Black Sesame Shortbread Cookies

Totoro To-to-ro!

I love the ideas of “everyday sweets”.

Cupcakes and doughnuts and all things fancy and decadent are wonderful, but sometimes you want just a little something, not too sweet or heavy, that you can have with a cup of jasmine tea as a mid-afternoon snack.

And this is the “everyday sweet”.

Today we’re making black sesame shortbread cookies.

They’re simple, they’re not too sweet, and shortbread cookies are just oh so good with a cup of tea.

Before we go any further in this video… go set out 2 sticks, aka 1 cup, aka 8 oz of unsalted butter, so it can come to room temperature – because you know you’re gonna want to make these.

You really cannot get any simpler than this recipe.

Once the butter has come to room temperature, you’re gonna want to take a hand mixer or stand mixer, and beat it until it’s nice and creamy.

Next, we’re going to add 1 cup of powdered sugar.

Powdered sugar… confectioner’s sugar, same thing.

So you’ve probably noticed, if you’ve watched any of my videos where I’m baking, that I never sift my flour, ’cause I’m lazy.


I always, always sift my powdered sugar. ALWAYS.

Powdered sugar really likes to clump. And while you might not notice it as much in the cookie, it’s super noticeable in icing – which we’ll be making in a bit.

You think it’s gonna mix in when you whisk that icing, but it never does, and you’ll end up with lumpy icing. Trust me, I’ve done it so many times.

So take it from this lazy baker… always sift your powdered sugar.

Add your powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt – Diamond Crystal, please – and beat that into the butter until it’s combined.

Then we’ll mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract – I’m using homemade, but storebought is fine.

Add a third of a cup of ground black sesame seeds. I bought pre-ground because I use it a lot, but you can also use a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or even a food processor to grind it up. Just be careful not to overgrind, or you might end up with black sesame paste!

And lastly, 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

Mix that all together, and you’ll end up with kind of a sandy dough.

Now, this is a pretty cool trick, that I hadn’t heard before.

Normally, when you make like a cookie dough, or a pie crust, or something that needs to be rolled out, they’ll tell you to form it into a disk, wrap it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

But that means when you take it out of the fridge, it’s gonna be hard as a rock and a pain to roll out.

However, in the recipe that I used for these cookies, which is from an unfortunately defunct blog called Hungry Girl Por Vida,

Shrimpy: give credit where credit is due, y’all!

she instructs you to put the dough in a ziplock bag, seal it, and then roll it out first BEFORE refrigerating it!

That way it’s already flat, it’s ready to go when you take it out of the fridge! How easy is that?

You can use either method, but either way, refrigerate your dough for at least half an hour. I left it in the fridge overnight, and that worked just fine.

Whenever you’re ready to bake, take your dough out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 300F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

If you used the disk method, then unwrap it, roll it out, and cut out your cookies.

If you used the ziplock method, all you have to do is cut away the ziplock bag and cut your cookies. It’s so easy!

I know, I’m unreasonably excited about this.

At this point, you can cut your cookies into any shape you like, but BEWARE, it is crumbly as heck. So maybe avoid tiny or delicate shapes.

I’m not that fancy, and don’t have cookie cutters in the shape that I wanted, so I just used a butter knife to cut my cookies into squares. I would’ve used a pizza cutter, but I seem to have lost mine.

However you cut them, I would highly, highly recommend using a spatula to transfer the cookies to your baking pans. Even after refrigeration, they are super crumbly.

But even if things are breaking apart, don’t worry. It will all bake together, so even if it looks like you already have a bunch of broken cookies pre-baking, they will all bake into solid cookies in the oven.

20 minutes at 300F and you’ve got your everyday cookies!

BUT! We couldn’t leave it at that.

I made the GLORIOUS mistake

*it wasn’t actually a mistake

of asking my followers on TikTok what anime I should watch.

And they had SO many suggestions.

So I’ve had anime on the mind.

… and also the original recipe was literally for Totoro cookies BUT THAT’S BESIDE THE FACT.

So. I decided I’d try my hand at icing.

Have I mentioned I’ve never actually decorated iced cookies before? This is not a skill I have.

First things first, let’s make some icing!

The original recipe used plain icing for the white bits, and melted chocolate for the dark bits.

But I love playing with flavors, so I wanted to find some flavors that compliment black sesame even better.

Remember what I said about sifting? No lumpy icing here!

We’re going to start off by sifting 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into one bowl, and a quarter cup of powdered sugar into another bowl.

For the white-colored icing, we’re going to make it ginger-flavored. So in the bowl with the half-cup of powdered sugar, add 1-2 tbsp of ginger syrup. Start on the lower end, and add more as needed – you want your icing to be pipeable, but not super liquidy.

For the dark-colored icing… well, this is black sesame shortbread. Why not take the opportunity to amp up the black sesame flavor even more?

To the bowl with the quarter-cup of powdered sugar, add a tablespoon of black sesame paste. This is going to be super thick, so add a teaspoon or two of milk until it’s just thin enough to mix together and pipe – but again, we don’t want it super liquidy.

If you don’t have ginger syrup or black sesame paste? You can totally make icing with just powdered sugar and milk, or use melted chocolate!

Now that we’ve got our icing, and our cookies have cooled completely… it’s time to decorate.

Please don’t judge my piping skills.

Pipe the white bit for the belly and the eyes on all the cookies first, and let it set for a few minutes.

Then you can use the dark icing to add the centers of the eyes, the whiskers, nose, and little carats on the belly.

LOOK! It’s Totoro!

(I’m taking artistic liberties here, okay?)

But the important question is, how does it taste?

If you’ve ever had that Chinese sweet mochi soup, where the mochi is filled with black sesame paste and the soup is flavored with ginger? This tastes JUST like that, but in cookie form.

The cookie is not too hard, not too soft, and perfectly crumbly, just the way you want shortbread to be.

By itself, the black sesame shortbread is not too sweet, so it would be easy to eat a whole bunch. But add the icing, and it’s just sweet enough to go perfectly with a cup of tea.

Maybe the Totoro icing is a bit much for “everyday” sweets. But you know what? Sometimes you just need a little extra kawaii in your “everyday”.

Black Sesame Shortbread Cookies

from Hungry Girl Por Vida (which unfortunately no longer exists)

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup black sesame seeds, coarsely ground
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Ginger icing:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 – 2 tbsp ginger syrup

Black sesame icing:

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp black sesame paste
  • 1 – 2 tsp milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Using a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and salt and beat until smooth and combined. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, mix in the black sesame seeds and flour until combined well. Place the dough into a gallon zip-top bag and roll it out to fill the bag–the dough should be about 1/4-inch thick in an even layer (or pat the dough into a flat round and wrap well in plastic, roll out after chilled on a floured surface). Place the dough into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. If you roll out the dough in the gallon bag, just cut the bag away from the dough. Cut the cookies into your preferred shapes, using cookie cutters, a knife, or a pizza cutter. Gather the scraps, roll out again, and repeat. Place the cookies an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, just until the cookies are firm to the touch but don’t take on any color. Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes on the sheets before cooling on a rack.
  4. To ice, mix the ingredients for the ginger icing and black sesame icing in separate bowls. Err on the side of a stiffer icing, only adding enough liquid to make the icing pipable. Transfer the icings to two quart-sized ziplock bags, and cut off just the tips. Pipe white bellies on the Totoro cookies and two white eyes. Pipe pupils onto the eyes, whiskers, an oval nose, and little carats on the bellies. Chill to set.

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