It's late on Sunday afternoon, and I am short of both inspiration and baking supplies - only two eggs, no citrus fruit or vanilla extract. All I know is that I want to make something 'different', without nuts, as nuts seem to have dominated my baking recently. Rumaging through my storage box of nuts and dried fruit I find a packet of poppy seeds, bought for sprinkling on bread dough before baking. It's years since I made a poppy seed cake, but the only recipe I have adds citrus flavours too. Can I find a recipe using flavours that my fussy son will eat, but only using two eggs?
It doesn't take long to find this recipe for a plain poppy seed cake. But now I'm worried that it will be too plain and that the flavour will be bland. A bit more searching leads me to this recipe which adds veins of sugar, flavoured with cocoa and cinnamon; perhaps I can combine the two.
So, I make a mixture of 75g demerara sugar, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a tablespoon of cocoa. I follow the recipe with no problems and put 1/3 of the batter into the loaf tin, which I've lined with baking parchment - this turns out to be important! Then I cover the surface with a generous sprinkle of the sugar mixture, and add another 1/3 of the batter.
It's now that I realise that a 1lb loaf tin is not going to be big enough! Fortunately my 2lb loaf tin is similar in its base dimensions to my smaller tin - just a centimetre or so longer and wider - with most of the difference in size being in the height. So I grasp the baking parchment liner by diagonally opposite corners, pick it up carefully and place it into the larger tin. I'll just have to hope the batter spreads neatly of its own accord, as I don't want to mess up the layers by spreading it myself.
Continuing with the layers, I add another sprinkle of sugar, then the last portion of the batter. There's still a lot of sugar mix left, so I also add a layer on top of the cake mix.
The finished cake looks more impressive than I'd expected, although the sugar mix on top of the cake makes it messy to handle - either leaving it plain or adding a chocolate glaze after baking would have been better, I think. Moving the cake mix doesn't seem to have messed up the layers too much.
There are a few small patches through the cake where the thickness of the layer of sugar has prevented the cake mix on either side of it bonding together. I think this could be rectified by using a more traditional streusel mixture of flour, sugar and butter with cocoa and cinnamon flavouring, so that it behaves more like a cake mixture during baking.
The cocoa and cinnamon add an extra dimension to the nuttiness of the poppy seeds, but I think it will be worth trying a plainer poppy seed cake, now that I've tasted it - perhaps with just a little vanilla extract added.