Lemon Poppy Seed Layer Cake

Today I turned 41. And while it feels like I was 17 years old about five minutes ago, I’ve never been intimidated by getting older. Not everyone gets to get older, right? And so to celebrate entering my “early forties,” I baked myself this lemon poppy seed layer cake.

This past week I weighed my birthday cake options, considering a caramel cake, a lemon raspberry cake, and a spice cake with maple buttercream. Then yesterday, Mike mentioned something about a lemon poppy cake, and here we are. It’s one of my favorite cakes I’ve ever made. And being a proud Pittsburgher, I do love that it’s black and gold.

Ingredients

For the lemon poppy seed cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • About 1 cup poppy seed filling*
  • About 1/2 cup lemon curd*

For the lemon curd buttercream frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon curd
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*Truth: I used bottled filling this time, because I’ve never made my own poppy filling and my homemade lemon curd went awry. Even experienced bakers have mishaps in the kitchen, my friends. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined. Stir in poppy seeds.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add lemon curd and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, then slowly add remaining cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes; you want a spreadable consistency that is not too soft or firm.

To assemble the cake:

Slice each cake in half lengthwise to create four layers. Place the first layer on your cake stand – I anchored my cake with a blob of buttercream to help it stay in place. Spread about 1/2 cup poppy seed filling on the first layer, leaving about a 1/4 inch border at the edge of the cake; some of your filling will spread further once the other layers are added.

Top with the second layer, then spread that layer with lemon curd, again leaving a bit of a border around the edge. Repeat with the third layer, topping it with poppy seed filling, then place the final layer on the top of the cake.

Frost the entire cake with a thin crumb coat and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from the fridge and frost to completely cover the crumb layer; you don’t need to put the frosting on too thick, as it will take away from the flavors in the cake itself. I chose to add some flower decorations to the top of my cake because I had a bit of frosting left over.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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Lemon Pound Cake with Poppy Seed Filling

lemonpcwithpoppyYesterday, I wondered: what should I do with a ton of leftover poppy seed filling? I should slather it into a lemon pound cake, that’s what.

This cake calls for lemon extract, and believe me when I tell you that you won’t be able to achieve the necessary level of lemony goodness in it with zest and juice alone. The fine folks at McCormick’s (which Mike always reminds me is a Maryland-based company) make lemon extract that you’ll likely find in the baking aisle at your local grocery store. It is absolutely worth the $5.

If you’d rather not use the poppy seed filling, you can omit it and just serve your cake as-is. I’m a huge fan of poppy seed though, so for me this is pretty close to pound cake heaven. You can serve it warm without glaze, or wait for it to cool and glaze it. Either way, it is delicious.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups poppy seed filling
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • zest of 1 medium lemon

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan very well, then dust with flour.

In a small bowl, combine poppy seed filling and 4 teaspoons lemon juice, mixing well; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and lemon extracts and mix well.

Add the flour and milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing until just combined after each addition.

Add lemon zest and beat until just combined.

Pour about half of the batter into your bundt pan, then spoon in poppy seed filling and gently spread to create a ribbon. Top with remaining batter.

Bake for 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then carefully invert the cake onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

When the cake is cool, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, about a teaspoon at a time, in a large glass measuring cup. You want a very drizzly consistency for your glaze so that it can easily drip down the sides of your cake. Pour over cake and allow to set before serving.

Remember: if you want to serve this cake warm – and it is dee-lish-ous warm – you can leave it unglazed.

Poppy Seed Rugelach

poppyseed rugelachYiddish is full of fun words like chutzpah, shlep, kvetch, maven, schmooze, nosh, and…rugelach. Rugelach translates to “little twists” or “rolled things” in Yiddish, and they can be filled with any number of tasty ingredients like nuts, fruit, chocolate, and of course, poppy seeds, which have been wildly popular in Central and Eastern European baking for a long time.

Rugelach begins with cream cheese dough, which is very simple to make. Because the dough employs both butter and cream cheese, it’s very soft when first prepared, so you’ll need to give it at least an hour or so to chill in your fridge before you use it. For the filling in these rugelach, I plan to use honey instead of sugar the next time I make this, and way more lemon zest to pump up the lemon-poppy seed flavor pairing.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • zest of half a medium-sized lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour

For the filling

  • 10 ounces poppy seed filling
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • zest of half a medium-sized lemon

You will also need powdered sugar for sprinkling on cookies prior to baking.

