk off or start looking around and every time she opened her mouth (which was a lot of the time) I would look away put my earphones in. Most of the time though, writers are usually really nice to be around. And sometimes you end up forging unexpected bonds with each other.
After dinner one night there were two writers that decided to open a bottle of wine in one of their rooms and continue talking. It wasn't what you think and it was more two people that had found that they had conversation and a somewhat strange vocation (travel writing) in common. One of them brought up the topic of the music that she would like played at her funeral and put on a soundtrack for her wannabe funeral, all played from the tinny sounds of her phone. They drank, they danced and they talked their ideal funeral. It perhaps sounds maudlin but it wasn't from their perspective. I mean I guess it's a practical thing no? You don't want the song that you hate played at your funeral (and for the record Mr NQN if you are reading, it's this version of Purple Rain for mine pretty please).
And I'd like Vanessa served up too along with about a dozen cakes...
So tell me Dear Reader, do you find talking about funeral songs depressing? Have you chosen your funeral song? And do you like black sesame as a flavour? Do you like icing or decorating cakes or do you prefer baking the cake itself?
Black Sesame Chiffon Cake
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 5 eggs at room temperature
- 120g/4ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 90ml/3.18ozs. oil
- 130g4.6ozs. black sesame paste
- 190g/6.71ozs. cake flour (you can also use rice flour if you want to make it gluten free)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 100g caster or superfine sugar
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 125ml/4ozs. cream
- 2 tablespoons icing or confectioners sugar, sifted
- 1/2 punnet fresh raspberries
- 4 strawberries
- 8 black grapes
- Flowers for decorating
- 20cm/8inch chiffon cake tin (do not use a non stick one)
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Separate the eggs carefully making sure to not get any yolk in the whites. Place the yolks in a large bowl with the sugar and whisk using a balloon whisk for a minute until pale in colour. Add the oil and sesame paste and whisk again. Then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt from a height and mix with a spatula until just incorporated.
Step 2 - Fit an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and make sure that the mixing bowl is very clean without any traces of fats or it won't whip up properly. Add the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk until you get soft peaks. Then gradually pour in the second lot of caster sugar (the 100g/3.5ozs) in a thin stream until you get stiff, glossy peaks. If you can tip the bowl upside down without it moving then you're good.
Step 3 - Add a quarter of the egg white mixture to the black sesame mix. Fold this in. Don't worry if it deflates a bit, the black sesame mix is heavy in comparison. Keep adding the meringue mixture in three more lots folding it in so that there are no more streaks.
Step 4 - Take your chiffon cake tin and do not grease the tin (yes one of the greatest pleasures of making this cake). Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely in the tin-do not turn this upside down. I've had people ask me about this and I do not turn it upside down as it is SO delicate and can fall apart. When it is completely cool, run a butter knife around the edge and then turn it upside down.
Step 5 - Whip the cream with the icing sugar and spoon on top. As you can see I didn't whip it much and it dripped but you can whip it further to get a thicker texture. Decorate with berries, mint and flowers. This cake can keep for 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature without the cream or fruit.