Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Coconut and Poppy Seed Cake

We all know how colorful and pretty the Poppy Flowers are! But few of us know about poppy seeds, the tiny nutty-tasting, bluegray seeds inside capsules of the flowers. They are generally used to flavor breads, cakes, rolls, and cookies in European and Middle Eastern cooking. In Turkey, they are often ground and used in desserts. In India, the seeds are ground and used to thicken sauces. The seeds are also used in noodle, fish, and vegetable dishes in Jewish, German, and Slavic cooking. I for one, had my first poppy seed exposure on a tasty coffee cake in a cafe, and I liked the crunch it provided in every bite. I have had it in bagels too, but I prefer the pairing with desserts:) They also lend a wonderful aroma to baked goodies. So I tried making this very simple yet rich-looking cake flavored with vanilla, shredded coconut and poppy seeds. I think the combination works very well, and this Coconut-Poppy Seed Cake can serve to be a very light dessert cake, particularly to be savored with your tea or coffee.

Poppy seeds are derivatives of plants from which opium is extracted. Although the amount of opiates in poppy seeds is not enough to produce a narcotic effect in cooking or consumption, some people say that one could test positive for narcotics after consuming 4 poppy seed bagels!! So don't get too carried away by how much seeds you use for your cake! We don't want you to get drugged:) just a few teaspoons that add the crunch factor and aroma shuld be enough:)

1/2-3/4 cup poppy seeds (If you haven't tasted them before, start with less)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cups sugar (add more to your taste after batter is ready)
4 eggs - whites and yolks separated
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 tspn vanilla
1 tspn baking soda
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn salt

In a small sauce pan cook poppy seeds with honey and 1/4 cup water for 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool. Some people add the poppy seeds dry, but I think soaking this way helps extract their flavor.

Cream the butter/margarine and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cooled poppy seed mixture to this, and beat in the egg yolks(not the whites)one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, blend in sour cream and vanilla.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the poppy seed mixture to the dry mixture, beating well. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased and floured 9-inch cake pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes.

Once it's completely cooled, you can slice into wedges and serve with tea or coffee, or as a light dessert with low-fat whip cream. You can also wrap the cake in double-layered plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for upto a month. Make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

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