Monday, April 4, 2011

French Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Is it already April?!

Well, I'm wrapping up the final weeks of my pregnancy and I feel like a Weeble Wobble. Only I do fall down.

I've been devoting my energy towards getting things ready for the baby. Nesting, as many call it. One cannot deny the powerful hormonal urge to put things in absolute order. So I've been tearing up my house, reorganizing everything in sight and writing 'Honey-Do' lists that span pages. I've even been waddling around, cleaning the garage. Though, I suspect the newborn will spend little time in there.

The house looks great but I admit the kitchen has been neglected, logging only two baking sessions this month. I've had to fulfill my cravings with store bought treats. (Mr. Humble wants me to admit publicly that I threatened to kill Mr. Stinky, our sourdough starter, if he didn't bring me home chocolates one day after work. As they say, desperate times call for…) Though, I admit that I should probably knock that off, since store bought treats can be sub-par.

I had the most terrible eclair last week. How does one mess up choux, anyway? Hard, crunchy eclairs? Why, why!?

Anyway, I've been keeping up on the blog-work, but not doing a lot of posting. I may have some help here soon though, blogging and otherwise. We've had some big news in the Humble family: Mother Humble is hanging up her English Wellies and moving across the pond to sunny, tropical Seattle. We expect her here in two weeks and she has promised to lend a hand, as I will be recovering from a caesarean next month. She has also expressed some interest in doing a little guest food blogging on NSHP.

Mother Humble is a terrific cook and someone who I credit for much of my comfort in the kitchen. I'm pretty excited about her posting. She may prove more entertaining than myself, since she has a rather quirky streak in her nature. Whatever she posts, it will likely be delicious and help relieve some of the lulls we've been experiencing while I'm down and out from babies.

So enough updating as to my status, let's get down to the food!

After attempting a Cinnamon Brulee cheesecake that was surprisingly not good---cinnamon makes cream cheese taste doughy--I settled on another craving: poppy seeds. Today we're baking a French lemon poppy seed pound cake from Flour. What caught my eye was the recipe's method, much like a genoise, and the promise of a light delicate crumb and texture.

The cake is indeed wonderfully textured. Delicate and not very sweet, nicely contrasted with a sweet, tangy lemon glaze.

Flour's French Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake
from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe
Yields one standard 9x5" loaf

240g cake flour (low protein 6-8%, soft wheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
156g unsalted butter, melted and cooled to slightly warm
60g heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (roughly two large lemons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
4 eggs
250g granulated sugar

Lemon Glaze
70g powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Helpful Tips:
Despite their common place in spice cabinets and on store shelves, poppy seeds have a relatively high oil content and go rancid quickly at room temperature.

This means you should buy your poppy seeds from stores with high turnover to ensure freshness. Then pop them into the freezer and keep them there for up to a year. Do this and your seeds will provide not only pleasant color and texture to your baked goods, but will actually taste good too.

Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9" x 5" loaf pan or line with parchment.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, cream, lemon juice, zest and poppy seeds. If the mixture cools the butter and thickens, gently rewarm the mixture until it has the consistency of a thick liquid, then side aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium high speed until light colored and very fluffy (4-6 minutes, if you use hand held beaters this will take longer).

Fold the sifted flour mixture into the beaten eggs until just barely combined. Then lighten the lemon poppy seed mixture by gently folding in one quarter of the flour-egg batter with a rubber spatula.

Fold in the remaining flour-egg mixture to finish the batter.

Pour the finished batter into your prepared pan, level and place into your pre-heated oven.

The recipe calls for a baking time of up to an 1 hour 10 minutes, which I found to be long for this cake in my oven with dark colored pans. I advise you check your cake frequently after 35-40 minutes for doneness. Once the cake is springy to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean, feel free to pull it out.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack and prepare the lemon glaze.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice (more or less to your preference) to make a smooth glaze.

When the cake has cooled to a warm temperature, pop it out of the pan and spread the lemon glaze over the still warm cake.

Serve and enjoy!

The cake can be stored, tightly wrapped, for up to three days.

