Flourless Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

Flourless Poppy Seed Cake

My oven and I are going through a rough patch and frankly, I don’t think it can be fixed*.

You see, it has been behaving in the most erratic manner this fall, and if there’s one thing a cook doesn’t need, it’s an unreliable oven, one that takes forrrreeeeevvver to preheat, turns itself off mid-baking, refuses to turn itself back on, or burns the food that’s placed too far out in the back. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: mine is also an oven that chooses to not demonstrate any of the above symptoms when the Oven Doctor comes to examine it. Mischievous, no?

Considering the tears of frustration that have been shed because of this — about a fourth of a cup — it seems heroic, or perhaps foolhardy, to attempt to bake anything for company. But Maxence’s grandparents were coming for tea that Sunday, both had just had their birthdays, and I couldn’t get my mind off Lilo’s flourless poppy seed loaf cake**, so I decided to brave my oven’s capricious temperament.

Maxence did, however, go out to buy an assortment of macarons so we wouldn’t find ourselves unprepared, should disaster strike.

I scaled Lilo’s recipe down to use the four eggs I had, and modified it to use part butter, part almond butter, and a little less sugar. I also flavored the cake with the zest of an orange (instead of vanilla) and omitted the baking powder, which didn’t seem altogether necessary (the whipped egg whites provide sufficient volume). Finally, I baked it in the heart-shaped pan my grandmother once gave to me, and because the tip of the heart got a little too dark (see what I have to put up with?), I whipped up a simple orange glaze to use as a concealer (it didn’t quite set the way it should have because I didn’t have time to let the cake cool properly).

To my relief, my oven behaved in a relatively cooperative way (only shutting down once or twice during the baking) and we were able to enjoy this marvelously aromatic cake, fine-crumbed and moist, its every bite sparking an explosion of poppy seeds beneath our teeth.

I feel compelled to add this one caveat, especially if you’re considering this for an office party or some such awkward occasion: when you’re done eating your slice, you may want to excuse yourself and check your smile in the nearest mirror. Poppy seeds are sneaky that way.

~~~

* Having just received an estimate of what it would cost to fix what needs fixing, and found out that it is — surprise, surprise! — almost the price of the oven, I think I’m going to have to redraft my letter to Santa.

** Note that the French use the English word un cake for a cake that’s baked in a loaf pan; a regular round cake is un gâteau.

Last week’s saffron roasted cauliflower was included in Bon Appétit’s holiday slideshow, which features many more inspiring recipes by fellow bloggers. I myself have earmarked Sarah’s rosemary nuts, Ilva’s herb cannelloni and Nick and Blake’s coffee cake.
 

Flourless Poppy Seed Cake

For the cake:
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) butter, softened
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) whole almond butter (or other smooth nut butter)
- 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown raw cane sugar
- the zest of an organic orange, finely grated
- 4 eggs, separated
- 100 grams (1 cup) ground almonds (a.k.a. almond meal)
- 160 grams (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) poppy seeds
- a good pinch of salt
For the orange glaze (optional):
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
- about 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and grease a 20-cm (8-inch in diameter and 2-inch-deep) round cake pan. (Alternatively, you can bake the batter in paper-lined muffin molds; the recipe will yield 10 regular muffins.)

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter, almond butter, 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar, and the orange zest. Cream together for 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and mix until fluffy.

Combine the ground almonds and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Set aside*.

In a clean, grease-free bowl, place the egg whites and salt. Using an electric whisk, beat until the egg whites are fluffy. Add the remaining 25 grams (2 tablespoons) of sugar, and keep beating until the egg whites form a smooth and glossy mass.

Working with a light hand, add one third of the egg whites to the first mixture. Fold in half of the poppy seed mixture. Add another third of the egg whites, folding it in gently with a spatula. Fold in the remaining poppy seed mixture, and add the last of the egg whites, working very gently to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites, until the egg whites are completely incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little lumpy.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes (20 minutes for muffins), until puffy and lightly brown. Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside to set for another 10 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack, let cool for 10 more minutes. Run a knife around the cake to loosen, unmold, and let cool completely before glazing, if possible.

If you choose to glaze the cake, put the confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl, pour in a teaspoon of orange juice, and whisk it in with a fork to form a smooth paste. Whisk in a little more orange juice, drop by drop, until the mixture is thin enough to be easily spreadable, but not yet runny. Pour the glaze on the cake and let it set somewhere cool.

