Lemony-Poppy Seed Cake + Great Celebratory Spring Recipes

Memorial Day picnics, graduation parties, weddings, showers and anniversaries. In the coming weeks you may be called upon to create a celebratory dish or two.

 The center hole creates the perfect little vase.

Drizzling lemon glaze over the finished cake. The center hole creates the perfect little vase.

Pound cakes are wonderful spring and summer desserts as the center hole of a bundt or fluted cake pan creates an ideal “vase” to insert fresh seasonal flowers or herbs.

This cake (which feeds a crowd of twenty or so) would be a fine conclusion to any of the following recipes below. If you want to go all out on dessert, I’d recommend making the last recipe in the slide show: Annamarie’s  Chocolate Poppyseed Cake. Obviously, I’m a fan of poppyseed cakes–I love the added dimension of little dots and crunch in yellow cake batter.

Greek Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons

Greek Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons

Pesto Pasta & Chicken Salad

Pesto Pasta & Chicken Salad

Chopped Chicken Taco Salad with Chipotle-Corn Dressing

Chopped Chicken Taco Salad with Chipotle-Corn Dressing

Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

Crock Pot Barbecue Sliders

Crock Pot Barbecue Sliders

Beefy Super Bowl Sliders with Pimento Cheese

Beefy Super Bowl Sliders with Pimento Cheese

No-Fuss Barbecue Ribs

No-Fuss Barbecue Ribs

Grilled Flank Steak Fajita Bar

Grilled Flank Steak Fajita Bar

Chocolate-Poppyseed Cake

Chocolate-Poppyseed Cake

Greek Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons thumbnailPesto Pasta & Chicken Salad thumbnailChopped Chicken Taco Salad with Chipotle-Corn Dressing thumbnailBow Tie Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing thumbnailCrock Pot Barbecue Sliders thumbnailBeefy Super Bowl Sliders with Pimento Cheese thumbnail
No-Fuss Barbecue Ribs thumbnailGrilled Flank Steak Fajita Bar thumbnailChocolate-Poppyseed Cake thumbnail

Greek Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons • Pesto Pasta & Chicken Salad • Chopped Chicken Taco Salad with Chipotle-Corn Dressing • Sun-Dried Tomato Bow Tie Pasta Salad • Crock-Pot Barbecue Sliders • Beefy Sliders with Pimento Cheese •  No-Fuss Barbecue Ribs • Grilled Flank Steak Fajita Bar  • Annamarie’s Chocolate Poppyseed Cake

Pound cakes are simple to make, but use the best ingredients your purse can afford.

Pound cakes are simple to make, but use the best ingredients your purse can afford.

Pound cakes are easy to make but don’t save dimes on the ingredients by purchasing generic brands–quality ingredients will carry your cake. Use the best butter, best flour,  best (full-fat) buttermilk and the best vanilla your purse can afford.

A good pound cake should be moist, flavorful and dense. Rich from the butter and eggs loaded into the batter, the crust should yield a slight crunch–my favorite bite of the cake. The heavy, non-stick bundt pan I used is a dark cocoa color which influenced the dark color of the crust. For a crust with a light golden shade, choose a pan with a lighter shade.

Lemony-Poppy Seed Pound Cake would be delicious served with a scoop of raspberry sorbet. Wrapped in saran, the cake will keep up two days at room temperature, up to to one week refrigerated, and up two months frozen, with an additional wrap of aluminum foil.

