The fourth and final post from the Naming Day – poppy seed cake!
Everything else I have posted was simple and very sweet, so I wanted something to appeal to more sophisticated palates. And then I remembered poppy seed cake. I’ve loved this taste ever since I first had it on a visit to Budapest. I was sent there with work and managed to tack on a couple of days to see the city. Once of my memories was of a café near to the Budapest opera house. It was all very elegant, but the highlight was the selection of cakes – dozens and dozens of them, each one sounding like a star in its own right. The one I went for in the end was a poppy seed cake, on the basis that I had no idea what it would be like. It was a cake made with a lot of poppy seeds and with layers of sweetened poppy seed paste. It was quite unlike anything I had ever tried before, and really a taste sensation. Since then, I’ve been hooked and always go for Mohnschnecke (lit. “poppy snail”, but “poppy danish” perhaps sounds nicer) if I’m in the German-speaking world.
The recipe I used today comes from the fantastic Chocolate and Zucchini blog, which I have been following for a couple of years. It’s really nice to read about someone who is just so enthusiastic about what they make. Anyway, the recipe is for a flourless poppy seed cake (see here) which produces a fantastic delicate, rich-yet-light, aromatic cake that is good for those avoiding gluten and which is also not overly sweet. The earthy flavour of the poppy seeds is enhanced with a little orange zest and almond butter, and you get a rather fun little “pop” in the mouth from the seeds. This recipe is great not only for making a cake, but also for muffins or even petit fours (just fill a mini-muffin tray and bake until golden – about 15 minutes).
The recipe does involve whipping egg whites, which is usually a sign that science is at work and you should leave quantities and ingredients well alone unless you are the kind of cook who likes to see things go haywire. But that has not stopped me from playing just a little with the recipe – I always add half a teaspoon of baking powder, and I have found the cake works very well with hazelnut butter and ground hazelnuts in place of almond, and/or lemon zest in place of the orange. For the icing, I think the simple glaze is the best way to finish it off. If you were to go for a more elaborate finish, cream cheese icing is probably best, so that it is tangy rather than just sweet.
Worth making? Yes! This is actually simple to make, and the result is both unusual and delicious. There is a great combination of flavours and texture, and is not too sweet (I said it was sophisticated!). It’s also useful to keep in mind for the moment you realise that your guest for tea tomorrow does not eat gluten. Remember, the good cook sees no problems, only chances to try out new recipes!