Canned Cakes - Baked with Love
February 21st, 2007

Don’t you hate it when someone tells you, wearing your brightest smile, that you have poppy seeds between your teeth? And all you can think of is how many hours ago did I have my piece of cake? Here is a superfluous advice: check you smile in the mirror after you quit eating poppy seed cake! Regardless, what makes any potential hassle worthwhile is this cake. If you love poppy seed as much as I do, you’ll love it.

poppy seed cake

German readers may remember the advertising song “Hätt’ ich Dich heut’ erwartet, hätt’ ich Kuchen gemacht”, equivalent to the English original “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked A Cake” sung by Ernie from Sesame Street. Long ago, the German song was abused to advertise small cakes which had been sold in sealed little glasses or are they still available? Taste-wise these cakes couldn’t knock you off your feet, but the concept of baking cakes in glasses to preserve them became quite popular. I mean really popular. The idea was picked up by trendy bread baked in clay pots and cakes on sticks. But trends pass by and so I almost forgot about them until I was looking for a neat little foodie gift. I not only rediscovered a great concept – 12 glasses of cake over the last two weeks certainly speak for itself – but what I found myself is the best poppy seed cake recipe I have baked so far.

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Typical poppy seed cake recipes require a pie crust and a filling, which not necessarily makes them an ideal choice for an effortless, in-between work days cure to remedy severe cake craving. This recipe however is different in that the batter is whipped up in less than five minutes and chances are it will be eaten about as fast when served at a coffee table. The only important aspect may be the poppy seed itself. It is essential for this recipe that it is freshly ground, not whole, which is quite a task to track down, even here in Munich (the nut stall at Viktualienmarkt sells it). Online sources recommend grinding it with your coffee grinder, but I haven’t done that yet and therefore can’t give a thumbs up.

not yet poppy seed cake

With its fluffy texture, juicy and nutty in taste, I got so excited about it, this cake was the perfect candidate to get canned! I used regular jam glasses (400ml) with a shape that is not tapered toward the top. That’s important, because you want to release the cake someday in the future as opposed to eating it it with a spoon from the glass, right? Further, due preparation (greasing & flouring) is key, otherwise…yep, make sure you have that spoon handy… I haven’t run into any troubles unmolding my cakes so far, not even after a few weeks (rarely did they last longer than four weeks, they never had a real chance to begin with). To loosen the cake from the glass container, roll it back and forth and softly pat them from every side, just before performing the final flip.

Concerning food safety: Just like canning jam is said to possibly come with health damaging pitfalls, so could the process of canning cakes or breads. There seems to be a huge difference in concerns depending on different countries, while I haven’t come across any news in German cookbooks or forums (where this baking style is really popular) you can find further information here.

poppy seed cake

A quick word on the baking time: I use a separate baking thermometer to control the temperature, but there are other ways to stay on top of the baking process. As an alternative, and really the best way to ensure a properly baked cake is to test it with a wooden skewer – poke it in the cake towards the end of the baking time and it should come out almost clean. Every oven behaves a bit different, so when I try new recipes from my mom, I rarely follow her exact baking times, simply because I know for a fact that her old oven’s real temperature differs quite a bit from what she sets it to.

poppy seed cake

Steps for one large cake:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). For best results, all ingredients should have room temperature.

Prepare the baking dish in advance: Brush it generously with soft butter and dust it with flour thoroughly until every little spot is covered – this ensures easy unmolding afterwards. Give the dish up-side-down a pat on the back to get rid of any excess flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the eggs, butter and sugar until smooth, then add the ground poppy seed and crème fraîche (& optionally: the zest of an untreated lime), whisk again. In a separate bowl, mix the sifted flour with the baking powder, then add it to the batter and stir until everything is well blended.

Now pour batter into the greased & floured baking dish and bake just below the middle rack in your preheated oven, for roughly 45-50 minutes. Check if the cake is done by poking in a wooden skewer – it should come out almost clean. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully unmold it onto a plate. Let cool completely before dusting it generously with confectioners’ sugar.

poppy seed cake

Steps for four small cakes in glasses (400ml):

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). For best results, all ingredients should have room temperature.

Prepare the glasses in advance: Brush them generously with soft butter and dust them with flour thoroughly until every little spot is covered – this ensures easy unmolding afterwards. Give them up-side-down a pat on the back to get rid of any excess flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the eggs, butter and sugar until smooth, then add the ground poppyseed and crème fraîche (optionally: the zest of an untreated lime), whisk again. In a separate bowl, mix the sifted flour with the baking powder, then add it to the batter and stir until everything is well blended.

Now carefully fill the batter into the greased & floured glasses 2/3 – 3/4 full (a piping bag or teaspoon works great), clean the rims and bake just below the middle rack in your preheated oven, for roughly 30-40 minutes. Check if the cakes are done by poking in a wooden skewer – it should come out almost clean. Remove the cakes from the oven, let them “steam off” only very shortly (2-3 minutes) and then screw on the lids - protect your hands with a towel, the glasses will be still hot! If the cakes have risen a bit beyond the top, you may push them down gently or – if they grew to much – alternatively slice off the top and enjoy it right away…

Note: While the cakes cool down a vacuum will develop – how can you tell? The lids won’t make a clicking-sound anymore when pressed down. In a dark place the cakes can now be kept for a couple of months without losing their freshness and taste.
To be on the safe side you could sterilize the lids in boiling water (before closing the glasses), the heat will expand the gumming and therefore ensure a proper vacuum.

poppy seed cake

Poppyseed cake

Recipe source: Own creation

Required time: preparation 10 min., baking time: 45-50 min. (for one large cake) / 30-40 min. (canned in 400ml glasses)

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Ingredients (yields one large cake or four 400ml glasses)

250g soft butter (plus extra for greasing the baking forms/glasses)

200g white sugar

5 eggs (size medium to large)

100g freshly ground/crushed poppy seed

75g crème fraîche

optional addition: cest of an untreated lime

200g plain flour (plus extra for greasing the baking forms/glasses)

2 tsp baking powder

for decoration: dust with confectioners' sugar

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