Recipe:Lemony-Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups unbleached cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons best-quality vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups whole milk buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon zest
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • Powdered sugar for dusting cake
  • Fresh seasonal flowers, mint leaves or berries, optional garnish
  • Lemon Drizzle (yield: ¾ cup)
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust rack to middle of oven.
  2. In a large bowl fitted with an electric mixer, beat the butter until very light. At medium speed, slowly beat in the sugar and then add the eggs, two at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to insure all ingredients are incorporated into the mixture. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the vanilla, buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest. (Clare prefers the cake extra lemony so uses 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest.)
  5. Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat to combine after each addition but do not overmix the batter, which would toughen the cake.
  6. Thoroughly grease a 6-cup bundt or fluted tube pan.
  7. Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  8. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  9. Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, make the lemon drizzle: In a small pan over low heat, stir the sugar and lemon juice together until the sugar has dissolved.
  10. When cake is baked, remove from oven, With a wire tester, skewer or the sharp tip of a cooking thermometer, poke the cake completely through in 16-20 places so that the drizzle can soak through the cake. Pour half of the drizzle onto cake. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake with a spatula and invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Pour remaining drizzle over cake and let rest 30 minutes.
  11. At this point, the cake may be served warm or at room temperature. Before serving, place the on a cake pedestal or large dish, dust with powdered sugar, and fill the hole in the center with fresh flowers or berries, if desired.

Active time: 35 minutes

Baking time: 55-65 minutes

Rest time: 45 minutes

Number of servings (yield): # 18-22

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Tracy’s Famous Squash Blossom Honey Cake

A Squash Blossom

A squash blossom.

So you want to write a book? Maybe you’ve already written one. If so, I’d love to trade notes!  If you are toying with the idea of writing your first book––be it a novel, cookbook, memoir, book of poetry or dummy guide–be prepared to have your cage rattled and buckshots pummelled across your backside; in short, be prepared to  bleed.

At least that’s been my experience with self-publishing. But I’ve put the past behind, now that I’ve been invited to join  a remarkable team.

So what does writing a book have to do with cake? The Promise Kitchen is well into the works, the Lake Union Publishing group transforming my first novel, “Simmer and Smoke”, into something, well, something that I’m extremely excited about. My  editor, part of an amazing creative team, alerted me that one vital ingredient is missing––a recipe for  Squash Blossom Honey Cake.

It’s the celebratory cake that one of my favorite characters, Tracy, created and that all of the cast enjoy during the tale’s finale.  I was requested to come up with one to conclude the book.

Of course it’s important to the story, so why didn’t I include the recipe in my original manuscript? Ummm…maybe it’s because that, unlike the other recipes included, I’ve never actually made a Squash Blossom Honey Cake. I’ve made decent enough honey cakes, but I’d imagined Tracy making the recipe, and I could never live up to Tracy’s high standards. As well, Squash Blossom Honey is another product of my insanity, er, imagination.

So I got to experimenting. There were several–ahem— missteps. Cornmeal is a wonderful textural component in rustic cakes, so with the first cake I used 50% corn meal and 50% flour. The result? Cornbread. Albeit, good, honey-sweet cornbread, but Tracy wants cake.  For the second batch, I reduced the corn meal and  the result was cake, but a dry cake. So olive oil and yogurt were added to cake three. Hmmm….close, very close, yet it was  missing a special something-something. (You’re probably stuffed  imagining eating all of this cake.)

Happily, the fourth cake was the charm–Tah-Dah! At last I have a cake of which Tracy would approve. The cornmeal does not overwhelm; the cake bursts with moist orangy, rich flavors; and the chopped pecans give it that special something-something that was lacking in my previous attempts.

IMG_2788Ingredient Notes: I did mention that Squash Blossom Honey is not available for purchase (as far as I know) on this planet, right? So, until I dedicate a portion of my backyard to squash blossoms and bee hives, I substituted another honey that is rich, sweet, yet not cloyingly so, and  is local to my area. I’m sure that using such a fine honey made a difference in the cake.

All honeys are not equal, so I would encourage you to use something local to your region that you enjoy. You will need about 1 1/2 pounds of honey for the cake and the glaze. For olive oils, I used a decent, reasonably flavorful extra virgin. I wouldn’t waste my money on one of the expensive Mazzaratti oils that one could purchase. I liked that my oil lended flavor and personality but didn’t overwhelm.

Baking Notes: I used the convection mode set at 325 degrees in my oven. The cake cooked to perfection in 58 minutes, and the fan didn’t blow the batter around. Note that convection modes have varying results that could influence baking times .

