Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Poppy seed cake with whipped cream and blood orangesJordan: Happy New Year!

Kitra: 2018 happened. It’s over. We’re moving on with cake.

Specifically, a lucky cake. Poppy seeds are considered lucky in Hungary, especially around New Year’s.

And when we briefly lived there, the holidays were marked by a Black Friday-esque battle for oranges at the grocery store.

Imagine, if you will, dozens of middle-aged eastern Europeans, swarming the aisles of Tesco to fill their carts to the brim with boxes and bags of oranges. We’re not exaggerating here; people would buy literal cartloads.

Every person you passed in the store had nothing but oranges in their cart.

To this day, all of my Googling has been unable to come up with an explanation for this surreal phenomenon. We’ll blame it on the Soviet Union, just like all of the rest of Hungary’s idiosyncrasies.

So we paired a documented Hungarian tradition with one we’re only mostly sure we didn’t dream.

Here’s hoping this cake brings you a bright, lucky, and only mildly perplexing 2019.


We also did some other things since we last posted!

While we may revisit some of these in later posts, we’ll share the links here now as a belated Christmas/Hanukkah gift to you and an apology for being gone so long.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pound Cake | We’ve had this bookmarked since it first went up on Shutterbean more than a year ago and recommend that you don’t wait nearly as long as we did to make it. It’s from Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance and it’s truly excellent.

Olive Oil Cake with Farmer’s Cheese Filling | We made this, as Alice Medrich suggests, as a Hanukkah cake but it was delicious and would be welcome all year round. We swapped farmer’s cheese for the creme fraiche in the filling, but suspect it would be great either way.

Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) pies: Garam Masala Pear Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, and Orange Maple Walnut and Apple Chai pies, both from A Year of Pies.

Poppy seed orange cake, brown sugar bundt cake, three pies, and Hanukkah cake

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Adapted, just slightly, from Food52

If you like poppy seeds, this cake has a lot going for it! It’s moist and light, gluten-free, and is interesting enough to serve for dessert but not so sweet that it can’t be breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you don’t like poppy seeds, then this is really not your cake.

We used orange in the batter, in keeping with the theme, but you could also use lemon (as in the original recipe). We top it here with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh blood oranges, but it would also be good on its own or with a light icing.

We used a very small blood orange but have adjusted it here to use a regular one and increase the amount of orange flavor in the cake itself. We strongly recommend doing the almonds and poppy seeds by weight, so convert those to cups at your own risk.

Ingredients

¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 orange
5 eggs
1 tart apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 oz (200g) almond flour/meal or an equal weight blanched almonds, processed until fine
7 oz (200g) poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced oranges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Add sugar to a large bowl and zest the orange over top of the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar to help release the orange flavor.

Once you’ve zested it, cut your orange in half and juice one half into a small bowl. Toss the grated apple with the juice and set it all aside.

Separate your eggs. The whites should go into a clean large bowl, while the yolks can go on top of the orange sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the whites until they reach soft peaks. Without bothering to wash the beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the almond flour and poppy seeds to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix until well-combined. Mix in the grated apple (along with any juices in the bottom of the bowl), then the baking powder. Using a spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool fully before serving with whipped cream and sliced oranges.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

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Kitra: There was a time in my youth(ish) where I lived in a place deep, deep within the archives of Better Homes and Gardens. I made their Rosemary Lemon Cupcakes at least once a month, and everything else I tried came from there. Enter this cake. It was always… Almost right. A dense chocolate cake that tasted barely healthy, with a truly inadequate dollop of blueberry infused Cool Whip. It’s been on my list of things to fix up for a while, so I brought the idea to Jordan.

Jordan: And I had zero opinions on it, but also zero opinions on anything else. The world runs on apathy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So we made a cake! Apathy Cake! Or, Whole Wheat Chocolate Blueberry Cake.

Kitra suggested calling it “extra-gluten chocolate cake,” but I was pretty sure that’s not how whole wheat works.

