Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

You know when a recipe catches your eye, and you just can’t stop wondering about it until you finally get to make it? This cupcake recipe has been on my mind ever since I saved it last year. It’s from one of my favorite blogs, My Name is Yeh. Blogger Molly Yeh posts compelling recipes accompanied by gorgeous photos and engaging writing. She posts many great, creative recipes but I am particularly fascinated by her cakes. I always want to make layer cakes and rarely do, largely because I simply don’t want to schlep a cake across town to share it with coworkers or friends. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are a conveniently portable treat. So when Molly posted a recipe for Tahini Cupcakes, I knew I had to make them.

Tahini Cupcakes may not be something you’ve seen before, but trust me, you’re going to want to try them. Tahini is made from sesame that’s ground into a peanut butter-like consistency. It adds a nutty flavor to both the cake batter and chocolate frosting in this recipe. If you don’t tell anyone what’s in the cupcake, they probably won’t be able to guess offhand. One of my friends figured it out because the taste reminded her of halva, a dense confection that’s often made with sesame paste. The rest of my tasters couldn’t pinpoint the star ingredient: they just noticed a nutty taste and a slightly different texture than other cupcakes. Regardless, they liked what they tasted and asked for more.

Cupcakes are one of my ultimate comfort foods- the combination of cake and frosting is so fulfilling in both texture and flavor. Yet, these cupcakes are comforting in a different way than most. It’s less about being a sugarbomb, more about culinary adventure. Tahini adds a depth to the treat that you just don’t usually get, and the sweetness is a bit more subdued than you’d find in a more classic flavor combination. The winning texture play of cake/frosting is still there, and the frosting is chocolatey enough that it can satisfy a chocolate craving.

My boyfriend declared this his favorite cupcake ever for both its texture and its taste, so I suppose I should make another batch soon. I also want to try out some of the other tahini recipes Molly has shared, like these tahini chocolate chip cookies she just posted this week. She also has a recipe for chocolate tahini cake with rosemary buttercream– clearly I’ll need to try that one, too.

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Tahini Frosting 

Source: My Name is Yeh

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Suggested equipment: a mixer is helpful for the frosting

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: ~15 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below.



  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c liquid buttermilk OR dried buttermilk (you’ll have to follow the instructions for measurements on your specific brand’s packaging, see note below)
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 tbs pure tahini (see note below)  
  • 3/4 c water (if you’re using dried buttermilk, you will need to add additional water beyond this ¾ cups. Your buttermilk’s packaging should provide instructions for how much water to add)


  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c tahini
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon

Ingredient Notes 

  • Tahini:  Make sure you buy pure tahini. You might also find 20151219_170330tahini sauce, tahini dip, etc. You want to buy tahini that lists sesame as the sole ingredient. Trader Joe’s, for example, sells a tahini sauce that has garlic in it too- great for hummus, not so great for cupcakes. I got my tahini via Smart & Final from a brand called Roland. Specialty groceries may have it, and Whole Foods usually sells it. I’ve read it’s wise to aim for the freshest tahini you can find, as sometimes tahini gets rancid on-shelf. (If you accidentally buy tahini sauce, I implore you to bake the cupcakes anyway and let me know what happens- experiments can net surprisingly delicious results!)
  • Buttermilk: I tend to use dried buttermilk so I don’t have to buy new cartons of liquid buttermilk every time I need it. It’s cheaper and easier, though I’m sure some bakers would tell me the results aren’t as good. I haven’t had an issue with taste in the past, so I used dried buttermilk here too. If you sub in dried buttermilk for liquid buttermilk, follow the extra notes in both the ingredients and recipe. You’ll add the dried buttermilk when you’re mixing dry ingredients and then add extra water to the original recipe for the “liquid” aspect. Measurements can vary by brand so I left measurements out here- you’ll want to read your can’s instructions for help

Step by Step Directions

Make your cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line and grease your cupcake pan and set it aside (I only own 1 muffin tin so I did two rounds of baking vs. 2 pans at once)
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (including the dried buttermilk if you’re using it)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and tahini (You may need to stir your tahini a bit before adding it in; it gets lumpy in the container but the separation is natural and you should stir it to a smoother consistency before adding it to your batter)
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  5. Stir in the water (this is when I added my additional water for the buttermilk)
  6. Pour your batter into cupcake pans and throw them in the oven
  7. This is when I set out my butter so it’d soften in time to make the frosting!
  8. Cupcakes will take 15-18 minutes to bake. Mine were exactly 15 minutes but you should always check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into a cupcake’s center and checking if it comes out clean
  9. When the cupcakes are done, let them cool for a few minutes in the pans and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Make your frosting 

  1. Beat together the butter and tahini
  2. Beat in the cocoa powder
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar
  4. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon
  5. Taste and make adjustments as desired- I added a bit more salt
  6. Frost your cupcakes, and add sprinkles if you want. And really, why wouldn’t you?

I took a ton of pictures, and most of them came out even worse than usual. Sorry! 



3 thoughts on “Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

  1. Pingback: Web-Hopping vol. 23 | sugarsmith

  2. Pingback: The 2016 Baking Roundup | sugarsmith

  3. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Tahini | sugarsmith


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