Ben-ne Cake, Ben-ne Cake, Baker’s Man: Benne Wafers

Has everyone come down from their holiday food coma yet?

Yes? Well, here’s a little something to take you back up to that state of over-sugaring we let ourselves maintain until those resolutions kick in on January 1st.

Today’s treats, benne wafers, come from the African holiday, Kwanzaa.  I’ll reveal my ignorance once again by admitting that I knew little about Kwanzaa before this write up. If you’re as out of the know as I was, here are some fun facts, thanks to International Business Times:

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga of Cal State-Long Beach as a way for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage. Kwanzaa got its name from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” the first-fruit celebrations in Africa thanking the gods for the harvest.  It is NOT tied to a religion, and is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st.


A candle holder, called a kinara, is lit with seven candles to represent the seven principles of kwanzaa:  unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.  Gifts are exchanged, and are typically educational in nature.  And, like every other holiday, food makes the day.


Benne wafers are a West African cookie typically served during Kwanzaa.  Because of the dry conditions and rough terrain in Africa, the locals made use of every possible nut, seed and plant when cooking.  Here’s a perfect example, since the main ingredient in these delightful little bites is sesame seeds.

These were SO easy (no mixer required), and really delicious. Despite how the ingredients read, the cookies come out crisp and light. I think they’d be perfect with a nice cup of tea or afternoon snack, and I intend to make them for my next book club. Even if you don’t have a book club, you should make them anyway.

Makes about 35 cookies

Recipe from All Recipes


1 cup sesame seeds

¾ cup butter, melted

1 ½ cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking powder



1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2.  Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet. Set aside.

3.  In a bowl, mix together the melted butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix in the everything else.  Yup, it’s that easy.

4.  Drop by tablespoons about 1 ½ inches apart onto parchment paper lined baking sheet (my sil-pat didn’t work as well) and spread into thin circles.

5.  Bake for 4-6 minutes until golden brown.  Let sit on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes to cool and bit and move to a wire rack to finish.

6.  Now, go make that cup of tea, and enjoy your cookie.


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