* Lilo’s recipe has you mix the almond meal and poppy seeds for 5 minutes at this point, but I didn’t feel like dirtying another piece of equipment so I didn’t. If you choose not to skip this step, she recommends you place the poppy seeds in the freezer for 2 hours before you begin the recipe, to prevent them from turning to oil in the mixing.

  • http://nurks.blogspot.com nurks

    hello there!
    congrats for your blog! it’s gorgeous!! I love those seeds and I never have seen a cake with so much of them in it!! I will try it for sure ^_^
    oxox

  • http://pufflist.blogspot.com FN

    I enjoy your blog. I am from NY but come to Paris for work often. I have found many good suggestions on your site – thanks.

  • http://www.godfulfood.blogspot.com anya

    My oven used to be a drag on my baking undertakings too, so I cussed and complained a lot. I think I was about to write a sort of petition to a court to protect my rights as a home baker. :) It was that close. But then my oven refused to serve, or rather co-operate with me, altogether. Ahem.

    Your cake looks gorgeous! And thanks for a precaution, the one about the teeth. :)

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    You poor thing – having a finicky oven is no fun! We had that problem last year but the good news is that we were able to get a shiny, new stainless steel oven out of it. Gotta look at the bright side, right? :)

  • Harlan

    That look great! Another caveat about this cake is that you may not want to have a piece before being tested for opiates! That’s a crazy amount of poppy seeds!

  • http://sweetcilantro.canalblog.com jo_L

    Beautiful! I had seen Lilo’s recipe and it was love at first sight, but I think I even prefer the orange twist you gave it…

  • jonquil

    ahh–so sorry about the oven! maybe santa will read your letter in time for the chritmas rush!!!

  • Charlotte

    The photo of the poppyseed cake made my heart skip a beat. I adore anything with sweetened poppyseed. My family is of German and Polish origin, and I seem forever to be in search of a möhnstrudel that has almost no pastry to interrupt the luscious filling (some are rolled up as a jelly roll would be, others are cut in squares, with pastry sandwiching the filling).

    I now live in Paris, and have managed to find a perfect möhnstrudel on rue des Rosiers in the smallest and least famous of the patisseries in this road. I am only allowed to buy one piece at the time, for fear of turning into a poppyseed.

    On a different note, my great aunt, who was in a concentration camp during the war, noted that she and other victims, craved poppyseeds for many years after the war ended. Apparently there is an element, in the poppyseed (linked to opium? Or a vitamin) that starving people crave. Perhaps also there is a link to the fact poppyseed is used in many noodle dishes in Eastern Europe.

    So, thank you.

  • Anjali

    Lovely! My friend from Romania makes this delicious pastry with a poppy seed & lemon zest filling. Ever since I tasted that I’ve loved using poppy seeds. I’ll give this cake a try tonight.

  • Mario

    I wonder what this recipe would be like if you grind the poppy seeds like they do in Germany instead of leaving them whole.

  • Pat

    I love your style of cooking; open the frige see what’s there and invent something wonderful!

    I once had an oven that would decide to go in the clean cycle while I was baking. The door would lock and you could not get the food out until it had cycled and then cooled.

    My husband and I had a running disagreement on how well chicken should be cooked; he liked it- dry!

    Well some oven barbecued chicken got caught up in the clean cycle, and when I could finally get it out I put it on the counter meaning to throw it away. My husband come into the room, grabbed a leg and exclaimed, “now this is how I like it!”

  • http://theb-line.blogspot.com Amy

    Oh yes! I will be trying this the first chance I get! Thanks for sharing!
    Amy

  • http://pithyandcleaver.blogspot.com maggie (p&c)

    Wow I have never heard of a flourless poppyseed cake but this sounds LOVELY. I’m bookmarking it. Sorry about your oven—that is so frustrating. You’ll get much joy and use out of a new one.

  • Erin

    I love using almond meal in the place of flour. One of my favorite cakes to make contains only: almond meal, eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon :) It is truly simple and delicious.

  • Keiko

    I was thinking of making this for my parents when I visit them for Christmas, but then realized my Dad’s not allowed to eat poppy seeds in case he gets drug tested at work. Poppy seeds are hilarious.

  • http://www.cakespy.com Cakespy

    Oh my. I love poppyseeds…This cake looks so densely crunchily beautifully delicious!

