From this dusty country comes a special treat – “Benne Cakes” – often served during Kwanzaa, the African cultural celebration. According to my sources, “benne” means sesame seed to the people in or near Mauritania.
Since the 1700s, this versatile treat has also been served in the American south.
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 Tablespoons butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
vegetable oil spray
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In large bowl, combine brown sugar and butter and mix until creamy.
3. Add beaten egg, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Blend well.
4. Sprinkle in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix lightly until combined.
5. Fold in sesame seeds.
6. Spray sided baking sheet with vegetable oil spray, or cover baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Drop batter by scant teaspoonful onto baking sheet. Benne cakes will spread – don’t overcrowd.
7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until cakes are golden and edges are browned. Remove to wire rack until crispy.
Cakes will be soft and pliable when removed from oven. At this point, you can fold or roll them for a different look. Or, if they run together on the baking sheet, use a pizza cutter to make bite-sized rectangles with sleeker edges.
Experiment by adding your favorite savory herbs to the basic recipe.