lemon poppy-seed cake

February 27, 2010 § 9 Comments

I get oddly nervous about baking sometimes. When something doesn’t behave precisely as I would expect from the instructions in the recipe, I become staunchly convinced that I’ve ruined everything and am eternally doomed to failure, whereas my roommates roll their eyes, having seen this madness before. This cake is a case in point: the instructions said to beat egg yolks until very fluffy. What does fluffy mean? Can egg yolks really be fluffy? I’m not sure, but beat them for a full 20 minutes to find out. Nothing much happened and now my arms hurt.

I forgive the cake though, as it turns out that non-fluffy eggs still produce a very yummy result. This cake is very civilized. It made me want to nibble it while drinking tea, preferably from nice china. I found the lemon flavour to be fairly subdued, each bite crackles with poppy seeds, and it has the rich, soft texture that comes from 8 egg yolks and a cup of butter. All in all, it’s light and subtle – not a decadent dessert, but rather a very satisfying snack cake that you might accidentally eat for breakfast.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – from Smitten Kitchen

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds (I got this from one 3-ounce spice bottle)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt or tube pan generously. (I used a 10-inch, and thought my tiny cake was adorable.) Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the sugar with the egg yolks and whole egg at medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy (or not), about 8 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the pinch of salt with a rubber spatula. At medium speed, beat in the butter, then beat in the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes (35 minutes in 10-inch pan), or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely before serving, at least 30 minutes.



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