Maxence’s grandparents were coming for tea on Sunday. Both had just had their birthdays, and I couldn’t get my mind off Lilo’s recipe* for flourless poppy seed cake, so I decided to bake it for them.
I scaled Lilo’s recipe down to use the four eggs I had, and modified it to use part butter, part almond butter, and a little less sugar. I also flavored the cake with the zest of an orange (instead of vanilla) and omitted the baking powder, which didn’t seem altogether necessary (the whipped egg whites provide sufficient volume).
Finally, I baked it in the heart-shaped pan my grandmother once gave to me, and whipped up a simple orange glaze to enhance the flavor of the cake even further. And all of us enjoyed this marvelously aromatic cake, fine-crumbed and moist, its every bite sparking an explosion of poppy seeds beneath our teeth.
I feel compelled to add this one caveat, especially if you’re considering this for an office party or some such awkward occasion: when you’re done eating your slice, you may want to excuse yourself and check your smile in the nearest mirror. Poppy seeds are sneaky that way.
* Note that the French use the English word un cake for a cake that’s baked in a loaf pan; a regular round cake is un gâteau.
PS: Last week’s saffron roasted cauliflower was included in Bon Appétit’s holiday slideshow, which features many more inspiring recipes by fellow bloggers. I myself have earmarked Sarah’s rosemary nuts, Ilva’s herb cannelloni and Nick and Blake’s coffee cake.
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- 60 grams (1/4 cup) butter, softened (dairy-free/paleo: use coconut oil instead)
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) whole almond butter (or other smooth nut butter)
- 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown raw cane sugar (paleo: use 100 grams or 1/3 cup honey instead)
- the zest of an organic orange, finely grated
- 4 eggs, separated
- 100 grams (1 cup) almond flour (= almond meal or ground almonds)
- 160 grams (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) poppy seeds
- a good pinch of salt
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner's sugar
- about 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and grease a 20-cm (8-inch in diameter and 2-inch-deep) round cake pan. (Alternatively, you can bake the batter in paper-lined muffin molds; the recipe will yield 10 regular muffins.)
- In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter, almond butter, 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar, and the orange zest. Cream together for 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and mix until fluffy.
- Combine the almond flour and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Set aside (see note).
- In a clean, grease-free bowl, place the egg whites and salt. Using an electric whisk, beat until the egg whites are fluffy. Add the remaining 25 grams (2 tablespoons) of sugar, and keep beating until the egg whites form a smooth and glossy mass.
- Working with a light hand, add one third of the egg whites to the first mixture. Fold in half of the poppy seed mixture. Add another third of the egg whites, folding it in gently with a spatula. Fold in the remaining poppy seed mixture, and add the last of the egg whites, working very gently to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites, until the egg whites are completely incorporated. Don't worry if the mixture is a little lumpy.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes (20 minutes for muffins), until puffy and lightly brown. Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside to set for another 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack, let cool for 10 more minutes. Run a knife around the cake to loosen, unmold, and let cool completely before glazing, if possible.
- If you choose to glaze the cake, put the confectioner's sugar in a small bowl, pour in a teaspoon of orange juice, and whisk it in with a fork to form a smooth paste. Whisk in a little more orange juice, drop by drop, until the mixture is thin enough to be easily spreadable, but not yet runny. Pour the glaze on the cake and let it set somewhere cool.
Lilo's recipe has you process the almond meal and poppy seeds for 5 minutes first, but I didn't feel like dirtying another piece of equipment so I didn't. If you choose not to skip this step, she recommends you place the poppy seeds in the freezer for 2 hours before you begin the recipe, to prevent them from turning to oil in the mixing.