Black Sesame Swirled Baked Cheesecake

A long, long, LONG time ago, back when I was just a middle schooler, way before I even started cooking or baking, we went to a restaurant on Redondo Beach Pier called Maison Riz(sadly it closed something while I was away for college). It was this Japanese-French fusion restaurant located directly on the pier, with gorgeous oceantop(yes, we were hovering directly over the ocean) views. As a kid to early teenager, I did not know much about food to be honest. I grew up on vegetables boiled in water, finished with olive oil, and no salt. So yeah, the concept of fusing Japanese and French cuisines sounded extremely foreign to me back then. I vaguely remember aspects of the meal(keep in mind, I was like 11), but I still remember the desserts. One of them in particular was a black sesame swirled cheesecake. And it was mind-blowing to me at the same. The thought that black sesame, something that I only ever had in my tangyuan, could be used in a baked item was such a revelation. They also had a matcha spongecake that I adored as well. So needless to say, that meal left a profound impact on me as I eventually made my way into becoming a baker. So I wanted to make this specific cheesecake recipe as an homage to that food memory.

For the crust, I am going a black sesame cake. While I really wanted to do like a genoise or chiffon cake, for this baking technique to work, I needed the cake batter to be denser than the actual cheesecake batter – the idea is that I’m spreading cake batter on the bottom, pouring in cheesecake batter on top, then baking them together to form a cheesecake with an actual cake as the crust! While I actually love chiffon and genoise cakes, both batters are super light and delicate, so unfortunately, they would be the worst batters to spread things over. I went with a more American-style cake batter, creaming together butter and sugar, using buttermilk for that lightness, and alternating between my wet and dry ingredients to create a more study batter. I am also refrigerating the batter just to guarantee that the cheesecake batter won’t bleed into it too much either. I am also making a black sesame jam and swirling that through the cheesecake batter just to create that pretty ripple contrasting effect! I just love the almost cinnamon French toast swirl that the black sesame jam gives the cheesecake. It really is super mesmerizing and nostalgic, even for people who have never had a black sesame dessert before! Something about swirls in your dessert just bring back those childhood memories.

Now you could be wondering why I wouldn’t just bake the cake off, then either bake the cheesecake on top of an already-baked cake, or just pour a no-bake cheesecake on top of the baked cake. While the latter method is a valid one, the former, not so much. Re-baking the cake will cause it to dry out and turn unpleasantly dense. The former method, which is perfectly viable, just does not capture that same swirled cheesecake I had as a kid, which was a baked cheesecake. I have to make this recipe a baked cheesecake, even though I usually do not prefer them, just for that reason alone. I will admit, baked cheesecakes are not the nicest to make. They take forever to cook and cool down, they can crack and look jank af, and depending on how long you bake them for, they could wind up either raw and runny or dense and gummy. There is a lot that can go wrong with them. However, by baking them with a cake underneath, that does actually accomplish two things – the cake acts as a strong foundation for the cheesecake to bake on top of, effectively cutting down the baking time needed for a normal cheesecake of that size substantially. The second thing is that even if the cheesecake sinks, the cake batter underneath it will rise, and can help offset any potentially cracking or falling from the cheesecake as a result of it. The two batters in this case work in tandem to make one perfect sesame cheesecake/cake hybrid!

For the black sesame cake batter:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup black sesame powder*
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1.2 tsp vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter with sugar with a whisk until pale while in color and nearly doubled in volume. In another bowl, sift together the baking soda, flour, and black sesame powder. Whisk into the butter mixture the egg and then half of your buttermilk and all of your vanilla. Then fold into that half of your flour. Once the flour is combined, add in the rest of the ingredients, and mix together until combined again. By alternating the additions of the ingredients like this, it will guarantee a studier cake base. On a sheet tray, pour the batter into a lined 6-inch baking mold and refrigerate just to firm up prior to assembly and baking.

Black sesame jam:
1/4 cup black sesame powder
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup water

Bring all of your ingredients to a simmer until they form a thin paste. Cool down before attempting to use in the batter.

Black sesame rippled cheesecake batter:
8oz cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tbsp buttermilk
Black sesame jam*

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, start by whipping the cream cheese with granulated sugar and salt until combined. Whisk in the egg first, then the buttermilk to form your cheesecake batter. Reserve your black sesame jam for now, as it will be rippled in during assembly.

For assembly:
Toasted black sesame seeds
Confectioner’s sugar

Scoop the cheesecake batter over the spread and chilled black sesame batter in the 6-inch baking mold. Spread the batter gently and evenly over the cake batter, tapping down the sheet tray that the mold is placed on gently to release any air bubbles. into the cheesecake batter your black sesame jam. Sprinkle on top of the cheesecake the black sesame seeds. Bake the cheesecake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The cake should have only a very slight wobble in the center when it is fully baked. Allow the cake to fully cool and firm up(I recommend freezing it for at least 30 minutes) before attempting to unmold. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to finish.

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