Black Sesame Banana Cake Trifle


This elegant trifle uses ingredients such as sesame seeds and sago that are traditionally found in Chinese sweets .

Black Sesame Banana Cake Trifle

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
12 hrs
10 to 12

This striking black-and-white layered dessert from chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco uses ingredients like sesame seeds and sago (a starch from palm trees) that are traditionally used in Chinese sweets. They are used along with rich and nutty tahini, toasted coconut flakes, and tender cake for an elegant riff on banana pudding. The chewy sago balls absorb the fatty coconut milk and thicken into a spoonable pudding, perfect for layering with tahini-streaked whipped cream and a moist and earthy tahini-banana cake. To make the dessert vegan, replace the butter in the cake with salted vegan butter, at room temperature. Sago is an edible starch made from the pith of a variety of palm tree stems while tapioca pearls are made from the tuber of the cassava plant; both have a pleasantly chewy texture. Find sago at Trifle serving bowls can be found in most kitchen stores or online at



  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/8 ounces)

  • 3/4 cup black sesame powder (about 2 3/4 ounces) (such as Lam Sheng Kee Foods)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 cup salted butter (6 1/2 ounces), at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-stirred jarred black sesame tahini (such as Kevala)

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup mashed bananas (from 3 bananas)

  • 1/2 cup well-shaken and stirred coconut milk (from 1 [13.5-ounce] can)

Coconut Sago

  • 12 cups water

  • 3/4 cup sago or small pearl tapioca (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

  • 2 1/2 cups well-shaken and stirred coconut milk (from 2 [13.5-ounce] cans) 

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Tahini Cream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 3 cups heavy cream, divided

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 medium (6-ounce) banana, sliced (about 3/4 cup)

  • 1/4 cup toasted unsweetened flaked coconut


Make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13- x 9-inch metal baking pan with butter. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides; set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, sesame powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  3. Beat butter with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low; gradually add sugar and tahini, beating until well combined, about 1 minute. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to banana mixture, beating until just combined, about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk, and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Spread mixture in prepared baking pan.

  5. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 20 minutes. Using parchment paper overhang as handles, carefully transfer cake to a wire rack. Let cool to room temperature, about 50 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut cake into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Transfer cubes back to baking pan, and cover loosely with plastic wrap until ready to assemble

Make the coconut sago:

  1. Bring 12 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over high. Gradually add sago, stirring constantly. Gently boil sago over high, stirring occasionally, until pearls are translucent around edges and have a white speck in the center, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand until pearls are translucent in center, about 10 minutes. Carefully drain sago through a fine wire-mesh strainer; rinse under cold running water, stirring with your fingers, until sago is cool, about 30 seconds.

  2. While sago cooks, heat coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until steaming, about 6 minutes. Add sugar and salt, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and pour into a large heatproof bowl; let cool 20 minutes.

  3. Stir cooked sago into coconut mixture. Chill, covered, until thickened and texture resembles consistency of pudding, at least 8 hours or up to 12 hours, stirring once halfway through chilling time.

Make the tahini cream:

  1. Stir together sugar, 1/2 cup cream, tahini, and salt in a small bowl until combined and smooth; set aside. Beat remaining 2 1/2 cups cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until cream starts to thicken and leaves ribbon-like trails, about 2 minutes. Add tahini mixture, and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

  2. Spoon one-third of coconut sago (about 1 heaping cup) in an even layer in a 3-quart trifle dish. Spoon one-third of tahini cream (about 1 2/3 cups) evenly on coconut sago. Arrange half of cake cubes on tahini cream in trifle dish. Repeat layers with one-third of coconut sago, one-third of tahini cream, and remaining cake cubes. Top with remaining coconut sago and remaining tahini cream. Chill, uncovered, to allow trifle to set, at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. Top trifle evenly with banana slices and flaked coconut.

To Make Ahead

Assembled trifle without topping can be chilled, uncovered, in refrigerator up to 12 hours.

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