I wanted to write about this cake, which I made, in close succession, once for Louise’s first birthday, again to take these pictures, and another time in between.
It is fiendishly good. It also seems to be the object of a small controversy.
I found this cake on Lottie + Doof and it looked perfectly irresistible. But one small thing irked me about the recipe; the fact that it contains almond extract but no almonds, which feels like cheating, just a little bit. So I thought about adding almonds. I was slightly worried about the fluffiness factor so alluringly portrayed, so, standing there, in front of my ingredients, I pondered – a good five minutes – whether I should substitute some of the flour with ground almonds, or not. I decided yes. And barely half a minute later, I read the blog author’s response to a comment on his poppy seed cake post: “My recommendation would be to try the original before adding almond meal. The texture is what makes this so special, and the meal will change that.” I very nearly threw away my mix of almonds and flour. But I didn’t.
My cake, though undoubtedly much denser than the original, was also completely delicious.
The second time I made the cake I used no flour at all. Thomas insists it is the better version. I (respectfully) disagree. Without flour it is too grainy and buttery. This observation should of course be a hint that the initial version is in fact truly the best. Possibly. But I like dense cakes. Plus, the recipe without almonds can already be found in at least two places. I stand by this one.
3/4 cup (200 g) poppy seeds
2/3 cup (100 g) blanched almonds
14 Tbsps (200 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3/4 cup (100 g) flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Zest from 1/3 lemon*
Powdered (confectioners) sugar for dusting
Bring 1/2 cup (filtered) water to boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat, stir in the poppy seeds, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
In a food processor, pulse grind the poppy seeds until lightly crushed. Remove poppy seeds and set aside. Pulse chop the almonds until finely ground.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a 10 x 5″ (25 x 13 cm) baking pan with parchment paper and butter the paper generously.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the (softened) butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the poppy seeds until well combined. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each time. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest. Then gently stir in the almond/flour mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar through a fine mesh sieve before serving.
*The lemon zest should be just enough to make the flavors pop without giving a lemony taste.