Listen, it’s WHOLE wheat. Not just partial wheat. Extra wheat = extra gluten.

Fun fact: The internet tells me that whole wheat flour actually has less gluten. So.

Fun fact: Shut up. Bonus fact: Jordan calls blueberries “bluebs.” And also corrected my spelling of “bluebs.”

It’s the first part of the word “blueberries”! Of course it’s spelled that way! But also, blame my coworker for me saying “bluebs.” She started doing it and now I can’t stop. It’s so much fun to say. Bluebs. Bluebs. Say it with me.

I’m good.

Bluebs. Bluuuuuuebs.

The original cake is one layer, and generally close to something you’d want to eat while not quite making it. (Can I be mean to this cake?) The first change I wanted to make was modifying it to become a layer cake, which meant making the batch slightly larger. The second thing that I wanted to change was the blueberry layer. In the original recipe, there is hardly any blueberry. In fact, Jordan didn’t even realize it existed in the original recipe until it was pointed out while writing this. This is, however, the best part of the cake, so in this revision I wanted us to focus in on the blueberries labor.

Ah yes, the blueberries’ labor. [Note: Kitra is voice-typing.]

They do do most of the heavy lifting, and we thank them for their service.

Anyway, focusing in on the blueberry flavor. Swapping out the Cool Whip-blueberry concoction for  a blueberry whipped cream, we were able to get more into the cake. After making that whipped cream, we decided it wasn’t enough and ran to the store to get blueberry jam. Which is a stand-in for the moisture that the original recipe gets from a “ganache” and adds more fruit notes to the cake.

Side note: This cake was SO EASY. It took 10 minutes and 2 dishes to make the batter, and it is deeply pretty. Plus, it’s got whole wheat so I think you’re good to eat it for every meal today.

Oh good, because that was my plan. The cake itself is fudgy and delicious, and I say that as someone who doesn’t really like chocolate cake. The whipped cream tastes like a milkshake and we ate the leftovers straight from the food processor bowl with our forks while writing this.

Any last words on this cake?

Bluebs.

🤦

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens and Serious Eats. See Instagram for some behind-the-scenes shots.

Cake

1 ½ cup (180g) whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup (300g) sugar
9 tablespoons (45g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder, lightly heaped
¾ teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup blueberries
1 whole egg plus 1 white

Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
25g freeze-dried blueberries

Assembly

Extra freeze-dried blueberries (optional)
1/3 cup blueberry jam
Blueberries to top

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg and white. Cover and blend until smooth.

Add to flour mixture. Whisk until well combined.

Divide the batter into two greased 8 inch round pans, and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting

In a food processor, blend the dried berries and sugar until powdery. Add the cream, and blend until stiff.

Assembly

Spread a thin layer of jam over each cake layer. Place the first layer, and add about half of your whipped cream. (Note: If you have leftover dried blueberries, feel free to do what we did and sprinkle some crushed berries over the whipped cream between layers.) Add the second layer and top with the remaining whipped cream. The cream will squish out a bit between the layers, so you can run an offset spatula around the cake to create the semi-frosted sides you see on our cake. We topped ours with some remaining dried blueberries (crushed) and a pile of fresh blueberries.

This cake keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Flag Cake

flag cake
Jordan: This week’s cake involved a lot of indecision. I wanted something fresh and fruity; Kitra… did not.

Kitra: It had been a long hard week and I want to eat my feelings, which is why I was thinking s’mores.

Which is fair. But I made the point that we could make s’mores cake any time, and opportunities for holiday-themed cakes only come around every so often.

Hey, flag cake was my suggestion. Nothing says USA like a sheet cake the size of a toddler.

I wanted red-white-and-blue cheesecake, which we could also make any time. I guess I just didn’t want s’mores cake. It’s 90 degrees outside and I want fruit, so sue me.

I think we missed an opportunity to toast marshmallows on my porch using nothing but the sun. Sky demon.

