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Black Sesame Mochi Cake (+ Two Years!)

July 25, 2013

Black Sesame Mochi CakePin it!

Two years of blogging. It’s hard to believe.

Two years of trying to fall asleep with recipe ideas rattling wildly around in my head: a very specific form of insomnia.

Two years of connecting with other food bloggers as colleagues and as friends (and yes, sometimes as an awestruck, admiring fan).

Two years of feeling extra pressure every time a potluck rolls around.

Black Sesame Mochi CakePin it!

Two years of struggling with food photography, despite the fact that I’ve now had my fancier camera for a year. (At least my photos will never be as bad as the ones in my first post.)

Two years of sampling restaurant menu items with Paula, and turning to each other to say, “we have to figure out how to make this for the blog!”

Two years of slowly but surely building up my recipe index and seeing my followers increase. (I recently surpassed 2000 followers on WordPress and 500 on Facebook—whoever you are, I love you guys!)

Black Sesame Mochi Cake

One year of not much travel. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me. Sure, in my first year of blogging I visited France, Belgium, and the Netherlands with Paula, and I went (back) to Korea and Japan, but then my grad student-sized income caught up with me, and now I haven’t been back to Japan in over a year and a half (!) with no trips planned there in the near future (!). Sad sad sad. (It’s the bullet train rail pass that’s even more prohibitively expensive than the plane tickets or the food…) This year I’ve been to Madison, Wisconsin/Chicago and to San Luis Obispo/Pismo Beach, California. So much for my international travel food photo posts… check back in a year or two.

Black Sesame Mochi Cake

Two years of buying mismatched dishes at thrift stores. (Actually, this had been going on for ages before that; it’s the fact that my thrift store dishes now get to star in photos on the internet that has resulted in something of a kitchen storage space crisis.)

Two years of knowing EXACTLY when the sun is going to set every evening.

Two years.

Black Sesame Mochi Cake

The other day I came up with something that I should have come up with two years ago: the idea of keeping a little notebook around where I can jot down ideas I have for recipes/blog posts (which are practically one and the same in my mind…).

I sat down with a pen and a cup of coffee, somewhere with my laptop, cookbooks, and food magazines intentionally out of reach. Within an hour (Paula says an hour and a half), I had filled 14 pages with increasingly tiny handwriting, listing off all the things I want to make.

An average of 18 or 19 things per page means I sat there and wrote down easily 250 Things To Make just off the top of my head. (At 52 posts a year, that’s already enough ideas for 5 more years of blogging! Not to mention all the additional ideas I will have come up with during those 5 years…)

Making Black Sesame Mochi Cake

You might remember back in January, I decided to cut back on posting, from twice a week to once a week. This was a wise decision.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve become such an expert food blogger that I now spend less than 10 hours on each post, but it wouldn’t be true. (Yep, it’s taken over my life! In a good way mostly.)

Black Sesame Mochi Cake with powdered sugar glaze

It turns out I can cut down on posting, but I can’t cut down on how much mental energy, physical energy, money, food, time, anxiety, and love I give to this blog.

And YOU make it worth it.

I’m grateful to all of you for reading my blog, and for liking and commenting on my posts. (Even if I don’t have time to respond to the comments right away, or for a week or two, or ever, I still read every single one and they make me happy and motivated to keep creating this blog!)

Glazed Black Sesame Mochi Cake

I’m also grateful to my fiancée, Paula, who has turned into quite the recipe-inventor and guest blogger herself (and who has invested nearly as many hours in Spontaneous Tomato as I have).

Thanks to friends in town and elsewhere for asking me for recipe advice—which I often feel totally unqualified to answer, but it still makes me feel warm & fuzzy inside—and for sharing with me much recipe wisdom of their own.

Black Sesame Mochi CakePin it!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Ah yes, the mochi cake! Did you know you can make cake out of mochi flour (“glutinous rice” flour) so that it has that totally addictive chewy quality of mochi, lightened up with eggs, air, and coconut milk?

It’s a Hawaiian thing that I just discovered back in May at an end-of-the-year party for the East Asian languages department where I’m a Japanese teaching assistant. One of the professors brought a buttery mochi cake to the party, and I think I ate about a third of it myself. (Did I mention it was a 9″x13″ baking dish?)

