Poppy Seed Walnut Cake

  • Serves: Makes two 8- or 9 x 2-inch pans
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 350
  • Views: 10269

Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2007 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com

stock photo
This is a fine textured cake loaded with poppy seeds, chopped walnuts, and a grated apple for moistness. For this recipe, you can split the layers and sandwich them with a thick filling of apricot or raspberry jam, or fill and ice the cake with Espresso Whipped Cream. Or, the cake slices can be toasted and served with a pat of melting butter on the top. Poppy seeds are ubiquitous in Austria and used in a myriad of recipes. They contain a high percentage of oil, poppy seeds can go rancid if they are not used fairly soon after purchase. Freeze them if not using right away to keep them fresh. Taste or smell the seeds before buying or using to make sure they aren't bitter or stale.

The recipe's author, Chef David Bouley, from which this recipe has been adapted, has received numerous three and four star food awards and has studied with many well-known chefs. His recipe philosophy is to use fresh ingredients and to highlight ingredients of the season. Chef Bouley believes in making homey, plain cakes that can be dressed up in myriad ways, such as this one.

Pastries at Bouley Bakery, NYC. Photo by Sarah Phillips © Sarah Phillips

Bread at Bouley Bakery, NYC. Photo by Sarah Phillips © Sarah Phillips

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted; measure and then sift
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/3 cups roughly chopped walnuts

5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
2 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 small Granny Smith or other tart green apple, peeled and cored

6 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon (pinch) salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175°C). Spray two 8- or 9 x 2-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line them with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper, again.

2. Place 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar in a coffee grinder or spice mill with one quarter of the poppy seeds. Pulse until the poppy seeds are finely ground and the texture of sand, about 20 seconds (avoid over-processing, they should not become a paste). Transfer the ground poppy seeds to a bowl. Repeat this three more times with the remaining poppy seeds and 3 more tablespoons of the sugar.

3. Place the walnuts in a food processor (using the smallest work bowl you have). Add 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar and pulse until the nuts are airy, with the consistency of fine bread crumbs, about 40 seconds. Whisk the ground nuts into the poppy seed mixture and set aside.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder, and set it aside. Using a hand grater or a food processor, grate the apple and set it aside.

5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with the remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and beat until light and very fluffy, about 2 minutes.

6. In a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until they are very foamy, about 2 minutes. Add the honey and salt. Continue to beat on high speed until the whites are stiff (but not dry) and form glossy peaks. Add a little of the white mixture to the yolk mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold the remaining whites into the yolk mixture.

7. Working slowly so the batter does not deflate, fold the flour mixture and then the nuts and poppy seeds into the batter. Combine gently until the mixture is almost smooth. Fold in the grated apple. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and using a wide spatula, gently scrape the batter from the center to the edges of the pans, so that the cakes look slightly concave (this will prevent them from rising too much in the center).

8. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs, but not batter, and the tops are golden, about 30 minutes. When the cakes are done, run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen them. Invert the pans over a wire cooling rack and peel the parchment paper off the bottoms. Let cool thoroughly.