Moist Poppy Cake with Chocolate Ganache


As a child I hated layered, butter-cream, traditional birthday cakes. I suffered whenever I went to other children’s parties and were given a huge slice of an extremely sweet and nauseous cake. My mum’s cake was the only exception and a complete outsider in this category. Everything about it was different. First of all, it wasn’t overly sweet. Secondly, the cake basis was not spongy, but very moist and made not with flour, but with soaked and ground poppy seeds and a bit of bread crumbs. You have probably seen or tasted many sweets with tasteless and dry poppy seeds, but soaked and ground they acquire an unusual nutty flavour enhanced by walnuts pieces. As for the cream, even though it was the traditional butter type, it was loaded with bitter cocoa and was never nauseous thanks to the lemon juice my mum always added. I remember I loved this cake so much, I would practically live on the rests of it for the two days following my birthday party (it was very big, so there was always at least a half left).

Dexterity, patience or love of details, necessary to make such elaborate pastry, are not really my qualities, so even though I have been missing its extraordinary taste and have been planning to prepare this cake for years, I was simply too scared to try it. This year, as my birthday was approaching, I felt a bit nostalgic about the years passing by and desperately needed something to cheer me up. This is how I decided to give it a try.


Just in case I would be able to devour as much as I did as a child, I took two important decisions. First, I reduced the cake’s size by half and, secondly, I substituted the butter cream with chocolate ganache (e.i. a mixture of chocolate and cream), slightly less disastrous in consequences (I hope). Of course – as you can see above – I have totally messed up the aesthetic and technical side. My cake resembled a big, unequally shaped ball, the layers were not very neat and the decoration clumsy, but the taste and the texture were extraordinary. I was very proud to see I had managed to make the poppy soft basis exactly like my mum’s: moist and deliciously original. As for the chocolate ganache, it was a perfect substitute for the butter cocoa cream. It was still very rich, heavenly good, but made me feel a little less guilty when, traditionally, I was finishing the cake the following day. It was simply the adult version of my beloved birthday cake.

If you want a traditionally-sized, big cake, double the amounts of both the cake and the cream. This cake keeps perfect and delicious for at least three days.

Before I pass to the recipe I would like to express my gratitude to Kelly from Inspired Edibles for doing something every food blogger dreams about, e.i. testing one of my recipes, namely my Eggless Applesauce Cake. Those who haven’t seen her Thursday post, should click here and admire the complex and elaborate, fabulous Apple Streusel Cake she has made, adapting my simple and humble Applesauce Cake.

I would also like to thank Stefanie from A Dash of Sugar and Spice for the Liebster Blog Award, she has given to the blogs which have less than 200 subscribers and which, according to her should have more of them. Thank you, Stefanie, I feel honoured and very proud you appreciate my blog so much!

I would like to pass this award to the bloggers who, I think, deserve much much more followers, subscribers or visitors. I am not sure if the bloggers I have chosen have less than 200 subscribers, but I certainly wish them more popularity:

Arudhi from A Box of Kitchen

I know that Charles from Five Euro Food has already received this award and also from Stefanie, but I thought I would say I totally agree with her 🙂

Jeno from Weeknite Meals

Jessica from Green Skies and Sugar Trips

Mr. Three-Cookies, whose Easily Good Eats merit at least as much followers as his other blog, Three Cookies

Ping from Ping’s Pickings

Shannon from As A Delish

Shu Han from Mummy, I can cook!

Now back to the recipe.

Preparation: about 5 hours, but count a whole day (both the cake and the ganache can be prepared the night before, kept in the fridge overnight and assembled the following day)

Ingredients (for a 20 cm diameter baking dish):

4 eggs

100 g confectioner’s sugar

125 g poppy seeds

1 tablespoon honey (I used agave syrup)

6 high heaped tablespoons dry bread crumbs

8 walnut kernels, roughly chopped

Cream (chocolate ganache):

250 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

250 ml liquid cream (25% fat or more)

5 heaped tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Cake soaking mixture:

1 small coffee cup of very strong black tea

50 – 100 ml rum (or artificial rum flavouring)

1 tablespoon sugar

50 g ground walnuts + 10 kernels for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Prepare the chocolate ganache.

Break the chocolate into pieces, put into a pan with cream and, constantly stirring, dissolve it on a very low heat (do not boil!).

Put aside and when it has cooled down, refrigerate for a couple of hours, until the ganache thickens.

(Add the sugar only when the ganache is cold, just before you put it into the cake.)

Prepare the cake.

Put the poppy seeds into a pan with cold water. Bring to boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Drain the poppy seeds and grind them in a meat grinder (with the smallest holes) or mix well in a blender (they will become moist and mushy).

Separate the yolks from the whites.

Mix the yolks with the sugar, add the mixed/ground poppy seeds, the bread crumbs, the honey and the walnuts.

Beat the egg whites and incorporate them delicately into the poppy mixture.

Line a round baking dish (20 cm diameter) with baking paper or grease it with butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs (the cake will be very sticky).

Pour the poppy cake and bake for about 40-50 minutes.  (Make a wooden skewer test: if it comes out dry, the cake is ready).

Let the cake chill out and put it into the fridge for at least one hour (it’s easier to cut when very cold).

When the cake is completely cold, cut it horizontally into 3 slices.

When deciding in which order you should put the slices, bear in mind the bottom of the cake is always smooth and perfect for the top.