(Edit: She got the memo folks. Let's play nice. She is just starting out and from what she emailed me, it was an innocent mistake.)


  1. It's great to see you back, albeit briefly!
    That cake looks delicious <3

    Best of luck on your caesarean, I hope everything goes well! Do you know if it's a boy or a girl yet?
    Congratulations :]

  2. Thanks!

    As far as we can tell, the next (and last) little Humble will be a boy.

  3. Great post- have been missing your updates. The loaf looks delish & the etsy comments definitely put a smile on my face!

    Good luck w the ceasar - can't wait to see pics of master humble

  4. I have missed your posts dearly, you really have no idea! I literally squealed just now when I saw this new post. :)
    Can't wait for the arrival of another little Humble!

  5. Please contact etsy and demand they take down the copyright thief's listings. If that doesn't work, talk to a lawyer about getting a cease and desist letter. Copyright infringement (which is what it is when someone uses your images w/o permission) is important to fight.

    Good luck!

  6. My coworker and I were just discussing the differences between poppy seed cake here and over in Germany. While we were talking, I checked my Google reader and saw your post. It looks yummy!

    Hope all goes well with the new baby, and I look forward to Mother Humble's posts. Comments she's made on your blog have always been entertaining.

    And, your macaron shout out was pretty funny. Hope she gets the point.

  7. yummy ! I love me some poppy seed treats !
    I finally figured out the macaron thing! And don't worry , I won't be stealing your fantastic pictures to sell them on etsy either , shame shame on that shirtless girl!

  8. I find it amazing (and also not so amazing) that she neglected to remove the stamp of your website from the photo. Maybe that will lead to more traffic on your site and more people making their own macarons, leading to a decrease in orders on her part. Kind of a backfire, isn't it?

    Good luck with the newest Humble!

  9. so happy to see this post & update on your pregnancy status…we do care!

    i just got joanne chang's book out of the library & her recipes look pretty spectacular…think i must go purchase "flour"…thanks for this beautiful recipe & your notes about the poppy seeds…never knew that!
    good luck, happy nesting & we look forward to your new addition…as well as mother h's return!

  10. Enjoy this time (to sleep!) before the little bundle of joy arrives! I recall many sleepless nights and not much inspiration to bake because of the falling-in-love-with-this-new-person thing I went through and the desire to spend more time with her. I must advise you to not feel guilty of letting everything else slide because we'll always be here but those precious first months don't last long!
    Love poppy seeds and lemon! Loooks delish!

  11. Just popped over and left a message on Etsy for the newly minted macaron baker....tried to be as nice as possible since it was quite a while after reading blogs that I stumbled across a discussion on re-posting images and thought she might not have heard about it yet. Hopefully you guys can work it out. Respecting intellectual property rights is important, but the gentle touch can sometimes get more done than jumping to conclusions. Thank you Ms. Humble - I love your blog and I think you were more gracious than I would be on first reaction.

  12. I'm pretty generous with the reposting of content. Folks are welcome to reproduce and repost my content in various forms, provided it is in a not-for-profit context and they appropriately attribute the work.

    The watermarks also have to be left intact, but I do make exceptions depending on the use.

    I'm not too miffed by Etsy Baker. For now I'm assuming she is just starting out and will soon have her own photos to post. I just wanted to let her know that I know, in case she ever reads here. That and tease her a little about the seemingly-topless photo.

    I tend to save the big guns for the serious offenders. Like a certain cookie cutter website, who were using my photos to sell merchandise. They removed my watermarks from appropriated images and were given a good legal head slap with the righteous Humble palm.

  13. I am in mad love with all your baking and having been missing it a great deal but as long as your bun in the oven is doing fine than that's what really matters. It's not everyday you bake up a baby.

    Looking forward to the posts by Mother Humble. Her comments are classic 'Humble' and I feel we will all gain a great deal from her life long as it doesn't always involve Fish Pie.

  14. Does the colour of the pans really make a difference to baking time?
    Also, thanks for the poppy seed tip. I always wondered why people liked them as they seemed to me to be nothing but totally tasteless irritating pips that get stuck in your teeth! I will try for fresher seeds next time!

