Welcome to Baking with Confidence; a series where I, Natalie, bake my way through Claire Saffitz’s cookbook Dessert Person. If this is a return visit, thanks for sticking it out to recipe three with me. Last recipe was Almond Butter Banana Bread (you can go check out that post here). This week, Claire has us focusing on Poppy Seed Almond Cake. Two things come to mind when I think of poppy seeds. One, I need to both use and eat these more, I always forget how much I love the flavor. Two, the Mythbusters episode about poppy seeds and drug testing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about go check out this Discovery/Science channel classic.
Reading Claire’s sweet message about her loved and cherished memories about this cake made think about all the family recipes that have been passed down and shared in my life. On one side of my family for many years my grandparents would print out custom made recipe sheets for our ever growing family cookbook. It became an annual tradition to add new recipes to the family cookbook when we all got together for Christmas. On the flip side my grandfather passed down what I can assume is his father’s apple press, and my whole life I have spent time each fall hand pressing cider with friends and family. So much of the experience we have with food is tied to our memories. It’s not just about a nostalgic meal, but the reminder of how you felt last time you had it, and memories of those with whom it was shared.
Diving into the recipe, two things caught me up at first glance. First, she didn’t specify what temperature the eggs should be when added to the recipe, or if I needed to combine the wet ingredients together, and then pour them into the dry instead of just combining all at once, then mixing. I think the second was reader error (I didn’t lose my glasses, I swear), because when I read back through the recipe after baking I noticed she does, in fact, clarify that it should all be combined in one bowl. As for the temperature, I deferred to one of Claire’s other YouTube videos where she said that room temperature is always the preferred temperature.
As I prepared all my ingredients I had been flipping back and forth to the Baking Matrix at the front of the book, when I realized that Claire was thinking of us, and put all of that information at the top of the recipe page! I think one of the wonderful things I am going to experience while baking my way through this cookbook is getting to really see and appreciate all the little details pf the book itself. As for the ingredients, the only item that might not be stocked in your pantry is poppy seeds, but those are available in the spices section 0f most grocery stores.
Again and again I have to mention that pre-measuring and prepping all my materials (mise en place for my fancy readers) ahead of time is the most wonderful experience when baking, especially with the oven set to 350F/ 170C and my bundt pan oiled and floured. By the way, I highly recommend if you have never floured a pan before to knock it around over a sink because it can get messy fast! As for the pan, if you don’t have a bundt a cake pan or loaf pan will work as well, but for the measurements in the book you’ll need two cake/loaf pans. Creating the batter was the simplest step of the bake, though I strayed from the recipe a little when I ended up of briefly whisking together the wet ingredients before streaming them into the dry.
Once the cake is baking it’s time to turn my attention to the orange and lemon glaze, since it’ll get poured on top of the cake while still fresh out of the oven. I am neither a big orange nor almond fan, plus there is something so timeless about lemon and poppyseed, so I decided to call an audible on the glaze. I am not trying to stray away from the recipes too often, but to best enjoy this cake myself I omitted the almond extract and doubled the vanilla, and halved the orange juice to add an equal part lemon juice. Not a drastic change, but I appreciate that Claire notes at the bottom of many of her recipes recommended changes one can make to the recipe to account for personal taste.
So while the cake is cooling off in the pan, I have a few minutes to dig out toothpicks to poke holes into the warm cake to help it take in the sweet glaze. Now, I’m going to level with you guys, this cake STUCK to the pan. Super glue, caulk, and the gravitational attraction of a thousand collapsing suns comes to mind. A number of things could have happened here. A: I didn’t flour and grease it enough, B: It was the shape of my pan that was the problem, C: Quarantine life has gotten to me and I desperately need to go back to the gym, but I’m going to go with option D: All of the above. With the cake finally wrestled out and in one piece I should add that the glaze absorbed nicely. All that’s left to do now is wait for it to cool before digging in; a feat all on its own! In addition to the change in glaze I made, I would also add more poppy seeds next time I make this recipe. This one has totally made it on to the make it again list.
Claire’s recipe really made the easiest, most delicate, and absolutely delicious cake! Like many people who bake, we like to share our goodies with others. To make sure to stay COVID safe, I’ve been making more masked-up front porch drop-offs instead of back porch wine and cake nights. It’s still nice to see the smiling faces through the window and get all the loving text messages from satisfied friends. As a little bonus, I’ve already gotten requests to make this again, hopefully for a face-to-face gathering before the end of 2021.
Next recipe for Baking with Confidence is Kabocha (a Japanese squash, not poorly spelled fermented tea) Turmeric Tea Cake.
Check out my and Claire’s videos below!
See you next time to get one step closer to Baking with Confidence!