♥♥♥

As always, I am happy to  answer questions about my experiences with anything relating to bringing your own book ideas to life.

Recipe: Tracy’s Famous Squash Blossom Honey Cake

Ingredients for Cake and Honey Glaze

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped pecans, Georgia pecans preferred
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, finely chopped
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup honey, locally made if possible (Tracy uses Squash Blossom Honey), plus extra for glaze recipe below
  • 1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt
  • Ingredient for Honey Glaze
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large 4-inch strip orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • Optional Garnishes
  • Squash Blossoms (if using squash blossom honey)
  • Fresh berries
  • Whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (see recipe notes above) and adjust the rack to center of oven.
  2. Generously grease a 9-inch round cake pan with olive oil. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the chopped pecans in the bottom of the pan, reserving 1/4 cup for the batter.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large standing mixing bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup olive oil, orange zest, eggs, butter and honey until well combined. Mix in the reserved flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl to insure dry ingredients are well incorporated into the wet. Mix in the yogurt and remaining walnuts.
  5. Pour the batter over the walnuts in the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. While cake is baking, make the honey glaze by combining honey, water and orange zest strip in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Grand Marnier. Let cool slightly before glazing cake.
  7. Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert pan onto rack and cool an additional 15 minutes, and then place on a serving platter. Drizzle honey glaze over cake and garnish, if desired, before slicing and serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Bake time: 50-60 minutes

Cooling time: 30 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12

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Farro Adds a Toothsome Bite to this Savory Salad

Off the grid of late, spending every available minute, and every ounce of inspiration, on a book synopsis that had to be submitted last week. My two protagonists (female 31-year old first cousins) are of Polish descent, and Eastern European food has been on my mind.

A handheld mandolin is my key to this salad's success.

A handheld mandolin is my key to this salad’s success.

This salad is my daughter’s recipe and was inspired by my mother-in-law’s Slavic kitchen–heavy on the cucumber and fresh dill. As recipes go, I added my own stamp––cooked farro and fennel, and for the past several months I’ve been making some variation of this weekly. In my book of rules, that’s the mark of a recipe worthy of sharing.

I love the addition of farro, the powerhouse grain, which adds a welcome earthiness and chew to the salad so that it can suffice as a main course.

The key to success is using a mandolin. One of my favorite kitchen tools, it is handy for slicing foods paper thin. Years ago I purchased an expensive large, stainless mandolin but it takes up too much valuable kitchen space. I put it in storage and never use it. Enter the $14.99 hand-held mandolin that is easy to store, clean and serves my purposes as well as the big boy.

(Note that I’m not, nor have I ever been, compensated for endorsing product I like. Just want to share my experiences if they are positive.)

If you’re not on a sodium-restricted diet, the salted cucumbers lend the balance and contribute to the flavor profile. I don’t skip this step and take a heavy hand with the shaker. Mix and match ingredients according to your whim. I often add avocado and when tomatoes are in season, will substitute them for the radishes.

Recipe: Tossed Salad with Farro, Cucumbers and Dill

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dry farro (you’ll need a cup or so of cooked farro for the recipe)
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandolin (see above notes)
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped (adding chopped fennel fronds, optional)
  • 8-10 packed cups washed and prepared salad greens
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 8 large radishes thinly sliced, mandolin optional

Instructions

  1. Cook faro according to package directions and let cool.Place sliced cucumbers on a clean towel or paper towels. Season with kosher salt. Let moisture drain for 15 minutes.
  2. Rub salad bowl interior with one half of the clove of garlic. Mince the other half. Whisk minced garlic, oil, lemon juice and dill together in salad bowl. Stir in one cup (or more to taste) of the cooked farro into the dressing. Pat cucumbers dry and stir into the mixture. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. (Note: if you like salads lightly dressed, remove some of the dressing and reserve for another salad or add additional salad greens to recipe.)
  3. Toss greens, fennel, and radishes into the vegetables and serve.

Active time: 30 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

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