Black Sesame Mochi Cake

It seems the traditional Hawaiian version of the cake is like the one I tasted: rich, simple flavors of butter and coconut milk carry you away; the texture is a perfect balance of chewy and cake-y (in my opinion… but maybe don’t take that from me, since I’m not much of a cake person. After all, for my first blogiversary post, I skipped the cake entirely and made gnocchi instead!)

My version was inspired both by the revelatory potluck cake and by Alice Medrich’s Sesame Seed Cake from her book Pure Dessert, which calls for a generous amount of toasted black sesame seeds and just a dash of toasted sesame oil.

Sesame oil and toasted black sesame seeds

You might think of Asian toasted sesame oil as a savory ingredient only, but let me tell you something: the scent of good sesame oil and vanilla extract decanted into a bowl together is what I’d call heavenly.

My recipe is a total mash-up of several different mochi cakes I spotted on Cookpad plus those two ingredients from the Sesame Seed Cake. I’ve now made it three times, significantly tweaking the recipe after the first failure (which was dense and more like mochi “bars”).

Ingredients for Black Sesame Mochi Cake

The last two times were both successes, but with one difference: I used Koda Farms brand “Mochiko” for the photos, but a different brand of “glutinous rice flour” imported from Thailand the previous time. I’m guessing the Mochiko might be better for actual Japanese mochi, but it gave my cake a slightly denser, drier, less chewy texture than the bag simply marked “glutinous rice flour” (which kept the cake looking more translucent, raw, and mochi-like in the center—though it certainly wasn’t raw after over an hour in the oven!), so I’d recommend the Thai version if you can find it in a store near you.

Note: this cake is gluten free! “Glutinous” rice flour just means the rice is chewy with a gluten-like quality. Mochi-ko (mochi flour), “sweet” rice flour, and glutinous rice flour are all pretty much equivalent ingredients, as far as I know. (Plain old “rice flour” will not work for this recipe, though.)

Black Sesame Mochi Cake with Japanese mugi-cha barley teaPin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Black Sesame Mochi Cake

(Makes 20-25 small bites)

~ 2¼ cups (11.5 oz.) mochi-ko (mochi flour) / glutinous rice flour / sweet rice flour
~ 1 tsp. baking powder
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ ⅔ cup sugar
~ 4 Tbsp. butter (½ stick), melted
~ 4 eggs, beaten
~ 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
~ 2 tsp. Asian (toasted) sesame oil (at room temperature)
~ 1 cup coconut milk
~ 3 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds
For glaze (optional):
~ 4½ Tbsp. powdered sugar
~ 1½ tsp. milk or almond milk

Special equipment needed:

~ 8″x8″ square glass baking dish
~ parchment paper

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″x8″ square glass baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.

Toasted black sesame seedsMochiko glutinous rice flour

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and melted butter, then whisk in the beaten eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, and sesame oil. Add the coconut milk and stir until mixed well.

Adding sesame oil and vanilla extractStirring in the coconut milk

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones in the large bowl, then mix well (whisk by hand to smooth out the lumps of dry ingredients). Stir in the black sesame seeds, then pour batter into the parchment-lined baking dish, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula.

Making Black Sesame Mochi CakeMaking Black Sesame Mochi Cake

5. Bake for 65-75 minutes, until the top is browned and cracked (try not to open the oven for at least the first 45 minutes of baking, or the cake might sink down a little). Let cool completely (or almost completely) before lifting the cake out using the parchment paper onto a cutting board.

Making glaze for Black Sesame Mochi Cake

6. Optionally glaze the cake once completely cool: Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, then use a rubber spatula to smooth the glaze over the cake. Slice into 20 or 25 pieces to serve. (Best on the first day, or store in an airtight container—once completely cooled—for 2-3 days.)

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Black Sesame Mochi Cake with Japanese mugi-cha barley teaPin it!

Black Sesame Mochi CakePin it!

Related recipe posts:

Black Sesame Coconut Milk Ice Cream Iced Mugi-cha Roasted Barley Tea Japanese Chilled Tofu with Black Sesame Dressing Korean Cinnamon Stuffed Pancakes (Hotteok)
Black Sesame Coconut Milk Ice Cream Iced Mugi-cha Roasted Barley Tea Japanese Chilled Tofu with Black Sesame Dressing Korean Cinnamon Sugar Stuffed Pancakes (Hotteok)
43 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 9:10 am

    It looks kind of unusual,but delicious and for sure I’m going to make it! I use Mochi-ko,too :)

    • July 25, 2013 9:25 am

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear you’re going to make it! :)

      Mochi-ko is awesome; I was surprised that I actually liked the more generic SE Asian glutinous rice flour a little better in this cake, compared to the Mochi-ko version.

