Lemon Poppy Seed Cake & A New Business

There's an occasion to celebrate today. It's RAINING! It doesn't rain very often in Los Angeles and so, when it does, I take special care to bake yummy things and lounge in my sweats while watching reruns of Frasier. (Thanks Netflix!)

But, of course, there is another reason to celebrate. I'm starting a business! Woohoo! As anyone who reads this blog may have noticed, it's suddenly transitioning from personal space to workspace. So that's weird. To be honest, I don't plan on changing this particular part of the site at all. This blog will remain dedicated to whatever it is that's inspiring me in my kitchen and in my life. 

I've been very touched by all the support that's been showered on me by my family and friends. For that, I wanted to say thank you. I'm equal parts frightened and excited about the business, and I hope not to disappoint you all.

Now, about this lemon poppy seed cake. I sort of feel like people fall into two camps about poppy seeds: those who order the poppy seed option, and those who don't. Let me tell you, I was never one of the former. Lemon poppyseed muffin? No, thank you. Poppy seed coffee cake? No interest whatsoever. But lately...I don't know, they've been so attractive to me. Little crunchy flecks decorating the insides of baked goods or adorning the tops of crackers. I've moved firmly into the camp who orders the poppy seed option. I blame that Scandi baking book. Remember that? There are poppy seeds in everything in that book! Not to worry, if you're a "no poppy seed" person, you can leave out the poppies. Just know that your cake will be ever so slightly less stylish. 

I didn't change much at all about this recipe because it frankly doesn't need it. I do have a few comments, though:

  1. If you like a denser, more lemony cake: make a lemon syrup (this one seems good) and poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick about ten minutes after you take the cake out of the oven. Drizzle about a quarter cup of the syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in before glazing the cake. 
  2. For the glazing: the initial recipe called for a mix of apricot jam and cognac. Silly me, I was all out of cognac at home. Being the staunch Americans that we are, I only have rye on hand. Also, I wanted a tart glaze, not a sweet one. So, I used orange marmalade and lemon juice, in the same quantities for which the recipe calls. If you like, you could also mix a tablespoon of lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to make a thin paste and drizzle that over top.  
  3. In the most ridiculous of tiny changes, I also switched the lemon extract for almond. This is probably inconsequential but I love the flavor combination of poppy, lemon, and almond. It's magical. But, follow your heart about this little detail. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Makes two 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (or lemon, see note above)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (or grapeseed oil; that's what I used)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup apricot jam (or orange marmalade, see note 2 above)
  • 1/4 cup cognac (or lemon juice, see note 2 above)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously butter two 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" loaf pans. (Note: I always line the bottom of the pan with parchment or foil, too, and then butter that.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds. 
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, lemon zest, almond extract, and sour cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the oil and lemon juice. Add the reserved flour mixture and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. 
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until cakes are lightly golden and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. 
  6. Transfer pans to a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cakes onto the wire rack to cool completely 
  7. Combine the jam or marmalade and cognac or lemon juice (see note 2 above) in a small pan and place over low heat. Simmer until the jam liquefies, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, press the jam through a fine sieve set over a small bowl; discard solids. Brush the tops and sides of the cakes with the glaze. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cutting into, and devouring, the cakes.