The sky demon will be here until October.

Fair point. So we made America a birthday cake. Even though she’s had a rough week month year always. Even bad people deserve birthday cakes.

Do they really?

No. But we deserve their cakes.

We made you a birthday cake, but you don’t get to eat it, you bitch.

#USAUSAUSA

Anyway, Kitra had made this cake before, and her recommendation held up. This is a good fluffy vanilla cake, nothing fancy. Cream cheese frosting. Fruit. All of the best things in life.

Any tips for making this?

The very tiny containers of berries you find at the farmer’s market are half-pints, not full pints. You can make it work, but you really need at least a pint and a half (3 cups) of raspberries for low-stress flag-making. Learn from my mistakes.

The original recipe recommends a tiny tea strainer to coat your berries in powdered sugar (insert Boston Tea Party joke here). Any tea strainer will do in a pinch. Ours was shaped like a duck.

Improvising: the American way.

Flag Cake

Flag Cake

Adapted, very slightly, from Smitten Kitchen. See Instagram for some behind-the-scenes shots.

Tips for making this:

  1. You can add more powdered sugar to the frosting if you like it sweeter; we prefer it less sweet, plus we only had two cups of powdered sugar left. The cake is fairly sweet, though, so a tangier frosting is good here.
  2. We used white raspberries for the stripes, but you can also use regular raspberries and coat them in powdered sugar, as we did for the blueberry stars. Alternately, if you have white raspberries, you can use them for the stars too and skip the powdered sugar altogether. If you use powdered sugar, dry your berries very thoroughly to ensure good color.
  3. If you don’t have cake flour, the original recipe suggests 2/3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup (45 grams) cornstarch.

Ingredients

Cake
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
4 cups (465 grams) cake flour (see note)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (6 grams) table salt
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml)

Frosting
8-ounce (225 gram) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar

Decoration
Powdered sugar (see note)
1 cup blueberries
2-3 cups raspberries

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9×13″ pan with parchment paper (or, if your pan is gross and rusty, line the entire thing) and coat lightly with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes), then add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift half over the butter-sugar-egg mixture. We combined these directly in a sifter, but unless you have a particularly large sifter, we recommend combining them in a bowl and then transferring them to a sifter or wire mesh sieve. Mix until just combined. Slowly add buttermilk and mix until combined, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake 40-50 minutes. When done, the cake should be golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out free of batter. Remove from oven and cool completely before decorating.

Frosting

While the cake is cooling, make your frosting. Using an electric beater, beat the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy and smooth, then mix in the vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. As noted above, you can add more powdered sugar if your frosting is especially thin or you like a very sweet frosting.

Decorations

If you like, use a serrated knife to level the top of your cake a bit. This is really up to you; we leveled ours slightly, but the frosting will hide any unevenness unless your cake is very well-domed.

Once the cake is cool, spread frosting over the top and smooth it out. No need to be finicky here, as the berries will hide most imperfections.

Outline the blue square with blueberries; the edges should fall about halfway down the short side of the cake, and about a third of the way along the long side. Scatter a handful of blueberries in the center; these will be your stars. Using a tea strainer or small mesh strainer/sifter, dust the center blueberries with powdered sugar. Fill in the rest of the square with plain blueberries.

An accurate flag cake would have 13 stripes, but as long as you start and end with a red stripe, no one will care. (That means you’ll have one more red stripe than you do white stripes.) If you’re going to powder your raspberries, lay down the white stripes first, coat them in powdered sugar, and then fill in the unpowdered berries. (Smitten Kitchen recommends just eyeballing the space you’ll need to leave for the red stripes, but we found that a few lightly placed raspberries were easy to remove without damaging the cake if needed.) If you’re using white raspberries, it’s easiest to start with the red stripes at the top and bottom and then go from there. If you bought enough berries to start with, you can go at it freestyle; we had a shortage so carefully spaced the berries out, but this is not the recommended route. Again: learn from our mistakes.