  15. So happy you will be back soon with Mother Humble in tow. Good luck with the new baby. So looking forward to future posts. Beautiful poppy seed cake, btw.

  16. lEMON AND POPY SEED, i WOULD love to try that!
    It looks beautiful!

  17. Everything about this post just screamed joy to me -- your return, your health, Mother Humble relocating to join you AND help blog, and particularly, the recipe (with the great poppy seed tip). I need to bake something for a gathering tomorrow morning, so you've inspired me!

    As for the woman on etsy -- I agree with MWT -- you were very gracious. I know you're also very generous with your permissions, so you're doing a RIGHT thing.

    Now what will we call the new Humble? You already have a "Little" Humble. Perhaps the new one can be "Baby" Humble. That will only work until he's old enough to comprehend it...

    I've had a c-section -- give yourself plenty of time to heal and rest...and eat chocolate.

  18. First, our family thoroughly enjoys your blog!

    Second, I applaud you for addressing Etsy Baker. After all, it is your content. However, I am a bit surprised that you would put him/her out there for all of the public bashing. Even a link? Has he/she been contacted and refuses to cooperate? Was it a misunderstanding? How did she get the pictures, and why don't you make them to where they can not be duplicated?

    This whole thing I think was done in bad taste.
    Shame on the harsh readers for being so judgmental.

  19. I was just wondering, why wouldn't you name the "more serious offender?"

  20. Let's play nice with the poor baker, folks. She emailed me this morning and was very sorry.

    I'm not at all mad at her. I figured she was just starting out (as I mentioned in my comment above) and this was just poor judgment call on her part. Sometimes it is hard for folks to tell what falls under fair use.

    This situation is just one of those irritations that come with the blogging. That being keeping on top of how my work is being used on the internet and in print.

    I don't like for-profit sites using my work without permission, naturally. However ETSY is pretty harmless as far as these things go. It is more irritating seeing full scale businesses stealing images and using them (honestly, they should know better). Hence I didn't send out the standard scary legal noticies that I do for serious offenders. Not that I could without setting up an account on etsy, or contacting the host site directly. Which seemed like a pain at the moment.

    Instead I simply called her on it, tongue firmly in cheek as I am prone to do. I did want someone with an ETSY account to give her a heads up that I knew about the appropriated images and that this isn't okay. What I didn't expect was the poor gal facing the full 'wrath of teh internetz!11!!'.

    Hopefully, we can leave the baker in peace now. I'm going to remove the link to my images and we can get back to having fun.

    Now, I've got to get back to visiting with my grand parents. Please don't make me hop on their windows machine again today. I'm not accustomed to this strange keyboard layout...

  21. I love poppy seeds, they add this wonderful detail! So delicate.

  22. Hi!
    I baked this tonight!!!
    The Loaf came out of the oven, got slightly cooled, polished with glaze, served to my loves (Mark-husband and Alyssa-daughter) and I got a kiss from Mark and the comment, "This goes in your Bakery someday" and Alyssa hid her piece from me as I was going to grab a fork for a taste of hers. was a HIT!
    Thank you for the recipe!

  23. Very, very excited to see another post before the new Humble arrives. New little ones are such a wonder - enjoy every minute. So nice to hear that Mother Humble will be contributing while you're juggling two little Humbles and that she will be close by. I love every post!


  24. hi we dont have cake flour in ireland, any other flour i can use?

  25. That looks like heaven. Now I am hungry.

  26. malorielee,

    To name/link to the business here would increase their search engine page rank and direct traffic to their site. They've stolen hundreds of photos from bloggers and small bakeries to market their products and don't deserve any traffic given their practices.

    They did pull down my images after a C&D letter but continue to use the hundreds of other images they have stolen. I identified dozens of photos from different bakers, one of which was from a woman whose home bakery business is closed while she is recovering from cancer treatments.

    The owners and operators are well aware that they are infringing on the copyright of others but continue to use their images nonetheless.