Preparation

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times.

Add flour, one cup at a time, beating until combined. Divide dough into four equal portions, flatten into discs, and refrigerate at least one hour, until firm but easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl combine poppy seeds, sugar, and lemon zest and mix well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one portion of dough at a time and spread with 1/4 of the poppy seed mixture. Cut into 12 wedges, then roll up each wedge starting from the outside edge.

Place rugelach on baking sheets and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool completely before serving; the filling will be too hot to serve them right away.

Poppy Seed Scones with Lemon Curd

poppy seed sconesOne hundred and fifty recipes ago, I decided to become a blogger. You really have no idea how many recipes exist in the world until you become a food blogger, scouring the internet for the most interesting, challenging, tasty treats in existence. Many of my recipes have come from cookbooks and websites, but some of my favorites are the ones that I adapt from other bloggers. I feel a kinship with these individuals, who share my passion for this creative and delicious pursuit.

Two of my favorite ingredients are poppy seeds and lemons, so it’s fitting that tonight’s post involves both. Poppy seeds and lemons are good friends flavor-wise, so a basic poppy seed scone was easily enhanced with a bit of Meyer lemon zest and the lemon curd I made a few nights ago. If you’re out of lemon curd, you could boost the lemon flavor in these scones by covering them with a powdered sugar/lemon juice drizzle icing. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 1 tablespoon to brush on the tops of the scones
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • About 1 tablespoon sugar, to sprinkle on the tops of the scones
  • Lemon curd, for serving

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and toss to coat, then rub the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the mixture just begins to stick together when you pinch it between your fingers.

Add poppy seeds and lemon zest; stir with a fork to combine. 

Combine beaten egg and buttermilk and stir into the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Pat into an 8 x 4 rectangle and cut into quarters, then cut each quarter in half, yielding 8 scones.

Place scones on prepared baking sheet and brush with buttermilk, then sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake for 14-16 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Serve warm or cool with lemon curd. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

lemon poppy pound cakeYesterday, I met my dear friend Carrie and her family in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday is browsing in the Strip, and I was so glad to get to share this experience with Carrie, her husband, and their two children. Carrie’s family lives in State College and we don’t get to visit as often as I’d like, but we had a nice time among the fascinating foods, spices, and treats on Penn Avenue.

At lunch at a seafood restaurant, Carrie and I marveled at the things that people imagined they could eat—mussels, lobsters, crabs. Poppy seeds are among such ingredients for me, as I have no idea why someone once looked at a poppy and thought, hmm, I bet I could cook with those seeds in there.

Interestingly enough, Carrie and I also just had a discussion about the difference between cupcakes (small cakes) and muffins (small quick breads), because though this recipe was billed as a bread I believe it to be much more of a pound cake, given its inclusion of butter and its method of preparation. Once it is completely cooled, I might whip up some lemon powdered sugar drizzle icing for the top, but I believe it’s going to be quite tasty either way.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 13 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

For the lemon syrup

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8 x 4 loaf pan with baking spray, line the bottom with parchment, and spray the parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and milk; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined.

Add butter and half of the egg mixture, beating on low speed until moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 1-2 minutes, until ingredients are very well-incorporated.

Scrape down the bowl and add remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating for about 30 seconds after each. You may need to scrape the bowl a few more times to fully incorporate all of the ingredients and to make sure there are no lumps in the batter.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake another 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. The edges of the cake will be very dark, but that is okay.

In the last 10 minutes of baking, prepare lemon syrup; combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring and boiling until the sugar dissolves.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick it with a cake tester or thin wooden skewer and brush half of the lemon syrup over the top. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan, invert on a cooling rack sprayed with baking spray, and prick the bottom and sides, brushing with remaining syrup.

Cool completely, then wrap in foil. Store overnight before serving so that the lemon syrup has time to absorb; top with lemon drizzle icing if desired.

 

Poppy Seed Roll – A Tribute to Grandma Zella

 

 

 

 

 

My grandmother, Gizella Bodnar Kozusko, passed away this week. She was 89 years old. I honor her today with poppy seed rolls, one of my favorite treats she used to bake.

