Chocolate Sheet Cake with Molly’s Tahini Frosting
It’s my birthday and I’ll double sweet post if I want to. I know, in the last post I gave away the super-secret, complex formula that I use to figure out what I’m going to post next. And by those calculations, this week’s post should be a Savory one, but it’s my birthday, so I’ll do what I want. Well, it was when I was writing this. Oops, I’ve given away another secret. How LIT my 45th birthday was. Damn, now I’ve gone and disclosed my age! Let’s talk about why we continue to celebrate birthdays, shall we? FROSTED CAKE, of course.
I love birthday cake and specifically the chocolate cake that my family has made as long as I can remember. We call it Black Joe Cake, because it has a cup of hot black coffee mixed into the batter in the last step, which results in the darkest, moistest chocolate cake I know. Anther bonus is that it’s a super simple recipe and I featured it in my first post ever, in the form of cupcakes. You can find the recipe here.
This birthday, the focus is on the frosting. Right around the time I made those birthday cupcakes in February, I discovered Molly Yeh’s blog and cookbook, and I’m pretty sure it was the mention of this Tahini Frosting that had me from the start. (Also, Molly’s overall adorable nature and fabulously unique and delicious recipes. If you don’t know Molly yet, you should check her out.) I was already in love with tahini’s luscious sesame nuttiness for savory recipes, so I had to find out what it could do for sweet stuff.
I made a batch of this Tahini Frosting to put on a couple of extra cupcakes I had from my daughter’s birthday and it was love at first bite. The combination of the dark chocolate cake and the nutty tahini frosting was like heaven. I presented them to my hubs for Valentines Day (It was a busy week!) and he didn’t even know he was eating the leftover birthday cupcakes, his eyes got all heart-shaped and he pronounced that it tastes like “exotic peanut butter frosting”. It really does! Sometimes, he really hits the nail on the head with his descriptions. In fact, in her book, Molly said that she grew up eating tahini instead of peanut butter because her mom had a peanut allergy. So this frosting is a great substitute for peanut butter if you are worried about allergies, as in the case of treats for parties or school.
I’ve been noticing lots of 13X9″ sheet cakes making a comeback, turned out of the pan and frosted only on the top so I decided to give that a whirl. On a whim, I gave it an actual “whirl” by using a large star tip to put the frosting on top and not only was it easy and quick, it looked pretty, too. I have a bunch of decorating tips leftover from my birthday cake making days in the late 90’s. Fun fact: I used to make the birthday cakes for Canal Street Restaurant. That’s when I learned to make a pastry bag out of a zip-lock bag by cutting a corner out of the bag, sticking the tip through the bag and then tightening the collar right on the outside of the bag. It works! To clean up, you can just cut the tip off and throw the bag away. (There’s a YouTube video with more detailed instructions here.)
Decorating this cake reminded me of my mom and the way that she used to decorate our birthday cakes when I was a kid. She used to make elaborate birthday cakes, shaped like our favorite character and decorated entirely in different colored icing stars (in case you’re wondering how I got this way). I remembered one particular birthday on which she made me a cake for my party, shaped and decorated entirely in stars, like Winnie the Pooh, and put it in the garage refrigerator overnight. In the morning, she discovered that the freezer had defrosted overnight and the cake was drenched in water, ruined. I was probably 6 or 7 years old, but I knew this was a big deal. She made another cake, because my mom is a true hero. In my mind, Donna Summer’s rendition of “MacArthur Park” is playing in the background through this whole scene, and it’s highly likely that this is the actual truth since she had the album, the time frame fits and the stereo played 24/7 in our house. (This is why there are always song lyrics in my head.) “Someone left the cake out in the rain /I don’t think that I can take it /’cause it took so long to bake it /and I’ll never have that recipe again….AGAAAIINNN..” In reality, it was probably me, hanging on her and crying dramatically about my party cake.
So, this one’s for you, Mom. She made me a wonderful birthday dinner this year, like always. I’m sure she would have made any cake I wanted her to, but I took this one off her hands so I could share the recipe with all of you. (My daughter helped me make this one. That’s her arm in the mixer photo, making the frosting. The cycle continues.)
Don’t wait for a special occasion to make this frosting. It is a basic buttercream with some tahini in it and a little cinnamon. If you are not yet familiar with tahini, I believe it’s now sold in most grocery stores. In my store it is right on the same shelf as the peanut and other nut butters. (Or you can order it online here.)
Let’s get this party started, hit it Ms. Summer.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and tahini until creamy.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.