MY PERFECT LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE + CAKE CRUMBLE LEMON CREAM POPSICLE
INSIDE EACH GOLDEN SLICES OF THIS SPIRIT-LIFTING CAKE, IS A PIECE OF MY OWN HEAVEN.
AND IF I MUST BE NITPICKING FOR A FAULT, WELL, TO THAT I HAVE A SOLUTION, TOO.
I wasn’t really contemplating on a cake recipe. I always feel a little self-doubt every time I throw one out there, after all, I have about as much credentials on cakes and baking as a dog on dating advice. But over the last week, I wanted to bake a lemon poppy seed cake for a couple of friends coming over for coffee, and to my surprise as well, I couldn’t seem to find a satisfactory answer in the worldwide web with all its might. OK, given that I didn’t really look past beyond page-3 on a Google search, but as far as I’m concerned, if it’s not on page-1, it might as well not exist in this world, and I went to page-3! Page 3! Can’t say my research wasn’t thorough.
There’s of course, lots of lemon poppy seed cake recipes out there. And they probably all possess certain qualities that satisfy each maker’s niche, but for me, each and every one seem to have one or two imperfections. Either it requires the separation of eggs and whipping of egg whites (and if you bake you’ll know a lotta complications come with that), which is a task I prefer just a bit more than laying asphalt for free on a hot summer day; Or, it uses a cake-mix, to which I ask why not just buy a damn cake: Or, it uses a staggering amount of egg yolks for rich flavours and colors, but entirely forgets the part where nobody, nobody, look forward to leftover egg whites; And as for the rest of them, perhaps the most irritating fault is that they all carry the saddest, palest, borderline-white crumbs that I consider an assault on the integrity of a lemon poppy seed cake. The name itself expects, if not demands a halo of golden yellow glow, the color that transcribes all the good-feelings this cake has to bring to the subconscious… summer, happiness, light.
So it is what it is, that if I want my perfect lemon poppy seed cake – one that is easy, fast, golden and moist with the fragrance of citrus and plentiful of nutty pops – I will have to make my own. With a flavor-wise untraceable dash of ground turmeric, and an easy step to aerating the eggs (I consider it an all-in-one alternative to the separation/whipping of egg whites), there I have it all, inside each golden slices of this spirit-lifting cake, a piece of my own heaven. And I hope, if not predict, that it would be yours, too.
But, if I must be nitpicking… this cake, as all other cakes, does lose its prime in moisture and texture after a couple days of sitting inside the fridge. To that, well, I have a solution, too.
The recipe is adapted from many combined.
- 1 1/4 cup (245 grams) granulated sugar
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (180 grams) whole milk
- 2 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) cornstarch
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 heaping tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup (36 grams) poppy seeds
- 2/3 cup (160 grams) canola oil (see note)
- 2 tbsp (27 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) lemon juice
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup (161 grams/about 4 lemons) lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 13.2 oz (375 grams/1 can) sweetened condensed milk
- 1//2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (104 grams) heavy cream
- BAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven on 350 F/175 C. In a stand-mixer or hand-held mixer, mix granulated sugar, lemon zest and ground turmeric together until it resembles yellow wet sand. On medium speed, add the eggs, one by one, and mix until even, then turn to high speed to mix until the mixture is thick and airy, almost doubled in size. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract, mix until even, then add whole milk and mix until even. From now on, switch to a hand-held whisk.
- In another bowl, whisk together ap-flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and poppy seeds until even, then add to the wet ingredient. Gently fold the mixture together with the whisk until there are only tiny lumps remain. Add the canola oil and gently fold again until even (the oil tends to settle on the bottom so make sure you scoop the bottom of the bowl several times). Butter the inside of a 8"~9" (22 cm) bundt cake pan, then coat evenly with flour. Tap the pan upside-down over the sink to rid any excess flour, then transfer the batter into the pan.
- Bake in the oven for 30~35 min until an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean from the center. Let the cake cool completely over a cooling-rack. Meanwhile, whisk together melted butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar until even. Drizzle the icing over the cake.
- MAKE POPSICLE: In an easy-to-pour jar, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and heavy cream until even. Crumble leftover cake into small chunks that will fit through your popsicle molds, then loosely stuff them into the molds until about 80% full. Insert the wooden popsicle handles into the molds in a swift and decisive motion (so it pierces through the cakes instead of pressing them down, or you can clear a pathway with a small knife first). Pour the milk-mixture into the molds all the way to the top. The liquid will quickly seep down and fill the empty spaces below, so come back and re-fill it to the top. Freeze until hard inside the freezer, at least 6 hours or overnight. Rinse the mold under water for a few seconds before removing the popsicle.
If you want to have a more buttery flavour in the cake, you can use 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter and 1/3 cup canola oil. But the cake may be less moist.