Happy New Year everyone! Here’s a sweet treat to send you into 2013, a virtual hug from me to you. This is a very easy, very delicious cake. My oven’s finally been repaired (hurrah!) and I wanted to test it with something fairly forgiving. It’s the perfect “I want cake right now!” or “Crap! I’ve got company coming and nothing to feed them!” cake, since it’s ready in 75 minutes or less.
This cake is a very modest riff on the classic lemon poppy seed cake. I’m a recent convert to olive oil cakes; they have the most wonderfully delicate, fluffy crumb, and you don’t have to bother with whipping butter until it’s fluffy or any other such nonsense. I’ve also added ground almonds and almond extract to the cake batter, which gives a hint of almond, enough to give the crust an amaretti-biscuit sweetness, without being cloying. The gooey crème fraiche glaze is optional – omit it and you’ve got a lovely tea cake that is entirely dairy-free. I quite like it, though. Bring on the sticky!
When I used to do trial-level public defense work, the most common excuse offered by my clients who were arrested on probation violations based on heroin metabolites in their urine was, “I ate a poppy seed bagel.” The best thing about this excuse is that it is LEGITIMATE. Apparently, even one poppy seed bagel can cause a false positive drug test result. So, I suppose, exercise caution when baking this cake if you are subject to regular urinalysis testing, as it contains two whole tablespoons of poppy seeds, or be prepared to offer whoever is testing you a piece of cake. (This is called neutralizing your adversary.) Happy New Year!
**Recipe measurements appear both in US cups and metric to accommodate readers from anywhere. If you’re confused about anything, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
For the cake
1.5 cups (200 grams) plain flour, sifted (all-purpose flour), plus a little extra for the cake pan
½ cup (40 grams) finely-ground almonds
1 and 2/3 cup (320 grams) caster sugar
4 medium eggs
2/3 cup (150 ml) olive oil (use something mild and fruity)
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze
4/5 cup (100 grams) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius). Grease a bundt cake or other ring mold with a little olive oil, dust with flour, and set aside.
Combine the flour, ground almonds, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together with the olive oil, sugar, lemon juice, poppy seeds, and extracts until thoroughly combined and sugar has dissolved. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into your prepared cake pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out dry. Loosen edges gently with a thin sharp knife and turn out onto a rack to cool.
While the cake is cooling, make your glaze by combining the icing sugar, lemon juice, and crème fraiche and whisking until creamy and smooth. Pour over the cake.
Makes 10-12 servings.