Coffee Poppy Seed Cake

Coffee & Poppyseed Cake

You know how sometimes a coffee cake doesn’t have any coffee in it? It’s actually a cake to eat with coffee and the whole thing turns in to a disappointing experience?

Well, this is not that cake. A few weeks ago Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall published some coffee recipes in the Guardian and one of them was this cake, complete with coffee, poppy seeds and a very syrupy glaze/icing.

I can’t remember the last time I made a cake with poppy seeds in, even though I like them (both the poppy seeds and the cakes!) and I’m always thinking I should be a little more diverse in my cake making. Poppy seeds, like sesame seeds, are one of those things that can go off. They need to be stored in cool, dark places and used relatively quickly, otherwise they can go a bit rancid – and that’s not what you want in cake.

This is a simple recipe and is almost a one bowl wonder.

Begin by soaking, for at least 2 hours, 100g of poppy seeds in 80g of mascarpone (the recipe specifies sour cream, but I had mascarpone in the fridge). The poppy seeds soaked up all the mascarpone and it became quite a stiff mixture.

Preheat oven to 170°C and grease and baseline a 22cm spring form tin.

If you’re so inclined you can sift the dry ingredients first: 150g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarb, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. If you’re making this by hand (that is, without the kitchen trickery that is a food processor or a stand mixer) make the effort. Even with gadgets to hand, I’m starting to do more and more sifting …

Now cream 150g of unsalted butter with 250g of caster sugar, before mixing in three eggs, one at a time. Ensure each egg is well beaten in before adding the next. Mix in a 1 tsp vanilla essence and 40mL of espresso coffee. If you don’t have a coffee maker to hand, make up some really really strong coffee and use that.

Add in the flour a bit at a time, alternating this with the poppy seed/mascarpone mix. Mix until just combined and then spoon in to the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (until the toothpick comes out clean).

Allow to cool for a little in the tin and then cool completely on a cake rack.

Now, for the icing HFW suggests using 125g of icing sugar (definitely sift this – it makes your life so much easier and your icing a lot less lumpy) and 50 mL of espresso. I did this but we found this icing too runny and, by the time it had soaked through the cake, it made the whole thing far too sweet. So I suggest making your favourite icing and adding a bit of coffee to it. Or dust it with icing sugar before serving – the poppy seeds make it quite an attractive cake even without icing so there’s no need to go mad.

I personally thought that the cake had a good coffee flavour which was accentuated by the cinnamon. The universal opinion was that it was too sweet and I really regretted making the icing.

So while I’ll definitely be making the cake again I’ll be passing on the icing.

6 thoughts on “Coffee Poppy Seed Cake

  1. Lovely cake and I’ve made it twice already but am having problems with the recipe. The first time it sank. The second time it bubbled up over the sides of the tin. Any suggestions?

    1. The cake sinking is it being taken out of the oven before it’s properly cooked (or you opening & slamming the oven door closed while it’s baking – I’ll assume it’s not that!). When you test it with a skewer make sure you test in the centre and maybe in a couple of spots. Double check that the skewer is clean (it shouldn’t feel tacky). Also, take note of how your oven generally behaves. Ours is pretty slow so I always need to cook recipes for a bit longer.

      Bubbling up over the sides of the tin probably means you need to use a bigger tin! Were you definitely using a 22cm tin?

  2. Thanks for this. I used the same tin – 23cm and 4.5cm deep – both times so don’t think it’s that. I think you’re right about cooking it for longer, or at least leaving it for longer before opening the oven door to check. I’ll persevere!

  3. Made this cake yesterday, so loved reading all comments. Share your view on the glaze. In mine, the coffee flavour was good and strong yesterday but today it had faded a bit. Mixed up some coffee flavoured buttercream and tried that spread on top of a slice – nice. I think this would maybe be good to replace the glaze. Re Jane’s comment – mine also sank a bit in the middle (but was otherwise cooked through – indeed a bit brown on the top). Checked in a textbook – can happen when the recipe contains a lot of sugar, which this one does – although the cake in the picture above looks perfect – or if the mixture has been overbeaten prior to adding the flour (didn’t know you could overbeat at that stage!) or if it gets a cold draught of air during cooking, as mentioned above. Anyway, interesting recipe – definitely a keeper!

    1. Interesting fact about overbeating the mixture prior to adding the flour. I’m mostly pretty lazy/gungho with my cake baking so no chance of that happening. I’d forgotten about this cake – now I’d like to revisit it & see if I have issues with sinking too!

  4. Thanks for your reply! Here’s another Hugh F-W cake that you might like (and indeed may already have baked!). Scroll down the page at
    It’s got the same idea of a syrupy mix poured over at the end but I think it’s good here. Lovely, flavourful cake.
    I’m trying out a lot of cakes at the moment, as I’ve recently retired from a university post and am working 2 days a week in a cafe and also doing a course in patisserie. It was therefore great to come across this page of your blog talking through the cake I’d just made! We live in England, so can’t do much with your restaurant suggestions, but I will certainly keep coming for the recipe pages. Your commentary from experience is great.
    Have you seen a recent book by Paul Hollywood “How to Bake”? Looks good. Just made some passion fruit and raspberry muffins using the recipe I copied down from the random page Amazon chose to show me. They smell gorgeous; definitely good enough for the cafe!
    Anyway – lovely blog – well done!

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