When I say this poppy seed cake is absolutely delicious, I’m not exaggerating. It’s moist, has a delicate crumb, and the flavor combination provided by the use of extracts leaves you wanting more. When I first had this cake at my mother-in-law’s house I was instantly in awe. It is easy to prepare, without any fancy techniques or timing. It can be made in a pinch to serve a friend with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee, or dressed up and brought as a dessert to a dinner party.
This cake, to me, is the epitome of using food to nourish a friend or your community. I envision this poppy seed cake as a “back pocket” recipe that you can whip up in little time’s notice when a loved one calls to say they are on their way to give you a hug and say hi.
The story of this cake is really sweet – no pun intended. The recipe has been passed down to me by my mother-in-law, who created this cake as a holiday tradition back when her kids were young. The kids asked if they could bake a birthday cake for Jesus for Christmas, and my mother-in-law, being the creative that she is, wanted to use ingredients that would resemble what he would have had access to back then. If of course, they celebrated birthdays with cakes.
The story is sweet because I love thinking of the innocence of my husband and sister-in-law as children asking in such a selfless way, why they celebrate Christmas instead of having a birthday party for Jesus. It’s become a tradition that we do with our kids at Christmas, but I certainly don’t save this cake for once a year. It’s a regular here in our home, and I hope it becomes one in yours, too.
Extracts. I love the flavor combination here but do please note that butter extract is a little difficult to get your hands on. I’ve both scored and struck out at my local grocery store. I recommend trying a specialty baking store, the Wilton line at Michael’s, or ordering on Amazon. I suggest you do this, which I normally don’t make you guys go to such great efforts, because fresh butter does not work as a substitute. Once you have these extracts on hand, I suggest keeping them in your rotation so that this recipe is always easy to make.
Lemon. This is NOT a lemon poppy seed cake recipe. I repeat: this is not a lemon poppy seed cake recipe. However, if you do not like the taste of extract-heavy baked goods, or if you have an allergy, you could absolutely swap out the extracts for lemon and use this recipe as a base.
Flour. I call for regular flour in this recipe because I realize it is what most people have on hand. However, I love using cake flour here. It substitutes quite well, so if you have it, use it. The cake flour will produce a slightly more delicate crumb. Yum. Oh and, I will have you sift the flour no matter which kind you use.
Sugar. For the glaze, I call for regular granulated sugar. However, I sometimes use confectioner’s sugar. Regular sugar makes a crunchier, clearer glaze, while confectioners can make an opaque glaze. The fun part about this is that you can’t really get the glaze wrong. I encourage you to play around with how you like it, adding more sugar or juice until you reach your preferred texture. For the Bundt, I always want to show off the pattern and make a really thin, sauce-like glaze. Anything goes.