  2. July 25, 2013 9:20 am

    That looks wonderful! Just wanted to say hi! I’m Marie from PeopleTreats. I’m a semi-new blogger, and reading this post is really inspiring. I can totally relate to lying in bed and recipe ideas flying in and out, that’s probably when my best ideas come :) I really enjoy your blog, and am looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    • July 25, 2013 9:30 am

      Thanks for your comment, Marie! I’m glad to hear you can relate to that part. Not being able to fall asleep because I’m brainstorming blog post ideas is the best slash worst, haha. Actually, this just made me realize I should start keeping that little notebook I finally came up with right next to my bed to jot down those ideas before I forget them… :)

      • July 25, 2013 1:13 pm

        Note to self, keep notebook on night stand, great idea! Thanks for following PeopleTreats! I am always so excited to get new followers! When I started my blog, I had no idea what I was getting in to and how blogging can take over your life, but in a good way. It’s really a wonderful creative outlet. Definitely my favorite hobby right now and hopefully for more years to come. Congrats on your two-year anniversary btw! That’s pretty exciting :)

      • July 27, 2013 11:24 am

        Oh, I know– blogging completely (and unexpectedly) took over my life, but in a good way. And I should be thanking YOU for that idea to keep the recipe notebook on my night stand, since I only came up with that while writing back to your comment before!

  3. July 25, 2013 10:51 am

    Oh wow! This looks like something I would really enjoy. I have some kalonji seeds that I could swap in for the sesame. Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration!

    • July 27, 2013 10:43 am

      Hm, that sounds like it’d be interesting– maybe even more savory than sesame… you could also try just swapping in white sesame seeds. Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. July 25, 2013 11:14 am

    I am your awestruck, admiring fan! I’m so glad to get to benefit from all your work on this fantastic blog. :)

    • July 27, 2013 10:56 am

      Aw, thank you! Your comment made my day!! (Seriously, I read it on my phone just as I was walking in to class to teach Japanese on Thursday morning, and then I had to take a minute to re-focus, because that means a lot to me coming from you.)

  5. July 25, 2013 12:22 pm

    Happy 2nd year of blogging! You have such a wonderful blog and I am always so happy when I see your new posts in my Reader! :)

  6. July 25, 2013 1:05 pm

    You are so innovative, Allison! :P

    • July 27, 2013 11:00 am

      Thanks, Fae! Maybe so, but I didn’t feel that super original or creative with this recipe, since I just took the black sesame seeds and sesame oil from one (flour-y) cake, and put them into another (mochi-mochi) cake instead. The flavor pairing seemed only natural, since I’d been thinking of the mochi cake as a Japanese thing (though then it turned out it was actually Hawaiian), although the first option I thought of before sesame was green tea, but I couldn’t justify spending that much money on matcha powder– it’s so expensive!

  7. July 25, 2013 2:09 pm

    Congrats Allison! And Paula too!

    I can so relate to so many things you’re talking about. The sun setting thing, the sheets of paper everywhere with recipe ideas (not organized enough for an actual notebook, haha)…

    And, lastly, I love the cake! I’m a huge fan of mochi. Pinned!

    • July 27, 2013 11:07 am

      Thank you, Danguole! I’m happy to hear you pinned it; I’ll be excited to see what kind of amazing flavor variations you come up with for mochi cakes. :)

      And believe me it doesn’t take much to get organized enough for a future recipe idea notebook– just start one! It’s never too late! HOWEVER: there are still small sheets of paper all over my kitchen counters, magnetted to my fridge, and probably even stuck behind my couch cushions with notes on ingredient amounts for recipes I’ve already made… no matter how organized I get, I don’t see those ever going away.

  8. July 25, 2013 3:30 pm

    Happy 2-year anniversary! What a great-looking recipe. I’ll have to give it a try; there’s always a box of Mochiko somewhere in our kitchen :)

  9. Dewi permalink
    July 26, 2013 1:48 am

    Congrats on 2 years of blogging! :) Can’t wait until I can celebrate even my first year of blogging. What an interesting recipe this is, especially the sesame oil, it looks and sounds delicious. Gorgeous photography, too!