Zella was born on New Year’s Day in 1923 in Budapest. At the urging of his enterprising brother, my great-grandfather Michael Bodnar brought his family to Duquesne, the mill town in Pittsburgh’s Monongahela Valley that was home to the world’s largest blast furnace. They used to dust the house twice a day, Zella told me, to clean away the soot. After high school Zella worked as a secretary at the steel mill; she met my grandpap, Andy Kozusko, at a dance at Kennywood Park. Andy, a handsome sailor in the US Navy, was so enamored with Zella that he paid his friends so they wouldn’t ask her to dance. Andy and Zella married in 1945 and borrowed ration coupons from neighbors to cater their reception. Her wedding dress and his Naval uniform are carefully wrapped in tissue paper in the cedar chest in my bedroom.

In my grandparents’ tidy home, I learned to make chicken soup with homemade noodles. I sat at the kitchen table with my grandpap, eating freshly-picked blackberries sprinkled with sugar. In the cellar on warm summer nights, I helped my grandma make fried zucchini. I listened to the strange language of the radio announcer during the Slovak music program on Sunday afternoons, twirling around in my grandpap’s arms to the polka. I set the table with my grandma’s good dishes, turned up my nose at pickled pigs’ feet, and ate cold ham on Easter and Christmas.

In my grandparents’ house, I learned to say “I love you” in Hungarian and Slovak.

Szeretlek, Grandma. I will miss you.

Poppy Seed Roll

Ingredients

  • 6-7 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 packs active dry yeast (1/4 ounce each)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 jars poppy seed filling (about 15 ounces)
  • 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preparation

Lightly grease a large bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine two cups flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt.

In a medium saucepan, combine sour cream, butter, and water. Heat to 120-130 degrees, then combine with flour mixture and beat for two minutes.

Add 1/2 cup flour and eggs and beat for two minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough, about two and a half to three cups.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 9-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Place in the greased bowl; turn once to coat, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and divide into four portions; roll portions into balls, then roll out into 10×10 rectangles.

Using a tablespoon from your flatware, scoop about two to two and a half heaping spoonfuls of filling onto the center of the dough.

Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread a thin layer of filling to within one inch of the edges.

Roll up into a log, carefully pinching the seams and edges closed.

Place into greased loaf pans and/or baking pans; I use two standard loaf pans and one 9×13 baking pan in which I bake two rolls.

Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour; I preheat my oven during this time to help speed the process.

Brush each roll with egg wash, then prick with a fork to let steam escape during baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool before cutting and serving.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve discussed my sincere appreciation for lemons previously on this blog, and now I must take a moment to acknowledge poppy seeds.  As a gal with Eastern European roots, I feel that poppy seeds are the seeds of my people.  Slovaks and Hungarians are crazy about poppy seeds.  We grind them into dust and cook them with sugar and water to slather inside dough for poppy seed rolls.  We put them on breads and in muffins.  My dear friend Tara (to whom I would swear I am related, perhaps as a distant fourth-cousin) always offers a poppy seed cake as a condolence at wakes, as is her family tradition.

The person who wrote the recipe below claimed that it yielded 12 muffins when baked in a standard muffin tin.  I’m not sure in which universe a recipe with three cups of flour only yields 12 muffins, but hey, I’m not going to judge.  I tweaked the recipe slightly and added more lemon zest for extra flavor, and when all was said and done, I had 27 muffins.

A note about poppy seeds: they can turn rancid when not stored properly or used in a timely manner, so they must be frozen or kept in the refrigerator.  I keep my seeds in the fridge for up to six months; they should remain blue-black in color and retain their poppy seed smell when fresh.  If they look or smell suspicious, throw them out.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 ounces plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Organic)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

For lemon glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • About 3 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined.

Add lemon zest, beating until combined.

Add the flour mixture and yogurt in thirds, alternatively, beating until just combined – take care to not over-mix your batter.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop or two tablespoons, drop batter into lined muffin tins, distributing batter evenly.  Refrigerate any extra dough while the first two batches bake.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for two minutes in tins, then remove to a wire rack.

Prepare lemon glaze; place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve a very, very drizzly consistency; I used about 3 ½ tablespoons of juice.

While muffins are still warm, brush the tops with the lemon glaze.  Muffins can be glazed a second time if you wish.