Lemon Poppy Seed Pysanka Cake for Easter
Happy Easter, to those who celebrate it, and a Happy Passover while we're at it!
This year I wanted to make a cake with its flavor and design reflective of Ukranian traditions this time of year. The topper of my cake is meant to represent Pysanky, the incredibly beautiful painted Easter eggs that are made in Ukraine using a wax resist method. Google it; you won't be disappointed!
My topper was just painted—no wax resist—but I drew influence from a number of beautiful designs I found on the interweb! I also piped a whole mess of buttercream poppies for this one, no easy feat! I've been loving the flower-piping lately though, it becomes relaxing once you fall into a groove.
And now for the cake... Oh man, I was excited about this one! I mentioned a couple posts back that lemon cake is not my favorite; HOWEVER, I have been into lemon poppy seed muffins for my whole entire life. I realize that that doesn't make a ton of sense, but just roll with it because I'm about to grace you with the ill Lemon Poppy Seed Cake recipe below!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
500g (4 cups) all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine salt
Generous 1/4 tsp baking soda
60g (1/2 cup) whole milk powder (optional)
750g (3 3/4 cups sugar)
3 Tbsp lemon zest (from 3 large lemons)
275g (1 1/4 cups; 2 1/2 sticks) butter
8 eggs at room temp
350g (1 1/2) cups sour cream
1/3 (80 ml) cup lemon juice (from two large lemons)
2 tsp vanilla
Prepare four 6" round pans. Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.
Sift the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and milk powder (if using) into a bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, work the lemon zest into the sugar by massaging with your fingertips, using the sharp sugar crystals to release the aromatic oils in the zest. Work the zest for a few minutes, then place the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat for just a minute or two to soften, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 15-20 seconds after each addition. Beat for another 2 minutes; the mixture should be light and fluffy.
Combine the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla in a small bowl. With the beater on low, add to the butter mixture alternating with the dry mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Scrape down the bowl and beat on medium for about 5-10 seconds to make sure the batter is homogenous.
Divide the batter between your prepared pans and bake for about 50 minutes, at which point you should check the cake for doneness roughly every 5 minutes by poking the top: it should spring back.
Cool the cakes in their pans. This cake is AMAZING for torting into tiny layers: it's the perfect consistency for getting clean cuts. Enjoy!!
The filling is Honey Apricot Buttercream, which is simply five or six cups of Italian Meringue Buttercream mixed with a 12 oz (340g) container of dried apricots that I'd chopped up, poached for about 20 mins in a cup of water and 1/3 cup honey, and pureed in my Vitamix (a food processor would do the job as well). Warning: this apricot paste caused my Vitamix to shut off to prevent overheating, so do what I did and add a tablespoon or two of water to loosen things up if your machinery is getting grumpy. Totally worth it if you love apricot, because the flavor sings bright and clear through the buttercream! Oh maaaan this cake is so tasty, tart but not too zingy! And paired with that Honey Apricot Buttercream... don't even.
Have a wonderful Sunday, I hope you get to eat some delicious food today while spending time with people you love!