In her new book, “Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings,” author Yossy Arefi says a snacking cake is “a single layer cake, probably square, covered with a simple icing — or nothing at all — and it must be truly easy to make.” Hers are all one-bowl cakes that come together in minutes, requiring no stand mixer or fancy pans.

But Arefi bends a few of the rules to great effect, as in recipes such as powdered doughnut cake, warm with nutmeg and covered in a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar; browned butter, pecan and white chocolate cake, which calls to mind a big white chocolate chip cookie; a dark chocolate cake enriched with yogurt; and this simple sesame cake.

Tahini gets stirred into the thick batter before it’s poured into a pan that has been coated with sesame seeds. (The cake can be baked in an 8-inch square, 9-inch round or a standard-sized loaf pan.) Using equal amounts of black and white sesame seeds produces an especially dramatic cake, but white sesame or benne seeds work well too. They toast as they cling to the rising batter in the oven. Arefi likes to slice the cake and top it with berries and brown sugar whipped cream.

Every recipe in the book includes variations. Arefi offers a recipe for a tahini glaze to up the sesame-flavor ante, a suggestion to add chocolate chips and instructions for how to bake fresh fruit right in the batter. It’s equally good as-is, or with a drizzle of honey and pinch of flaky sea salt.

As Arefi notes, like all good snacking cakes, it’s “low stress,” and an “everyday treats that can lift your spirit and satisfy your hunger for something sweet, at any time of day.”

Find a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


  • Unsalted butter or nonstick spray, for coating the pan
  • 6 tablespoons (50 grams) sesame seeds (white, black or mixed), divided
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) well-stirred tahini
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Step 1

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Generously butter or coat a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s the length of the loaf pan and about three times its width. Spray or oil the pan, then press in the parchment paper so that there’s overhang on the two long sides. It should not cover the two short sides. The overhang will make it easy to lift the cake out of the pan once it’s baked.

Step 2

Butter or coat the parchment paper and the exposed pan sides with nonstick spray, then sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the sesame seeds on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Step 3

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup (150 grams) of sugar and the egg until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the milk, tahini, oil, vanilla and salt. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, the baking powder and baking soda. Whisk until well combined.

Step 4

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds on top of the cake.

Step 5

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden, and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Step 6

Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the pan and let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 234; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 17mg; Sodium: 164mg; Carbohydrates: 27g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 13g; Protein: 5g.

Recipe adapted from author Yossy Arefi’s “Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Baking” (Clarkson Potter; 2020)

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza; email questions to

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