Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

This cake is weird. I'm just gonna put it out there, right up front, this is a weird cake from Bon Appetit.  But in making it, I am reminded of an episode of Chopped where Alex Guarnaschelli was judging, and man, she is mean, she is tough, but she is honest.  And it was down to the dessert round and I forget what the ingredients were but she was faced with a plate of some kind of avocado mousse thing.  And with that narrowed-eyed expression of doom she looked at the chef who made it and said, "This dessert makes no sense..."  Then her eyes softened and she continued, "...and I've eaten almost all of it."

This cake is weird.  Everyone says so.  It's weird, it makes no sense, and everyone in the house is eating it.  So you try it, you be the judge.

This is ever-so-slightly labor intensive, with the added stress of needing a spice grinder to grind the sesame seeds.  Some of you will have had the dubious honor of being on a Facebook thread I posted while in the mall, wondering if a spice grinder was redundant with something I already owned.  Like, the food processor.  But I was gently encouraged to buy, if not an actual spice grinder, then a separate coffee grinder for spices, and the investment was worth making.  Sears was having a sale, so I bought a coffee grinder.

This cake is also made in a loaf pan, and may I offer you some advice?  If you set out to make a cake in a loaf pan, please be sure you do in fact own one.  Don't just assume you own one.  I mean, it's understandable, of course you own one, who doesn't?  C'mon, when was the last time you made a banana bread or a meat loaf?  In the loaf pan!  Right!  You have one!

I didn't have one.  Did I lend it to you, by any chance?  If I did, please give it back.  In the meantime, I made this in 9x9 baking dish and it was totally fine.

Weird Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

  • IMG_61291/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup black sesame seeds (note right here - if I ever make this cake again, I will take the 1/2 cup to a 1/3 cup.  The sesame presence was very strong, in an almost..."dusty" way.  Maybe that's not the word but it was this barest trace of bitterness, not enough to be unpleasant or inedible, but enough to make you go, "Hmm....weird")
  • 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 (medium) firm but ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (and another note - it was Panda's observation that the cake needed more pear, and I agree with her.  If I make it again, I will use two)

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter, or spray with Pam, a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan or a 9 x 9 baking pan.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and 2 tbsp sesame seeds in a medium bowl. Grind remaining 1/2 cup sesame seeds in spice mill to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl until well combined, 2–3 minutes. Add sesame paste and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until blended, 1–2 minutes.


Weird.  Add egg and egg yolk. Beat until pale and fluffy, 3–4 minutes. On low speed, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Toss pear with remaining 2 tbsp. flour in a small bowl; fold into batter.  The batter is grey.  Yes indeed it is.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar


Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 1 hour.

Let cool on wire racks and serve.

See what happens...