Poppy Seed Torte
Poppy seed cakes are ubiquitous in Poland, and are a traditional part of both Polish and Jewish (and indeed Central European) cooking. The most famous Jewish Polish poppy seed cake is probably the traditional hamantashen, the triangular pastry that is eaten at Purim. Recipes for this treat often come out hard and dry—but this poppy seed torte is perfectly straightforward, moist and delicious.
This recipe calls for soaking the poppy seeds in advance. While it is tempting to skip this stage—and possibly hard to find a strainer fine enough for them—it’s worth doing if you can because it makes the seeds softer, so they provide less of a contrast with the cake. (The easiest way to strain the poppy seeds is to use a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth.) We’ve also noted that in Poland, poppy seeds are ground in a food processor or with a meat grinder before they are used. But poppy seeds are sometimes sold pre-ground now, and they would be worth seeking out.
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- 6 large eggs, separated, plus 6 additional egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
- ½ teaspoon blanched and peeled almonds, finely ground in a food processor
- ¼ teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, even if it’s nonstick, and grease the sides.
- Place the poppy seeds in a heatproof, medium-sized mixing bowl, and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes, and drain in a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth until dry. (If your poppy seeds aren’t pre-ground, place them in a food processor or spice grinder and whizz until they are smooth, but not powdery.)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are very stiff, and set aside.
- In the top of a double boiler, with water simmering in the bottom over low heat, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the poppy seeds, spices and orange zest, and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and fold in the egg whites and almonds.
- Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and set on a rack. Remove the cake from the pan and sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on top before serving.
- Recipe reprinted with permission from From a Polish Country House Kitchen (Chronicle Books LLC, 2012) by Danielle Crittenden Frum and Anne Applebaum. Photo by Bogdan Bialy.