  • http://www.shibooya.com MC

    I love poppy seed and that’s one killer slice! Keep some floss handy! :)

  • Dawn in CA

    I have never seen a cake with so many poppy seeds! And with the almond butter and meal, it sounds divine. Can’t wait to try it.

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    What a fabulous cake, I love poppy seed cakes.

    I feel your pain with the oven woes. My fire alarm goes off any time the temp climbs toward 425F, (thought it has never yet reached it), from all of the steam it emits as I attempt to roast something. I have had to come up with some very creative solutions for using mine. However I am thankful that it doesn’t spontaneously shut down mid bake. My holiday wish for you is a new oven.

  • http://www.three-bowls.com Leslie

    I am currently also dealing with the heartbreak of a misbehaving oven. You have my deepest sympathies/empathies!

  • Marielle

    What a shame… There is nothing that a foodie “hates” more than having to buy a new food utensil or appliance.

    I am “fearing” that my refrigerator may develop a virus and that I may have to buy that new stainless steel, super-energy efficient one in the new year.

    And, since I am in Paris next week circumstances may transpire that force me to E.Dehrillien. Oh, what shall I do. Woe is me…

  • dory

    Clotilde,

    I got a portable convection oven for a little more than $100. I have done most of my summer cooking in it. It gets very heavy use, although I have used it so much that the door is getting a little “tired.” I think you need a new oven ASAP! YOu deserve it as a cooking professional. They sell really large capacity portable ovens and you could get one right away.

    Dory

  • ygardin

    Je suis d’accorde. I agree there is a problem with poppy seed getting stuck between teeth, which is more the reason to keep it for ourselves. Meaning, we don’t share it at an office party, but with close friends.

  • Sarah

    Oh, I’m longing to try this recipe out. I would like to change out the sugar for agave nectar if possible. What can I do to make up for the extra liquid?

  • http://www.spicedish.typepad.com EB

    RIP oven. I’m so sorry for your loss!

  • Rachel

    I never met a poppy seed cake I didn’t like… something tells me I’m going to like this more than most (thus making all the other poppy seed cakes in my acquaintance jealous?)!

    You have all my sympathies for your oven woes – I lived with a particularly temperamental one for nearly four years, so I know what you’re going through. Just to give one example – sometimes it would take over 2 hours to roast a panful of ratatouille, other times it would take 45 minutes. (I don’t know how it managed to behave the day I baked a wedding cake for two of my friends, but I’m still thanking my lucky stars it did…) I hope Santa is extra kind to you this year!

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.com barbara

    Fab cake. Years ago I made a poppy seed cake and the seeds sank to the bottam so I’ve never tried another one. We’ve just moved apartments and our oven hasn’t been working properly either. Fortunately because we are only leasing our landlord is required to fix it. I just hope it happens before Christmas Day or it will be a very burnt turkey.

  • http://mim4art.blogspot.com mim

    I have NO oven in the studio we stay in, here in Paris, so I read about your baking even in a bad oven, with envy. I can’t wait to make the poppy seed cake when I return home. Oh please tell, which of the little bakeries on rue des Rosiers is it? I think I’ll buy a piece of poppy seed cake from each one and do a taste test. How bad could that be?!

  • LG

    Hello,

    I just wanted to say I am enjoying your website and recipes immensely (I am a first time visitor linked from the London Times, which ranked you as one of the top 10 food blogs in the world).

    Thanks!

  • http://www.myyearinparis.com Jennifer K

    Ovens can be such sneaky little devils. The oven in my former apartment in Berkeley CA used to lie to me all the time, claiming it was 20 degrees hotter than it really was. The holidays definitely aren’t a good time for oven problems, but just think about how you get to choose a brand-new one now!

  • Cara

    Love this recipe, Clotilde and can’t wait to try it. But my oven, also, went malade and then sad to say, mort. Now I use a counter toaster oven and can do small amounts of baking. Maybe I’ll try this in muffin tins. Are you asking Santa for a La Cornue?

  • ER

    My all-time favorite cake is basically the same as your gateaux au yaort with almond extract and a generous scoop of poppy seeds added in. I can’t wait to try this too!

    Merci beaucoup!

  • http://www.deelishdish.typepad.com DD

    Sounds divoon. Like a perfect coffee accompaniment. Sorry about your oven! Give it a kick and good talking to.

