Friday, August 3, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf Cake

On a particular baking frenzy during my university days, I was also indulging in my inner fat girl. As I whisked the batter for banana bread and dumped a heaping cup of white, flaky coconut into the pale yellow goop, I couldn’t help but scoop a finger into the thick mixture and bring the cloyingly sweet lump to my lips. It was shamelessly delicious. I did it again, this time with a little more greed, catching twice as much batter. I looked around, like a cat on the prowl and licked the spatula (I'd like to take this moment and thank my five roommates for not showing up at this time, one look at me diving into the goopy mixture was sure to make them regret sharing a roof with this crazy-cake-batter-over-eater).

I’m unsure if the banana bread even baked to a full loaf. I like to believe it did, but I don’t remember, either that, or the excess sugar inhibited my neurons from storing any memory. The glutton in me conquered that day and I haven’t been able to face any banana bread & coconut combination the same way, it makes my stomach churn just thinking about it.

Since then, I have honed my self-control skills and refrain from unleashing my greedy fat lady. Like a civilized baker, I only allow myself to taste test the batter once (maybe twice if there’s chocolate involved). If this lemon poppy seed loaf cake could talk, it would testify that I was very good and stopped myself from licking the whisk clean.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know I’m a sucker for citrusy desserts. There was a surplus of lemons hanging out in the fridge, leftovers from last week’s tart and it’s just common knowledge that lemons make yummy treats. Lemon poppy seed is one of my favourite combinations, the freshness of zesty lemon plus the nibbly crunch of poppy seeds gets me excited (but not as excited as cake batter).

This ain’t no ordinary cake, it’s a loaf cake, hinging somewhere between a sweet sturdy bread and a delicate cake. Like goldilocks’ third porridge, it has just the right amount of sweetness. The texture is soft and springy with a tight crumb, making it easy to slice and serve if you are kind enough to share. It’s fine the way it is, I wouldn’t change a thing except perhaps sprinkle coarse sugar over the top before baking, because any cake can do with some edible jewelry. I don’t think I need to persuade you anymore, just the words loaf cake are sure to deliver a tasty promise.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf Cake
Adapted from Baking with Julia

Buy poppy seeds from a place that has a high turnover, they can go rancid easily so remember to keep them in the freezer when you're done using them. Also, there are four eggs to leaven and moisten the cake yet only a minimal amount of butter, making this cake prone to drying out, so I’d advise you to keep it in a tightly sealed container (or keep tightly in plastic wrap) if you still plan to save some the following day. 

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 3 large lemons
1 tablespoon poppy seeds.
1¾ cups cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
5½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Centre a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt for just a minute, until foamy and blended smooth. Do not let the mixture thicken. Whisk in the lemon zest and poppy seeds.

Spoon the flour and baking powder into a sifter and sift a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture. Whisk the flour into the eggs, mixing lightly, there’s no need to beat. Sift the flour over the eggs in two more additions and whisk only until everything is just incorporated. Whisk the heavy cream into the mixture. Switch to a spatula and gently and quickly fold in the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the centre of the cake crowns and cracks and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake to a cooling rack to rest for 10 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature right side up on rack.

Once cooled, the cake should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. It will keep at room temperature for 3 or 4 days or, if double-wrapped, can be frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped at room temperature.

Recipe here!

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