April 19, 2021

Noliita Liancafe

Exquisite food

Baking Jen Yee’s Sesame Chiffon Cake Makes Me Feel Like a Pastry Professional

This article is part of Spring Bake, a collection of brand-new recipes and ideas that will keep you in cake, buns, and cookies until summer.

I am but a simple girl, and I bake simple desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to eat all of the most extravagantly decorated, intricately laminated, fastidiously proofed baked goods on this planet, and I do, when they are made available to me. But under no circumstances will I re-create these things in my home. My sweet tooth is sharp but my patience is thin, particularly when it comes to finicky baking recipes; if you come over, you’ll likely be treated to a basic sticky upside down cake or “rustic” (a.k.a. messy on purpose) galette.

It is this mentality that—if I do say so myself—makes me a good dessert recipe tester at work. I approach the cookies and buns that we publish on Epi with the same dubious squinting that our most baking-weary, regular-degular readers do: Is this going to take me four days? Do I need a special pan? Will it use up all of my eggs? Why are the instructions so long? Would I ever really make this again? For project bakers and experienced types, these concerns likely do not matter. But for the people like me who prefer to dirty as few bowls as possible when making dessert (mostly because we happily made a mountain of dishes while cooking dinner), please know that I have our best interests at heart.

Better than the sum of its parts—and its parts are really good.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Lillian Chou

I knew I had to bake this chiffon cake, developed by James Beard award–winning pastry chef Jen Yee, the moment I saw the recipe and reference photo. It was undeniably impressive, lofty and coated in a blanket of golden sesame seeds, with a light and airy crumb. But the ingredients list was curiously simple and the method so straightforward I was sold in an instant. Yes, it required a special pan (a 6-by-3-incher, which is sweetly slender but extra tall—Bill Clark sings its praises here). But aside from that, the process was a breeze: Whisk together a basic batter, fold in stiff meringue, pour it into a sesame seed–coated pan, and call it a day.

Yee’s tahini chiffon cake is so fluffy it’s almost a joke. Cutting into it that first time (I’ve made it twice since, the most ringing of endorsements), I could barely believe my eyes and knife. This was not a texture I thought I was capable of making at home, given my allergy to fussy baking. I’d long accepted that cakes like these were reserved for fancy bakeries and five-star hotel lobby high teas. But here it was, in my kitchen, born of my hands. I posted a picture to the Epi Slack channel and test kitchen director Chris Morocco said that it looked “so light it could float.” And the taste—subtly nutty from the tahini, but mostly clean and delicate—was second to none. When I can feed friends in my house again, this cake is how I plan to show off.

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Also, I haven’t even mentioned the duo of extras you pile on top, which take it from delightful to showstopping (though, of course, you could sub in whatever embellishments you please). First is a burnt honey whipped cream, which you make by beating a bit of homemade honey caramel into heavy cream for a sweet, almost smoky dollop. The combination of tahini and honey is a classic one, so this cake and cream topping is a perfect pairing; together they are halvah-esque in flavor and wonderfully dainty. If you want to keep your dessert dairy-free (the cake already is), you could stir a bit of the cooled caramelized honey into plant-based yogurt for a similarly creamy spoonful.

Then there is the poached rhubarb, which is the ideal fruity accompaniment. Sliced bright pink stalks (Yee recommends cutting them like party platter celery sticks) spend some time in a warm bath of simple syrup, in a saucepan with the lid on but the heat off, until tender but not mushy. The cardamom pods in the brew are optional but add a lovely spiced dimension, which makes the resulting poaching liquid great to drizzle over the finished plate. Helpfully, the recipe is flexible on time: Either bake your cake while the rhubarb poaches so everything is done at once (and you get that warm fruit + cold cream combo), or prep the fruit the day before and store it in the fridge for a sweet, cool topping just right for a warm spring day. Plating each thick slice at the table, you’ll feel like a pastry professional; I’ll keep just how easy it really was between us.

Tahini Chiffon Cake With Burnt Honey Cream and Poached Rhubarb

Jennifer Yee

Originally Appeared on Epicurious