Last week, my cousin from Indonesia graced in to town. Talk about strange! I am completely foreign to any kind of family. I am a lone product, without any siblings or close relatives here in the states. Most of my extended family live in Indonesia, and the last time I saw them I was only 11. Despite raising her siblings when her mom died at a young age, my mom has never stayed too close to her family, which I find slightly strange but whatever. So you can expect our surprise when we found out that my cousin Erika was a part of a foreign exchange program and would be stopping by our home on her way back to Indonesia.
I gotta hand it to the girl, she is such a trooper. Not only did she have to live in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language, but she had to finish out her last year of high school among strangers. NUTS!
In her honor, I decided to whip up a tasty treat upon her arrival. Since baking is my forte, I figured what better way to show her the ropes in my home then to offer her a breakfast treat the morning after her long 10 hour plane ride. Flipping through my new library pick, Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Cakes,
I spotted this Orange Poppy Seed Cake and got to working.
What drew me in to this cake? First of all, it looks utterly simple and yet deceivingly luscious. It’s the kind of cake that lacks pretenses and attitude. It just sits and waits to be eaten, working well as a breakfast cake. Also, the poppy seeds kind of make me happy. What can I say, I’m easily entertained.
After a few minutes of beating, and an hour of baking, the cake emerged. It smelled heavenly, almost too good. I could’ve easily sliced off a few chunks for myself without her knowing but that’s not how I roll. I waited patiently until the morning, and presented my hostess with my humble housewarming gift.
Soft and slightly sweet, the cake was a hit. The poppy seeds gave a nice crunch with each bite, which I liked because the cake would’ve been slightly bland with out. Dripping the orange juice at the very last minute is key because if you soak it too early, the cake will become too soft, almost mushy.
I won’t lie, I have a hard time acting as hostess, especially when I have never met the relative. I mean, trying to figure out activities and planning days ahead of time can be tiring.
If I had it my way, I’d be in charge of the kitchen, catering to my guests needs while someone else takes them out and about… But if you find yourself in a pickle like me, when you need a little rejuvenation, just pull up a chair and slice off a big ole hunk of cake. Things will seem much easier, I promise… Now back to my foreign import!
Orange Poppy Seed Cake
from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Cakes
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1/2 pound or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
One 8-ounce container of sour cream (I used 8 ounces of buttermilk)
1/2 cup poppy seeds
9-inch springform pan (I used a 9 by 5 loaf and a mini loaf pan)
2 tablespoons orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice
¾ cup granulated sugar
Grease a 9″ springform pan. Line the bottom with greased wax paper cut to size. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine and mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture is very light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. One at a time, add the eggs, making sure to beat the batter until it is smooth after each addition.
Decrease mixer speed to low and add half the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides with a spatula. Beat in the sour cream followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Fold in the poppy seeds to give the batter a final mix.
Scrape the batter into prepared pan and bake for about an hour or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
To prepare the syrup, combine orange juice, zest and 3/4 c sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Strain the zest (I didn’t) and pour into a measuring cup.
After the cake is baked, place it on a jelly-roll pan. Poke about 20 holes into the cake with a skewer. Gradually pour or spoon the syrup over the top of the cake until it is absorbed. Collect the leaking syrup (if any) and spoon back over the cake. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool it. Remove the sides of the springform pan, transfer the cake to a serving plate and remove the wax paper underneath