    • July 27, 2013 11:13 am

      Thanks so much! Yep, it is interesting I suppose, but the flavors of sesame and vanilla work really well together, and it definitely still tastes like a (subtly sweet) dessert. The first year of blogging goes by faster than you think– enjoy it! :)

  10. elamb permalink
    July 26, 2013 2:00 am

    Congratulations on your two-year blogging anniversary. I hope you are really proud of yourself, you have done an amazing job! Oh, go buy yourself a kitchen-inspired anniversary present :)

    • July 27, 2013 11:16 am

      Thank you; that’s so sweet and flattering. And you know what? I think I will! (In other words, this calls for a little trip to the thrift store!) I won’t go too crazy, though, because my birthday’s next month, and my birthday presents tend to be pretty kitchen-inspired themselves. :)

      • elamb permalink
        July 27, 2013 5:13 pm

        As they should be :)

  11. July 26, 2013 7:27 am

    Congrats on two years Allison! It’s been fun to follow (and cook some of your recipes). This one looks amazing and I want to immediately plan to host a tea so I can make these and share with my NYC folks. Can’t wait until we can cook together again!

    • July 27, 2013 11:20 am

      Thanks, Em! I know, I’ll look forward to the day when we can cook together again. By the way, did you see that I wrote a post a little while back that was partially about cooking with you?!)

      Anyway, hope the mochi cake is a hit at your tea! You could also play with other flavors for it, like green tea (using matcha powder), etc. Let me know how you like it. :)

  12. July 28, 2013 7:00 am

    Congratulations on two years of blogging! I grew up on Maui and mochi cake is one of the foods i miss most living in NYC. I make lemon mochi cake at home sometimes. I
    I’ll have to try this one out!

    • July 28, 2013 12:03 pm

      Thank you! I was hoping someone from Hawaii would see this/toss in their two cents. :) Lemon/citrusy mochi cake was one of the flavors I considered making (though the one I tried was just straight up butter & coconut milk); that sounds delicious.

      Oh and I just thought I’d check your blog to see if you’ve posted that recipe, and you have! And I’ve commented on it! :) Haha, I guess that went into my short-term memory. Your lemon version looks wonderful, too. That might be where my next box of Mochiko is headed…

  13. July 30, 2013 7:10 am

    Congratulations this is a great accomplishment! Your photography is beautiful. Does it take less time to prepare a post the more you do it?

    • July 30, 2013 7:42 pm

      Thank you so much!

      For me it hasn’t actually gotten much faster to prepare my posts, but that’s partially because I keep raising my standards for myself as I get more experienced—especially with the photography, since I feel that’s my biggest weak point. I take sooooo many photos and then take some time to edit/brighten some of them, and lots of time to choose which ones will even appear on the blog at all. I’ve also started making the recipes even more times in a row (to perfect them before the final time when I take photos), so that takes time, too, although that’s the fun part! The writing has always taken me a while—and still does—although it depends on the topic/recipe/week. And since back when I first started, I’ve also added some elements to my posts (e.g., pinterest buttons, “related recipe posts” with photos, etc.) so all of that takes time to create. (I was probably so slow in the beginning that I wouldn’t have been able to handle all of that!)

      Long story short, if I weren’t such a perfectionist then I suppose things would have sped up a lot more by now! It’s definitely *easier* to prepare blog posts the more I do it, if you know what I mean… even if it still takes me just as much time. :)

  14. August 12, 2013 9:24 am

    This looks delicious! Will definitely put this on my “to try” list!

  15. August 13, 2013 9:36 am

    Congrats on your two years! That’s a great accomplishment. And you’ve certainly become a wonderful food photographer in that time. I’m still seriously struggling with that! Celeste :)

    • August 13, 2013 11:43 am

      Thank you, Celeste! That is very nice of you to say! (But really I’m still struggling with the photography aspect, too… even if I continue to improve gradually, I don’t think I’ll ever stop struggling with it!)

  16. August 17, 2013 12:36 am

    love mochi!!!

  17. August 23, 2013 7:02 am

    Happy second year of blogging! I do love mochi and sesame seeds and yuor cake sounds delicious. The pictures are outstanding!!

  18. May 12, 2015 8:01 am

    Hey Allison, I just came across this recipe and it’s a must try for me, I love black sesame and you have me very intrigued with this mochi flour, pinned for later!

  19. Angela C permalink
    April 14, 2019 11:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. My family enjoyed it ! 👍🏼


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