Most of us have tried and enjoyed lemon poppy seed cake. But, turn up the volume on the poppy seed and omit the lemon and you have a dessert in the Czech style. Across Eastern Europe poppy seed cakes and pastries are not uncommon. But, unlike in the U.S. where poppy seed is added as just one of several flavors, European poppy seed desserts go whole hog on the tasty black seeds. In Germany, Poland, and what is now the Czech Republic poppy seed treats like cakes and rolls are common.
The dense ratio of poppy seed to the other ingredients means that you get a more intense poppy seed flavor in each bite. This recipe calls for grinding the poppy seeds first, which means that the texture is just a little bit different to a cake that has whole poppy seeds added to the batter.
This moist cake has a lovely, rich texture thanks to the generous amount of butter in the cake. However, the whipped egg whites add a lightness to the batter that comes through in the final product. This isn’t an everyday treat, but boy does it make any day you serve it special!
To begin making this recipe you’ll need 6 ounces of poppy seeds. You can buy 2 of the 3-ounce jars, or buy in bulk online. If you buy the small 1-ounce jars the cost will add up so choose the largest size container possible.
For this recipe you will need to grind the poppy seeds into a paste. You can do this easily by using a coffee grinder or you can use an old fashioned mortar and pestle. The consistency you’re looking for is like wet sand.
Next you’ll combine butter, sugar, and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and stir. Then add in the poppyseed paste. To that slowly sift in the flour and baking soda, stirring as you go. To this add in the milk as well.
Beat the egg whites until peaks begin to form and gently fold the egg whites into the batter until it is uniform in color. Be careful not to stir or over-mix at this stage as the air in the egg whites is needed to give the cake its delicate texture.
You’ll want to grease and flour a bundt pan for this cake since there is no frosting to disguise a cake that stuck (we’ve all been there). This cake bakes for 45-50 minutes at 375˚F and once it’s done all it needs is a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Serve this unique cake with a bit of fruit and some tea or even a dollop of whipped cream for a taste of European that will sweep you off your feet.
Czech Poppy Seed Cake
Makes 10-12 slices of cake
20m prep time
50m cook time
- 6 oz poppy seeds
- 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease the pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust the pan
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease a 7.5” bundt pan with butter and flour the inside. Set aside.
- Grind poppy seeds using a coffee or spice grinder until the consistency of wet sand. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, and egg yolks. Stir in poppy seeds.
- Sift flour and baking soda into batter, slowly mixing it in as you go. Add the milk and stir.
- Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until uniform in color. Do not stir or over-blend.
- Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. Serve with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Recipe adapted from Very Good Cook.