I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this cake, to be honest. On one hand, my indifference towards Bundt cakes has been slowly, but surely, tipping towards enthusiasm; on the other, I am definitely not a fan of poppy seed filling. Everything else sounded great: orange zest in the cake and glaze, cream cheese in the batter, and the two magic words, “brown butter”– you can’t go wrong with the latter. (Seriously, it’s not humanly possible to resist/dislike/not care about the intoxicating aroma of browning butter. I’m fairly certain that this could be proven scientifically.) However, I was still stuck on that whole poppy seed thing. I love them sprinkled on top of challah and bagels, but poppy seed *filling* is only known to me via the traditional Jewish cookies called hamantashen for the Spring holiday of Purim. The triangular cookies consist of a simple dough enveloping a pocket of filling, which may be of a fruit- or chocolate-oriented nature, though one of the most popular choices is a thick poppy seed filling. It neither tastes good, nor looks at all appetizing to me. When I saw this recipe for Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze (from the Cheese chapter of Baked Elements) on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule, I pondered how I might mitigate my disinclination towards the chunky black paste…
I settled on a two-pronged approach, part of which was already done for me, upon further examination of the recipe: 1) The filling includes graham cracker crumbs mixed in with the poppy seeds, milk, sugar, and butter. I adore the taste of graham, and it was a surprisingly genius combination with the poppy flavor, also acting as a tempering agent. 2) Instead of a single, intense layer of poppy filling in the middle of the cake, I divided the filling into two layers, thus diffusing the poppy flavor a bit.
The poppy filling is very easy to make: Heat the milk and sugar until boiling, whisk in the butter, and add the whopping ½ cup poppy seeds. When the mixture cools, add the graham cracker crumbs and stir together until evenly mixed. It will be a sludgy consistency.
The cake is made by creaming the butter and cream cheese with white and dark brown sugars, then adding in eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest, followed by the dry ingredients. The batter came together very easily to form a thick, fluffy batter, which you will spoon into the Bundt pan.
As I mentioned, I made two layers of poppy filling, which were sandwiched between three alternating layers of batter.
The recipe calls for a baking time of approximate one hour. Mine came out in 53 minutes, and I probably should have pulled it at 50, as the exterior was a little more done than I would have liked, but it was still fine– no burning or anything like that. (I probably also should have lowered the oven rack one notch to lower-middle.)
Now, the business of this brown butter. I think most of the time when one makes a typical Bundt cake glaze, it involves confectioners’ sugar and butter; however, I learned that taking the time to brown the butter elevates the glaze to new heights. It is such a lovely complement to the orange zest and poppy seeds, and it harmonizes beautifully with the cake.
I was so excited to slice into this cake to see the poppy swirls! Despite the slight overdoneness of the outside, the interior had a wonderful soft texture and fluffy crumb. The two layers of filling were more or less evenly proportioned and I loved the look of it. It did in fact help to break up the intense poppy flavor, so I was pleased with this small modification.
The flavor of the cake was just lovely– bright with citrus, buttery, and nutty. And that glaze– mmmmm! The brown butter was so beautifully pronounced, and the crunch of the poppy seeds added a pleasing textural contrast. All tasters enjoyed this cake, including this poppy skepticist! The sleeper flavor for me was the graham cracker crumbs– I would probably bump those up a bit next time by either working some into the cake batter or sprinkling a graham crumble on top.
I’m surprised that this cake is called a “pound” cake, actually– my understanding is that a traditional pound cake has a 1:1:1:1 ratio of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs. I would personally name this cake Orange Poppy Swirl Bundt Cake, but don’t let such semantics deter you; it is bright, buttery, fluffy, textured, and delicious! Find the recipe for Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how my baking homies liked it too.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.