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Coffee and Cake

When I serve cake, I often hear: Germans have cake baking in their blood! I don't sit down for a piece of cake every day, or every weekend for that matter, but when I do then I take my time and savor it.

I remember not too long ago I was at our village bakery standing in front of the pastries trying to decide if I wanted something sweet. The woman behind the counter is originally from Cologne and I think I said "How I wish for a good piece of poppy seed cake!" She answered "Yeasted bread with nuts!". I said "Streusel cake..." We both sighed.

My grandmother always had a cake ready when we came for a visit. It was usually something simple like apple or apricot cake, but we always longed for the moment after all the dishes were cleaned up after lunch and she would set the water on the stove to boil. Then we knew we could get the dishes with the pink roses and set the table for cake.

One of my favorite cakes is poppy seed cake. There are so many different variations: with a crumb topping, with apricots or raisins, plain. Poppy seed cakes can be horribly sweet and or dry, but a moist and and not too sweet cake is a slice of heaven.

One of my other favorites is a yeasted nut braid. I'm the one who will go for anything with almonds in it and although I'll buy a piece of nut braid, I've never made it myself. When I look at all the recipes of nut braids I've collected over the years, it's a bit obscene. You'd think that with all those recipes, I'd have made hundreds of braids, but alas, there was always something wrong with the recipe. Until I found Nicole Stich's recipe. I read through it and knew this was it.

Knowing that we'd be having family over for a weekend lunch, I decided right away on making the nut braid. And my beloved poppy seed cake to go with it. And no, I'd never made poppy seed cake before. Same issue- lots of recipes, but none good enough.

I urge you to make the nut braid, you will not be disappointed and everyone will ask where you bought it. That's what happened when I served it. It's beautiful to look at and just delicious. As for the poppy seed cake, I also urge you to make it. The first bite took me right back to a sidewalk café in Munich.

What is cake brings back memories for you?

Poppy seed cake (adapted from a LandLust recipe)

  • 125 g butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 165 g ground poppy seeds
  • 63 ml milk
  • 40 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 35 g ground hazelnuts
  • apricot jam
  • 100 -125 g powdered sugar
  • juice of half a large lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and egg yolks until light and creamy. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the poppy seeds, flour, baking powder and hazelnuts. Beat the egg whites until stiff and carefully add to the poppy seed mixture. Spread the batter into a greased baking pan and bake for about 45 min.

When the cake has cooled, cut in half horizontally and spread the base with a thin layer of apricot jam. Place the top layer back on top. Whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until thick. Glaze the top of the cake.

This cake is best made one day in advance. Keep well covered.

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