12 October 2010
I made this cake for a party we had at the tail-end of summer, and it got completely over-shadowed by the sour cherry pie Paul made. I don't blame them, it was a damn-good sour cherry pie, but I still like this cake, even if it's not the most popular girl in the room. There's something delectable of the soft souffle-like cake made with ground poppy seeds and topped with tangy cream cheese frosting.
This cake is something I invented many years ago (years!), inspired by the Austrian sweet mohnkuchen. Mohenkuchen is a poppy seed cake, made with a crumbly shortbread bottom, a sweet pure-black poppy seed filling, and a streusel topping. This cake takes it inspiration from that poppy-seed filling, but turns to a French technique and a bit of my own improvisation.
To make the cake a bit healthier, I substitute prune puree for some of the butter. The prune puree also adds a depth of flavor and sweetness to the cake. If you don't feel like making the puree yourself, baby food work perfectly. This sounds odd, but if you think of baby food as just small jars of fruit purees, they're actually great for use in baking to add moisture and flavor to cakes.
Anyway, I don't mind if this isn't going to be the stand-out cake in the room, it's subtle and complex (and frankly rather expensive to make). But it's sort of a stealth favorite, sneaking up on you slowly until it takes a place in your repertoire.
Poppy Seed Cake (Inspired by Mohnkuchen)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup prune puree (I use prune baby food)
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups poppy seeds, coarsely ground in a spice grinder
1/2 cup flour
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
zest of 1 orange or lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/2 recipe cream cheese frosting*
candied walnuts for topping
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a springform tin and line with parchment paper, grease parchment paper.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add in egg yolks and extract. Add in prune puree. Stir in the ground poppy seeds and flour.
3. Beat egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar to stiff peaks.
4. Gently fold egg whites into cake batter in batches using a spatula until the mixture is just combined. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes, until puffed and browned on top. Let cool completely.
5. Top the cake with cream cheese frosting and candied walnuts as desired.
* Cream cheese frosting - beat together 1/2 lb cream cheese, 1/2 stick (4 tbl) butter, 2 cups confectioners sugar, 1 tbl vanilla extract.