The Cake That Almost Broke Me
Brown Sugar Tahini Cake with Double Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting - Second Helpings #21
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This cake broke almost broke me. I threw out all of my recipe testing rules trying to crack the recipe; it was so infuriating. Okay, calm down, Edd, it's not that dramatic! When I say it broke my rules, I really mean just the one. I generally stop testing a recipe after three failed attempts. Suppose the recipe isn’t getting close to where I want it after three versions, it’s shelved, to be attempted again later down the line once I have had time to rethink my approach. I tested this cake five times this week, and thankfully, I am happy I persevered rather than throw a tantrum and give up like I wanted to halfway through this week.
The cake in question is a relatively simple-sounding affair; a brown sugar tahini layer cake with brown butter cream cheese frosting. But, when tahini is added to the mix, things don’t always go how you expect them. So let me give you a little insight into my recipe-testing process and show you how I finally landed on a recipe that creates exactly what I had in mind.
I started with a loaf cake recipe I often make, a French-style cake that uses melted butter and double cream and which was originally made with sourdough discard and einkorn flour. My initial test was to change the tin it was baked in, switch out the einkorn for regular wheat flour, and replace the sourdough discard with additional liquid and flour. So far, so easy. The most significant change was adding tahini while retaining the velvety texture of the original cake. That original recipe was made with double cream, which is about 50% fat. As tahini is around the same level of fat, I tried a straight swap; out goes the cream in goes the tahini. This did not work; the cake was so dry. The tahini wasn’t acting as fat + liquid like the cream was; it was acting as fat + protein. It was as if I had added a bunch more flour to the recipe. So the second test reduced the flour, hoping it would contract the effects of the tahini. This helped somewhat, but the cake was still far too much on the dry side. To get to the final version of the recipe, I ended up upping the butter and adding some sour cream. Thankfully all that testing got the cake to a great place. The tahini still makes the cake crack a little on the top as it bakes, but since it is covered with frosting and the texture and taste were on point, I wasn’t concerned with that too much.
The cake tin was lined with butter and then completely coated in sesame seeds to give the cake a little extra texture and to up the sesame factor a little. To round things out, the cake is frosted with a fabulous double brown butter cream cheese frosting. Why double brown butter? Well, if you remember, a while back, I showed you how to caramelise milk powder which is basically brown butter in powdered form. This frosting is made with brown butter and a little caramelised milk powder to boost the brown butter flavour. Trust me; this frosting is a brown butter lover's dream and worth making a batch of caramelised milk powder for.
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