To be honest, this actually isn’t my grandmothers recipe. But it reminds me of her and her poppyseed cake. The type of poppyseed cake I’m talking about originates from Austria, where poppyseeds are used lavishly in many, especially sweet, dishes. Austria is one of the few countries were the commercial cultivation of poppy is permitted and Austria and Ukraine are the European countries where poppyseeds are consumed most. The poppy flower is native to the Mediterranean area and from there it traveled back and forth in many directions. It did bring us oil, seeds, medicine, drugs and cake.
My grandmother baked her poppyseed cake in a bundt pan, it had a dark shade of grey and was showered with icing sugar. She often made it for family gatherings and everybody loved it. But we never wrote down any of her recipes. It didn’t seem necessary as I could not imagine her to be gone one day. That’s pretty stupid, I know, but death is like climate change – always present, difficult to grasp and we often prefer to put it out of view.
The day after her funeral my family met to honor her with cooking some of the dishes she used to make for us. I tried my luck with bohemian dumplings and Svíčková, the Czech classic. But the meat stayed hard and the sauce was too sour. My sister baked Rehrücken (an Austrian chocolate-nut cake), it tasted nice but fell apart. I guess grandma was watching us, smiling and murmuring „don’t worry, you’ll learn it“.
By now my poppyseed cake is pretty good, not exactly like hers, but it captures the essence and is equally packed with poppyseeds, got the right texture, is aromatic, juicy and of course covered in icing sugar. I know she would like it.
It comes to my mind now, that I should have taken a picture of the beautiful dark grey texture, but we already ate the cake. Please imagine it, it’s a bit like a nut cake, but in dark grey. I use a round springform pan with a diameter of 26cm (11 inch). It’s best to let the cake sit overnight, so the flavours can develop.
My Grandmothers Poppyseed Cake
For a 26 cm (ca. 11 inch) springform pan
- 6 eggs (large)
- 150 grams sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 lemon zest
- 150 grams butter, softened
- 250 grams poppyseeds
- 50 grams nuts, ground (I use hazelnut)
First grind the poppy seeds, this works best in a small blender (nutribullet type), an old electric coffee grinder or you can try to get them crushed with mortar and pestle. It’s important to open the little seeds, so they can release their essential oils.
Mix the ground poppyseeds with the nuts. Butter the cake pan. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (convection 140 degrees).
Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites with 50 grams of the sugar and the pinch of salt till they are stiff. Beat the butter with the rest of the sugar and lemon zest till the mixture is fluffy, then slowly add the egg yolks one by one.
Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then gently mix in the poppyseed mix. Fill the mixture in the cake pan and bake for 45 - 60 mins (my oven takes 50 minutes).
Let the cake cool down and ideally sit overnight. Dust with icing sugar before serving.