Orange Poppy Seed Cake
Sometimes the only cure for homesickness is distraction. There are little salves — Skype, colder weather, some of the accents on Family Guy — that make far seem closer only to disappear, leaving an imprint that you realize didn’t match the original to begin with.
After a brief trip home, the events in Boston of the last few weeks have made me miss it in a way I’d never felt before and I can’t quite explain without sounding childish, defensive and absurd. Almost as if I wanted to take it back and yell, “Mine!” Almost as if, from such a distance, I could watch over the city from above and that that somehow helped.
Clearly, I needed some old-fashioned comfort food.
Sure, I could make Boston baked beans or Boston cream pie, my dad’s mushrooms or my mom’s bourekas. I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that food can be comforting, and maybe all of those things would be. But they wouldn’t be the same.
So rather than pine for Santarpio’s pizza or any decent clam chowder, I’ve decided to appreciate Australia’s bounty while I’m here.
Australia does meat right so dinner is steak, lots of steak. The lettuce and tomatoes here actually taste like lettuce and tomatoes, so they’re pretty much always on the menu, too. We’ve recently discovered a place nearby that sells dozens of interesting and tantalizing salts (from porcini to espresso to vintage merlot, etc.), so they’re on the table. And we have yet to go wrong with Australian wine, despite the fact that we choose it based almost entirely on the label.
So what does all this have to do with orange poppy seed cake? Nothing. I made it because I was served a similar cake (that Stella devoured) at a lunch last weekend and I wanted to recreate it. It has a history that isn’t even worth mentioning. It does not remind me of Boston or family or Cape Codders or fried clams. It’s just a really, really good cake. And sometimes? That’s comfort enough.
ORANGE POPPY SEED CAKE
This makes a lot of cake, which is never a bad thing. I didn’t have a big enough bundt pan, so I made a small bundt and two 7″ cakes. You can definitely make it a day or two ahead…the glaze needs to soak in anyways. Which reminds me: don’t skip over the glaze. Without it, this will just be a poppy seed cake. Again, never a bad thing, but not as good as the original. Serves 16, and makes an ideal offering for breakfast, brunch, tea or dessert. Adapted from a recipe found on She Loves Simple via Tastespotting.
1 cup (2 sticks/250 grams) butter, softened
3 cups sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
3 cups flour
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups sour cream (or full-fat yogurt)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease a large bundt pan or a few smaller cake pans.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar for a minute or so. Beat in the eggs, then the orange juice.
In another bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the sour cream, stirring until just combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for anywhere from 40 – 60 minutes (depending on size of pan) until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If the cake is not cooked reduce heat, cover top with foil to prevent burning and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Let cake cool before removing from pan.
To make the glaze:
In a small saucepan, melt the butter, and stir in the sugar, and orange juice until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Pour the still-warm glaze over the cake. It will take a few minutes to soak in, so go slow and keep adding until it’s all soaked in.