There is in Poland a long tradition of poppy seeds cakes for Christmas. Choices are many: strudels, cookies, croissants, tarts, and elegant cakes layered with cream.
Poppy seeds desserts have been so popular in Poland that nowadays you do not need to go through the messy and labor intensive process of soaking and grinding poppy seeds several times, but you can get a very good ready-to-use poppy seeds paste in most food stores. I usually bring a couple of cans of it from Poland for my Christmas cake.
My favorite poppy seeds desserts is the layered cake with light coffee cream. Somehow the combination of poppy seeds and coffee is very unique and sophisticated. But not everyone has access to the really good quality poppy seeds paste. Fir instance, the one that you can buy in the US in small cans next to almond paste is not good enough, so I decided to post a simple poppy seeds cake that we make from whole seeds.
Whole poppy seeds are sold in Eastern European or Middle Eastern food stores--especially Jewish--and sometimes in Indian stores, and in some regular food stores where it they are sold as a spice. Even for this simple yet delicious cake it is important to get a good quality, preferably blue, poppy seeds. When you buy them, please make sure they are fresh. Unfortunately, sometimes they may have a kind of musty taste, which can ruin the whole cake.
Poppy Seeds Cake
Ingredients for the cake:
2 cups flour,
2 stick butter,
1 and 1/2 cup sugar,
1 tsp baking powder,
1 cup milk,
1 cup poppy seeds,
Ingredients for ganache:
1 cup milk chocolate chips,
3 tbsp half and half cream or table cream.
1. Put milk in a medium pot together with butter cut into cubes. Bring to boil. Turn off the heat and cool down the mixture to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Separate eggs. Put the yolks in a bowl of the stand-up mixer. Add sugar and beat together until eggs are almost white. Working at a slow speed pour in milk with butter, then flour with baking powder and, at the end, poppy seeds. Let it mix well.
4. Beat whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Using a spatula fold them in the poppy seeds batter. Mix well.
5. Spread a tsp of butter over the nine inch baking tin with high walls. Sprinkle with a little bit of flour (Wondra is the best for this purpose) until all the surface is covered. Pour in batter and put in the oven.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 370 for another 15-20 minutes, until the top of the cake is gold. Cool down the cake completely.
7. In a small pot melt chocolate with the half and half cream, stirring all the time until it is melted and smooth. Cool down a little bit and spread on top of the cake. Let the chocolate set for about half an hour in the refrigerator and serve.