    If you (or anyone else) is truly curious though, email me and I'll give you their website.


    You want to use the lowest protein flour you can find. Often called Cake or pastry flour in the U.S. but it falls under many other types and classifications elsewhere.

    I'm not certain of the types in Ireland, but you'll want to look for "soft wheat" "low protein (less or equal to than 9%)" or "low ash content/mass (less than or equal to 0.4%)" flours.

    In Italy such flours are usually labeled "00", France "40" and Germany "405". There is a lot of variation between countries because there is no flour standard. Nor is there any requirement for the ash content or protein to be clearly labeled on flours in many countries. In that case it is best to check the nutrition info on the package to gauge the amount of protein in the flour.

    There are substitutions for cake flour, in fact a quick google search will pull up many how-to guides for converting regular (all purpose moderate protein) flours into cake flour. Usually by adjusting the amounts and adding corn starch or other ingredients. I don't endorse these methods since they're never quite as good as the real thing, but they are an option if nothing else can be found.

  27. what an awesome blog! I can`t wait to see your future posts! :)

    have a great time,

  28. Looks beautiful! Thanks for the poppy seed tip :) Best of luck with the upcoming birth - hope everything goes well and you have a gorgeous healthy baby!

  29. Ms. Humble, I hope all goes well with the upcoming birth. I look forward eventually to when all settles down and your little ones are a foot in your kitchen helping with future posts. You have the best blog in cyber-space! I really enjoy your posts. Best wishes to all!

  30. WOW!
    When I saw this recipe yesterday, I knew I HAD to try it, since I love lemon cake. So I baked my own, and the whole family loved it!
    I like the poppy seeds in it, I think it gives an original taste.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  31. Hi Sweetie, I just saw this post. I've been traveling and haven't had reliable internet access to comment. Actually I've just been so focused on eating amazingly strange and wonderful things while on the road that I neglected the internet. Can you blame me? I'm still trying to figure out some of the stuff I ate. I ate something with a foreign name (really good by the way) that was a ball of something stuffed into something else. I'm still trying to figure out both the stuffing and the stuffed. I'm hoping it was all vegetable as unidentifiable animal stuff might be scary.

    Also artichokes have been in season and one day I managed to eat them for breakfast, lunch AND dinner!

    Ahhh, food tourism; who needs museums?

    I'm excited about being home soon, the possible guest blogging and hanging out with my humbly beautiful and amazing grandchild(ren).

    xxx, MH

    P.S. Tell Bubble and Squeak that the Dubious Fish Pie may try to become a guest post - if it passes the NSHP editorial board.

  32. Depends...

    Will the Dubious Fish Pie weigh less than 80lbs this time around and contain less than $400 in seafood? Scale it down to serve 8 and we will talk.

    I'm fierce jealous of all the artichoke eating.

    See you soon!


  33. Now I'm craving poppy seeds! Thanks for the tip about them too, I never knew that. And now I fear I may need to throw away my bottle of poppy seeds that's been sitting on my shelf forever...

    Excited to see posts from Mother Humble!

  34. Hey, I might not have read very thoroughly, but I just made this today and the 1tbsp lemon juice you list in the ingredients is not mentioned in the instructions. I added it to the poppyseed mixture. Cheers!

  35. It goes in with the zest into the poppyseed mixture, you're correct. I edited that into the instructions to make it clear.

  36. I had a question about the recipe. I saw a tablespoon of lemon juice in the ingredients list but it wasn't anywhere in the directions. Does it go into the melted butter/cream mixture?
    Thanks for writing a fantastic blog and best of luck with the new Humble!

  37. this looked so amazing i went and ordered the cookbook! thanks for your fantastic blog and sharing all these wonderful recipes!! i'm going to make the bittersweet chocolate truffle tart for easter tomorrow.... the pate sucree tart shell is already cooling on my countertop... can't wait..

    happy easter and i'm glad you're enjoying laduree macarons (the salted caramel is my favourite though they screwed up and gave me 2 raspberry instead of 1 rasp and 1 rose so i never did try the rose)!! mother humble rocks!


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