  • Jaymie

    Clotilde! I LOVE poppyseed cake. I am Ukrainian. What more can I say! My favorite is lemon-poppyseed cake. Do you think this recipe would be as good with lemon in place of the orange? This cake sounds delicious.

  • Eileen

    How absolutely frustrating; but how fun to look at purchasing a new oven ;-)

  • http://beckyandthebeanstock.com Becky and the Beanstock

    I’m a big fan of poppies, and in your recipe here, I love all the nuts and nut butters — a much better alternative. I have a lemon-poppyseed-thyme cookie that this sort of reminds me of, and it’s flourless as well (well, rice and potato flour. Gluten free anyway).

  • http://www.taysfoodblog.blogspot.com Taylor

    I love your blog, it’s great!
    I’ll probably be a frequent reader! :]

  • http://beyondthewindow.wordpress.com beyond

    oooh, glutenfree. looks light and moist and yummy. i am going to send this to my gluten allergic mother right away.

  • Aurelie

    This cake looks good! I do not have a scale in my kitchen. What is the approximate cup equivalent for the poppy seeds? (I did not find it in you great conversion table)Thanks!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jayme – You could substitute any type of citrus for the orange; lemon would be lovely.

    Aurélie – 1 cup poppy seeds weighs 145 grams, so here you’ll need 1 cup + 2 tablespoons.

  • http://darylsr.blogspot.com Daryl Saari

    I liked all the fasinating articles on all the great food and deserts and it made me hungry, very well laid out though. Thank you!

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    hi! what’s almond butter like? I’ve never tried or heard of it! – Anyway, hope you’re well! xxx

  • maria

    and i thought i was the onlyone that had this problem. after five l o n g years, i finally saved enough for all new appliances which includes a new stove!!! can’t wait to bake these goodies.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Tamami-san – Almond butter is like peanut butter, only made with almonds. The good ones are made with just almonds, ground until they turn to butter, and I prefer “whole” almond butter, made with unblanched almonds. You should be able to find it at any natural/organic food store.

  • http://www.wordsandphotoboothmoments.blogspot.com chantal

    Sorry for oven issues!! …the 5 years I lived in Paris my oven was only big enough for me to bake 3 cookies at a time!!

    that cake is beautiful, wow it looks great. Bisous from California..

  • ~Michelle

    Hi Clotilde!

    I just found your blog and it’s wonderful! Thank you! I am going through all the archives, too! Do you think this cake would work with 1/4 cup neutral oil (I’m thinking grapeseed) instead of butter? I would prefer to keep it dairy free!

  • http://www.creativestructures.blogspot.com diana strinati baur

    I did not read through all the comments, but in case it did not get said yet, this is a great recipe to send to Celiac patients or their family members. It appears to be completely gluten free, and looks delicious.

  • http://figsandlavender.blogspot.com/ Kim

    Ah! Love the poppy seed cake recipe! It turned out exactly like your picture and was promptly devoured by welsh teenagers who thought it was rather cool! Thanks for bringing more gluten free inspiration! Kim

  • Bart

    Tried this today and should have listened to my wife’s comment that it was far too many poppy seeds. Looks good, but far, far too many poppy seeds.

    Did the original French recipe call for equal amounts of seeds and almond flour?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Michelle – Yes, I think you can safely replace the butter with a neutral vegetable oil here. Let us know how it turns out!

    Bart – I am sorry the cake didn’t turn out to your liking. Perhaps you can elaborate on what you mean by “too many poppy seeds”? Was it a matter of texture or flavor? Did you mix the almond meal and poppy seeds together, or did you skip that step? Were your poppy seeds freshly purchased? (Sometimes they can go rancid if stored for too long.)

    In any case, the recipe is correct as written: it is meant to be a cake loaded with poppy seeds and I love it that way, but of course, in the end, it is all a matter of taste.

  • Bart

    I bought the poppy seeds the week before from a bulk bin at Whole Foods and they seemed fresh. My feeling was that the poppy seeds overwhelmed the cake, but as you suggest that is a matter of taste. I think I will spoon some plain yogurt over the rest of my cake, which I did not glaze.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Bart – And if you’re inclined to give this another try in the future, you could certainly fiddle with the poppy seed / almond meal ratio and bring it to the level you’d prefer — the two ingredients are more or less interchangeable in regards to their effect on the batter.

