Friday, January 16, 2009
Poppy Seed Cake with Mascarpone Cream
The flavor and texture of poppy seeds is hard to describe, but wow, what fun! The perfect balance of the true and trusted flavors of vanilla, butter and salt produces an unmistakably harmonic and delicious result. The cake has a tight crumb and the chewy crunchy texture of the seeds delivers all the interest to make this dessert sparkle. Egg whites enable the stark contrast of snow white cake and dark purple poppy seeds. Pretty to look at and delightful to taste, this is a great special occasion cake if you’re looking for an alternative to the usual fare. I also think it would be very good with champagne or sparkling wine.
The original recipe called for a Cream Cheese Frosting, but I wanted something lighter and creamier. I think this Mascarpone Cream is really perfect. It’s a subtle and delectable complement, adding a slightly tart and creamy balance to the dense texture of the cake.
Once in a while you find a recipe that is so easy to execute and so immediately delicious, you just have to bring it to the communal table. This is one of those recipes. I think you’ll find it irresistible.
- Poppy seeds are expensive. Search out a bulk grocery in your area to see if they offer them. King Arthur Flour and Penzeys also carry them and offer better prices than the small jars you find in supermarkets.
- Although the recipe calls for baking the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, it baked in my hot-running oven in 41 minutes. Be sure to check yours around the 40 minute mark. The cake should be nicely browned and spring back when you lightly and gently tap the top. The cake should be just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and an inserted toothpick should come out clean.
- To frost the cake, apply a crumb coat by spreading a super-thin coating of cream around the side of the cake. Refrigerate to set the crumbs. Finish the cake with the remaining cream. If you'd rather not fuss with frosting it, you can also just slather the whole cake with the cream or serve the cream as a garnish.
- This cake is best enjoyed the same day.
- This recipe is from an old copy of Food & Wine magazine, but I can’t find a date on the page. In a frenzy to clear out a large stash of old magazines, I clipped the recipes I wanted to save and didn’t notice that the reference to this particular issue wasn’t in tact.
Poppy Seed Tante Cake
adapted from Food & Wine magazine
1 vanilla bean
2/3 C milk
2/3 C poppy seeds
1 2/3 C cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter @ room temperature
1 C sugar
4 egg whites @ room temperature
1/4 C sugar
8 oz mascarpone
3 – 4 T confectioner’s sugar, to taste
1/3 C heavy cream
splash of vanilla extract
For the Mascarpone Cream, gently whisk the mascarpone and the sugar until combined. Add the cream and vanilla and mix until smooth and thickened a bit. Be careful not to overmix or the mascarpone will start to break down. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the cake, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scald the milk with the vanilla bean. Place the poppy seeds in a bowl and pour the scalded milk and vanilla bean over them. Cool to room temperature. Scrape the vanilla bean into the milk mixture.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9” x 2 1/2” round cake pan with butter, flour and parchment paper.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together.
Beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 C sugar and continue to beat until very light and creamy, about 5 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl.
Add one-third of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with half of the milk-poppy seed mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer just before thoroughly blended and gently finish the mixing by hand, using a rubber spatula.
Whip the egg whites and a tiny pinch of salt on medium speed until the whites are opaque and form soft peaks. Keep whipping as you begin to add in 1/4 C sugar, just a little bit at a time. Increase the speed to high just before adding the last couple of teaspoons of sugar. Whip until the meringue forms peaks that are stiff and shiny, about 1 minute.
Fold a third of the meringue into the cake batter. Continue to incorporate the remaining meringue in two additions, gently folding until there are no white streaks. Be careful not to overmix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 – 55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (mine baked in 41 minutes, so check yours early). Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake from the pan and finish cooling, right-side up, on the rack.
Frost the cake and serve.