This cake combines two of my favorite memories: Christmas morning and my wedding day. Poppy seed muffins (the non-lemon variety) were a staple on December 25th growing up, and almond was one of the three flavors of my wedding cake (more on that this spring). For me, this cake has a somewhat nostalgic quality that I instantly loved about it.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I ate several spoonfuls of the batter before spreading it into the pan. You know, for quality control purposes. I even toyed with the option of not baking the cake at all, but reasoned that since I had already come this far, I may as well see it through.
In the end, I'm glad I baked it after all. The cake is moist (though overcooking it slightly could dry it out, so be watchful of your ovens), and subtly perfumed with almond. This is a perfect ending to dinner, Sunday brunch, and would be excellent during afternoon tea.
ALMOND POPPY SEED CAKE
The recipe I generally followed is from Lottie + Doof, who adapted it from SmittenKitchen, who adapted it from Food & Wine.
Food & Wine's recipe called for adding the poppy seed's to boiling water for 1 hour to bring out the flavor. I did this, but the step was a little messier than I anticipated due to the excess water. I've included it in the recipe below, but next time I might omit this step and just grind them without soaking instead.
1/2 cup poppy seeds (about 1 container)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
Powdered sugar for dusting
Slivered almonds, for garnish (optional)
In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the poppy seeds and cover. Let stand for 1 hour. Drain excess water, then scrape the seeds into a spice grinder and pulse until lightly crushed.
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the poppy seeds, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a small icing spatula.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and scatter with slivered almonds, if using.