  • luosha

    a really pretty recipe! it actually came out tasting a lot like the C&Z financiers — only very crunchy. i used white poppy seeds (from an indian food store) lemon zest and vanilla, and a little bit of grand marnier for an extra kick of orange.

  • jeff

    grams! yay!

  • http://bklynharuspex.wordpress.com haruspex

    Clotilde, have you yet had a chance to try the cake without the baking powder?

  • Priscilla

    Thank you for the recipe. I was wondering if you know of a good online source for bulk poppy seeds. I could only find them in small containers at my grocery story, and it would take over $20 worth of poppy seeds to make the cake! Thanks for your help!

  • Karine

    I had a new stainless General Electric oven that acted similarly up through its eventual retirement, less than two years after purchase (and conveniently after the warranty expired, despite much argument with the company). I’ll never buy another GE product again, and would advise anyone else to do the same, if you want your appliances to last any longer.

  • http://bluebits.canalblog.com/archives/2008/12/23/11794721.html Armelle

    Merci pour cette recette, elle est épatante. Les 8 gourmands à table se sont régalés, une fois l’ambiguité levée: non ce n’est pas un cake aux épinards (le noir des grains de pavot, sans doute). Il tient aussi bien que s’il y avait la farine dedans tout en gardant une texture légère.

  • Valerie

    Thanks for the wonderful poppy seed cake recipe! Very easy to make, moisturize, full of flavours… I bake that cake for a family sunday brunch and guess what ? Everybody loves it, even my grand-mother who never heard of poppy seed!
    Valerie, Montreal

  • Alexander

    how would you go about leaing out the eggs if you are allergic?

  • http://oddkitchen.wordpress.com Liz @ OddKitchen

    Aah, this looks like a perfect teacake. Something to make at one’s leisure and keep covered on the counter until it’s devoured. Cake for breakfast, this is. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • chucha

    the taste is great, i love poppyseeds BUT a caveat about the baking powder caveat: you absolutely DO need it! i had run out of baking powder and decided to give the exclusion a go. well, i baked more of a thick cookie than a cake. it is maybe 2cm high! crunchy and crumbly– i will have to make it again cake-style!

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com katie

    Hey Clotilde,

    I have been admiring your site and found a lovely string of you recipes to cook from (pear cake and this one). I am making bagels on sunday and figure this will be great for leftover poppyseeds.

    I like your caveat: i shant walk around the office or take a drug test after eating this cake.

  • http://www.raycreationsindia.com/ Aparna

    Thanks for this recipe, its look delicious.

  • Lynn

    Hi Clotilde
    Love your blogs, recipes & french idiomatic expressions !
    I agree with you about Coco & Me blog – I’m well hooked on it…
    happy days !
    Lynn

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com maggie (p&c)

    I made this cake this weekend for my mother’s birthday. It was a huge hit. I adjusted the poppy seeds down a little (just because I got home and didn’t have enough poppy seeds!) it was great, and maybe even better a day (and two days!) later. Thank you!

  • Maya

    we are making this cake for the 3rd time now. everyone who tries it is impressed! i use 150g poppy seeds b/c that’s a bag’s worth where i buy it. and i don’t even think we beat the egg whites as much as we should, and it still rises very well w/out baking soda. i also can only get peeled almond butter here, and its taste and texture is fantastic.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That’s wonderful to hear, Maya, thank you!

  • Bunny

    Great recipe!!!! Tried with carrot cake icing and it was delicious. Thank you very very much

  • http://krystyna6@me.com Barbra Krystyna MICHNOWSKI

    My late Ukraine/Polish mum used to bake a very similar looking cake that she adapted from my recipe for a Walnut Roulade – my recipe came from Annemarie Huste’s Pecan Roll- Annemarie Huste Personal Cookbook – Circa 1968. Anyway I remember Mum would grind the poppyseeds down to a paste with a food stick which was a very LONG job & it certainly took a toll on one’s arms but the flourless cake was certainly to die for & even though Mum has been gone for 3 years now I still have a slice in the freezer as until now I have not been able to replicate her recipe I hope your cake will do the job & I can get rid of the one in the freezer!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That sounds amazing, Barbra, thanks for sharing the story! I hope the recipe comes close to your mother’s.

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