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Dinner Tonight! | LEARNING TO COOK

A Winning Poppy Seed Cake

September 27, 2000|MARION CUNNINGHAM

Ronda Magnusson won two top prizes for this cake at the Iowa State Fair. Once you make it, you'll find yourself making it again and again. It is outstanding!

It doesn't need to be frosted. If you feel the need to give it a finishing touch, just shake powdered sugar lightly over the top. I sometimes warm it up before serving. Be sure to use cake flour. I've tried this with all-purpose flour, but that results in a heavy, gummy texture.

If this cake isn't finished off in a day or two, wrap it snugly in plastic wrap and freeze it.

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Cunningham's newest book is "Learning to Cook With Marion Cunningham" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

Perfect Poppy Seed Cake

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

This cake is best served warm without any frosting.

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing

2 2/3 cups cake flour

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

3/4 cup buttermilk

* Grease bottom and sides of 13x9-inch cake pan. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the flour and shake and tilt pan to distribute. Tap out any excess.

* Place butter and sugar in medium-size bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium until well blended and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula a few times.

* Add 1 egg at a time to batter, beating well after each until batter is smooth. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and mix well.

* Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and poppy seeds in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, in 3 batches, scraping down sides with rubber spatula after each addition. Beat until batter is smooth.

* Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Use a spatula to spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes before serving.

8 to 10 servings. Each of 10 servings: 413 calories; 385 mg sodium; 108 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Cook's Tip

The zest is the flavorful outer yellow rind of the lemon. Only the colored portion of the rind is considered the zest, and not the white pith. The zest is best removed with a kitchen tool called a zester, right. You will need to practice a little to get the hang of it. If you don't have a zester you can remove the zest carefully with a small paring knife and then finely chop it.

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