Baked Sunday Mornings: Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

When I think of poppy seeds, I usually think of one of two things: either the combination of poppy seed and lemon in baked goods, or the mess that's leftover at the bottom of a brown paper bag after you buy everything bagels. I don't use poppy seeds often, and I probably would not have tried this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe -- Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze -- if I wasn't committed to baking my way through the entire Baked Elements cookbook.

When I read through this recipe, I thought it was weird. First, it seemed somewhat misplaced in the "Cheese" chapter of the cookbook. There is a brick of cream cheese in the cake batter, but this is hardly a cheese-centric recipe. Second, the filling is made from butter, milk, sugar, ground poppy seeds and graham cracker crumbs -- it seemed like some sort of bizarre concoction from a fever dream. But the photo of the cake in the cookbook was gorgeous, so at least that put me more at ease.

The poppy seed filling requires a half cup of ground poppy seeds, so I used a spice grinder to turn the seeds into a powder. You heat milk and sugar to a boil, add in a pat of butter, and then stir in the ground seeds. The final step is to stir in graham cracker crumbs and let the filling cool completely.

To make the cake, you beat softened butter, softened cream cheese, sugar, and dark brown sugar until light and fluffy; incorporate eggs, followed by vanilla and orange zest; and add the sifted dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). You pour half of the batter into a buttered Bundt pan. Then you spoon over the poppy seed filling, followed by the remaining cake batter. After an hour in the oven, the cake was done.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the cooled cake released cleanly from the pan in one piece. To make the glaze, you toast some poppy seeds in a dry, hot pan, and add them to a mixture of browned butter, powdered sugar, milk, orange zest, and orange juice. I never strain browned butter, so I included all of the browned bits in the glaze. The recipe says that you are supposed to "drizzle" the glaze over the cake, but I had to thin my glaze with some extra milk before it was thin enough to spread easily (and even after adding extra milk, it was not thin enough to "drizzle"). The glaze didn't set completely hard, but it set sufficiently firm that it stayed neat and intact after I sliced the cake.

The various patterns made by the poppy seed filling looked very pretty in sliced cake. And my tasters loved it. The cake itself is a dense, moist pound cake with a terrific orange flavor. The poppy seed filling was a bit of an enigma. Several tasters told me that they couldn't tell it was made of poppy seeds; maybe the fact that the filling had a completely smooth texture without the characteristic poppy seed crunch made it more difficult to identify. To me, it didn't taste like poppy seeds, but it had a deeply nutty flavor that reminded me of black sesame. Regardless, the filling was tasty.

My absolute favorite part was the glaze. It was buttery and bright and the toasted poppy seeds were delightfully crunchy. Also, I've never toasted poppy seeds before using them, and the flavor from the toasted seeds was extra intense -- toasting the seeds is definitely worth the small amount of extra effort required. This simple but delicious cake turned out to be such an unexpected and lovely surprise.

Recipe: "Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Chelly said…
Your cake looks delicious! That graham cracker-poppy seed swirl intrigues me! Will have to try this one soon!
Fever dream. heehee. Your poppy seed filling looks wonderful.
Unknown said…
Look at your perfect wave of poppy seed filling! I love it! I didn't grind my poppy seeds for the filling, so they stayed crunchy, which I didn't mind. I totally agree that the brown butter glaze was fantastic!
Unknown said…
I thought it was weird that this cake is in the cheese chapter too! But oh well--it's a delicious cake and I agree with you that the glaze is the best part!