The best cake.
I turned 25 in Wisconsin's moist August heat, when summer storms rumble in on steaming afternoons, cooling the air. We ate on the back porch by a gnarled apple tree, while mosquitoes buzzed halfheartedly, dazed by the sun. Daniel's parents made a feast, which we ate with beloved friends. Pork loin marinated in sour cherry juice, salad and corn, cold beer. After the meal, guitars came out, as did this miraculous cake. Four moist layers chock full of poppyseeds, enclosing sweet vanilla custard and slathered in a luxurious pile of whipped cream.
After digesting a while, we piled in the car and drove to Pulaski for our second consecutive day of their Polka Days festival. Four stages, each with a live polka band. Refreshments included bratwurst, blood soup and Milwaukee's best beer. We danced up a storm that night, heels flying, sweating buckets, swinging in circles on increasingly treacherous dance floors.
We came home exhausted, and headed straight for bed. Mostly. I hesitated just a moment before the fridge, contemplating the last slice of cake. Well, I thought, it is my birthday, after all.
Check out the recipe for this amazing cake, after the jump.
This recipe is adapted from The White Gull Inn cookbook, from Door County, Wisconsin, but in my mind, it belongs to my mother in law.
1/3 c. poppy seeds
3/4 c. milk
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
sugar to taste- I use about 2 Tb
1. In small bowl, soak poppy seeds in milk and vanilla for 1 hour. Separate eggs. Let butter and egg whites stand at room temp. 30 mins. Grease 2 8X1.5 round cake pans. Line with wax paper, grease and lightly flour.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Filling: combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add milk and egg yolks. Cook and stir over med-high heat until bubbly. Cook 2 mins more. Add vanilla. Pour into bowl, cover with plastic, chill until cooled. do not stir.
4. Cake: Beat butter on medium for 30 secs. Add sugar 2 T at a time, beating until nearly dissolved. Alternately add flour and poppy seed mix to butter, beating low until combined.
5. in another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Fold whites into batter. Divide batter between pans. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes . Cool on wire racks.
6. Split each cake horizontally. Alternate cake layers with 1/3 of filling.
7. Frosting: In chilled bowl, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks. Spread over cake.
This cake is best after the flavors have a few hours to meld, but be sure to store in the fridge, covered with a cake dome or large pot, as whipped cream absorbs odors and flavors readily.