Taster as Baker: Exploits in Poppy Seed Cake Baking Plus Recipe

I was supposed to start off this week bragging about how I spent part of the weekend eating spaghetti bolognese in its hometown of Bologna. Big fail. I made it as far as the train station, bought my ticket, and then turned around and came home. The cold from hell was back with a vengeance yesterday. Antibiotics, round two, let’s just hope I don’t have another allergic reaction (I may have left that event off the blog last week). I am going to Naples on Friday, so being 100 percent is critical — there is way too much good food to eat and there are way too many gangsters to fend off to be under the weather. Regardless, there’s no way I can deal with an easyJet flight if I am sick — I might actually kill someone (if you’ve never taken this airline, it is quite a experience, and one to avoid if you can afford it).

Because I stayed home yesterday, I decided it was a good time to bake the poppy seed cake I’d promised my family. It may not be an Italian recipe, but I did cook it in Italy, so I figure that counts for the purposes of the blog. Plus, it is just so good and I seriously suggest you make it. The Italians loved it.

There were a few issues I came across when trying to make a U.S. recipe, with U.S. measurements and ingredients. I figured out how to solve them, so this may be useful for you in the future. First of all, brown sugar does not exist in Italy in the form that it does in the U.S. Here, it just looks like sugar in the raw, which won’t work for a recipe that calls for brown sugar. Solution — brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses. Mix one cup of white sugar with one-two tablespoons of molasses depending on how dark you want it, and you’re done. This made me wonder why Americans don’t simply blend brown sugar themselves and save a bit of money. Then I remembered (and was reminded by my mother) that Americans are obsessed with convenience to the point that they spend more time trying to find things that are convenient than they would spend if they just adapted what they already had.

Another issue is with measurements. Here, ingredients are measured in grams, whereas most recipes in the U.S. use cups. Solution — find a good size teacup and just use that. It works fine. I also had to do some math based on conversations for butter that I found on the Internet. Also, wherever you are, make sure you figure out the correct translation for baking powder; it can be a little difficult.

Ok, sorry for boring you. Now to the recipe.


1.5 cups of poppy seeds
1 cup plus an extra splash of milk (very precise)
2 cups plain flour, sifted
3 eggs, separated
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 sticks unsalted butter (225 grams)
2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Bundt cake pan or one or two loaf pans depending how big you want the cake and what fits


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius);

Grease (butter!) and lightly flour the pan(s);

Place the poppy seeds and milk in a pot, bring to a boil, then turn off the burner and cover until the milk is absorbed (note, all the milk may not be absorbed);

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar (both white and brown) until fluffy (I have no idea what fluffy means, so just guess if you don’t know);


Add vanilla, egg yolks, and poppy seeds (which have already been cooked with the milk) and mix;



Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt and stir into the batter until just incorporated (do not over mix);



Beat egg whites till stiff but not dry (again, I have no idea what this means, so I just guessed) and gently fold into the batter;


Pour batter into pan(s);

Bake 45-50 minutes (knife or toothpick should come out dry);


Cool and serve.




Do it.


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