Someone explain to me the appeal of poppy seeds. You shouldn’t like them. They get stuck in your teeth. If you eat too many, you’ll test positive for opium (thanks for the lesson, Seinfeld!). Yet poppy seed muffin recipes are as prolific as chain letters, and a bagel wouldn’t be a bagel without those crunchy little pareils. Drug tests and teeth be darned; I like eating gobs of poppy seeds, not just treating them like garnish. This cake recipe is for people like me. If you’re celebrating Passover or are celiac, this recipe is definitely for you too.
I adapted this cake from Chocolate & Zucchini, who riffed on it from Lilo. Clotilde at C&Z calls for almond butter and almond flour. I’m a minimalist and say you can make your own with whole almonds; it’ll taste fresher that way too.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. In an 8-inch round or square cake pan, toast almonds 10-15 min., or until flesh is light brown and fragrant. Cool for about 20 min.
- In a food processor, combine 100 grams (a little more than 3/4 cup) almonds and 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar. Grease the cake pan (for baking later). Process until the almonds resemble a fine meal. Transfer the almond meal to a small bowl and combine with the poppy seeds.
- Grind the remaining almonds in the food processor until it resembles nut butter. It will go from a fine meal to forming a ball around the blade to “butter.” If it doesn't seem like you're making progress, keep processing. The heat and friction will smooth out the almonds.
- Transfer the almond butter to a medium bowl. Add the butter, lemon zest, and egg yolks and combine with electric beaters till fluffy. Don’t be a smart aleck like me and attempt to mix in the food processor. The heat will scramble the yolks.
- Wash the beaters very well (twice if you need to). In a grease-free bowl, combine the egg whites with the salt and beat until frothy. With the beaters still running, gradually add the sugar and beat until the you get glossy, stiff peaks.
- Gently add one third of the egg whites to the almond butter mixture and combine with a spatula. Fold in half of the poppy seed mixture. Add another third of the egg whites and fold. Fold in the remaining poppy seeds, then the last of the egg whites, working carefully to keep in as much air as possible. Stop folding when the egg whites are incorporated (mixture can remain lumpy).
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 min, until puffy and light brown. Turn oven off and let cake cool inside for 10 min.
- Transfer to a cooling rack.