A poppy seed cake celebration

This is a good, old-fashioned recipe that makes a great-tasting cake.

A sweet treat: This poppy seed cake recipe is a good, old-fashioned recipe that makes a great-tasting cake.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

A few months ago, we celebrated a happy birthday at my house for a “sixty-something.” For his celebration, I baked the cake — the one he had requested, a poppy seed cake.

The cake remained firm under the weight of the many candles, and it was unaffected by the searing heat when the candles were lit. After the candles were blown out, we all enjoyed a slice of the sixty-something’s cake. This is a good, old-fashioned recipe that makes a great-tasting cake.

POPPY SEED CAKE

2 2/3 cups flour

1¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter

1¾ cups sugar, divided

5 eggs, separated

1 cup buttermilk (1 Tbsp. vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup)

1/3 cup poppy seeds

1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and 1½ cups of sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in yolks one at a time.

Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk to batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Beat well after each addition until batter is smooth.

Beat in poppy seeds and lemon rind.

With clean beaters in a small bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.

Gradually beat in remaining ¼ cup sugar until whites form soft peaks.

Fold into batter until white disappears, and pour into pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.

Cool and top with powdered sugar or drizzle with a lemon icing.

Lemon icing: 1 cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. water.

This is also the season for baking Hamantasch. Its origin can be traced to a tradition even older than the above birthday cake. This pastry takes us back to Persia, when Queen Esther saved the Jews from the evil Haman. Purim, a joyous Jewish holiday, commemorates the event.

This tri-cornered pastry is said to resemble Haman’s hat or pocket or ear. It can be filled with poppy seeds (see recipe below), prunes, jams (apricot or raspberry), nutella or even small peanut butter cups. It has been said that Queen Esther was also very fond of poppy seeds.

HAMANTASCH

2½ cups flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

1½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2/3 cup butter

1 egg

1/3 cup orange juice

1 egg white, beaten

¼ cup sugar mixed with ½ tsp. cinnamon

Poppy Seed Filling

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With pastry blender, or 2 knives (or hands), cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in egg and orange juice and mix just to combine.

Gather dough in a ball. Wrap and chill.

When ready to bake, divide dough in half.

On lightly floured surface, roll out each half to 1/16-inch thickness (about 14-inch circle).

Use a 4-inch cookie cutter or inverted custard cup to cut out 12 circles.

Place 1 teaspoon of filling on center of each circle.

Lift edges of the dough around filling, leaving center open for a three-cornered pastry, pinching three corners gently but firmly all along the edges or seams.

In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg white. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Dip the edges/seams of the pastry into the egg white and then into the sugar mixture.

Place pastries about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

Poppy Seed Filling

½ cup poppy seeds

½ cup sugar

Grated rind of 1 lemon

¼ cup raisins, finely chopped

½ cup milk

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until filling reduces (about 10 minutes).

Eat well live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

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