Divide the chocolate ganache into three equal parts.

Place the first part of the cake, sprinkle with a bit of the soaking mixture and spread 1/3 of the ganache over it.

Cover with the second cake layer,  sprinkle with a bit of the soaking mixture and spread 1/3 ganache over it.

Cover with the last part of the cake and spread the remaining part all around the sides and on the top of the cake.

Sprinkle with some ground walnuts and decorate with kernels.

Refrigerate for at least three hours. Serve cold.

63 Replies to “Moist Poppy Cake with Chocolate Ganache”

  1. Hi Sissi, I think coming originally from Poland, many of your recipes tempt me with their culinary similarity to my Polish favourites. Poppy seed cake is definitely one of them! Great work!

    1. Thank you, Martyna! I knew you would notice the few Polish recipes I have! I must say the traditional heavy, rolled poppy seed cake is something I have always hated (almost as much as carp in jelly), because I prefer lighter desserts (not necessarily lighter in “diet” sense 😉 ), but this one, moist and light, has got nothing in common (apart from the main ingredient of course!).

  2. Now THIS is awesome! The fact that the entire cake has no trace of flour in it. I mean, I have had flourless cakes before but they’re usually made with ground nuts .. the usual almonds, hazelnuts, cashews … but poppy seeds has got to take the cake (no pun intended). I’ve got to try this out for sure.
    I know I should congratulate you first on your award but I had to tell you how awesome I found this cake too … so torn! So, Congratulations! And I am truly honored that you consider my humble blog worthy of more attention. Charles did too! And all the other nominees … I agree, they too need to have more people reading them… plenty of substance and things to learn from.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping! Frankly speaking I was as surprised as you to learn there is no flour (I asked my mum for this recipe only recently), but then I thought it was the thing that made this cake light and moist! The important part is grinding or mixing the poppy seeds, otherwise it would be much dryer I suppose and with less taste…
      You don’t have a humble blog, but a great, original blog and you have an exceptional, full of humour writing style too!

        1. Mr. Three-Cookies, as always you are the one who notices my mistakes and inaccuracies. I will correct it. Thank you for the birthday wishes! Actually I made this cake a week after my birthday, I had to wait a couple of days before my gloomy mood passed away.

  3. Thank you Sissi for the award, it means a lot that you think so highly of my blog, though I have been real lazy the last couple of weeks, been cooking regularly but not posting, though this award should kick me back on the wagon soon!

    WOW, the cake looks wonderful, and I loved you sharing the story of your childhood, it gave me the warm and fuzzies! I myself do not enjoy super sweet cakes either, the Chinese birthday cakes we grew up with are mild and fluffy, though after moving to the US, the sugar content of dessert/snacks are crazy high! I’ve never had poppy seed cakes, but I bet your version is heavenly!

    1. Thank you so much Jeno! It’s true that making this cake the year, when I didn’t feel very comfortable about my birthday brought back the childhood memories and made me feel a bit better… I think my mum never did very sweet cakes since wherever I went as a child I found other mum’s cakes much too sweet (not to mention the ones from cake shops!). I don’t really like poppy cakes when the poppy is dry and tasteless, but here the grinding has really created a special flavour and texture. (Have you noticed there is no butter or other fat in the cake? Apart from the cream in the ganache of course?).

  4. Aaaw, you`re absolutely the sweetest person on earth! Thanks again, Sissi! I`m hoping to get back to my posting rituals very very soon.
    Your cake does look really moist! I too am not big on buttercream frosting and thus prefer the whipped cream for its lightness. I`ve never tried anything with poppy seeds before, and I didn`t know that we can substitute the flour with the seeds. Thanks for sharing all these tips! Happy pre-birthday! 🙂

    1. Ah, my bad for not carefully reading the “was”. So sorry! Here`s the correction: Happy belated birthday! Wish you are blessed with healthiness, friends, and many more delicious years 🙂

  5. Happy belated Birthday Sissi! What a beautiful cake! It’s interesting in having poppy seeds in the cake. I enjoyed reading your childhood memory and your mom’s cooking. Now you have your own version of your mom’s cake! She must be very proud of you for making her cake! :-). Congrats on the award!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami! It’s true, my mum is very proud I have managed to make her cake. Unfortunately she is far an cannot taste it now. I will make it next time I see her.

  6. Carp in jelly? Oh my God! ^^ 😀 I prefer to fill my mind with ideas of deliciousness, like this cake. What a wonderful cake this looks – I just love the idea of substituting flour for poppy seeds – truly inspired. I always wonder how such creations were discovered. Who first took a huge pile of poppy seeds and thought “hm, I’m going to make a cake but I’ll use this instead of flour!” – they sell a lemon cake with some poppy seeds inside at Starbucks near me. I like it a lot so I bet I’d love this, though I only see poppy seeds being sold in small jars. Did you have to look somewhere special for such a large quantity?

    Congratulations on the award, and thanks so much for passing the award on to me too!

    1. Carp in jelly is awful (and there are some people who love it!). In general carp is a disgusting, mud-smelling fish. I am even wondering how my mum got hold of this recipe (I know she hasn’t invented it, yet I have never had it in anyone else’s house in my family…). If you like even the dry, not ground poppy seeds in a Starbuck’s cake (I don’t for example), then I’m sure you would love them softened and moist. They have a much better taste! Charles I know where you can find big bags of poppy seeds (cheap) in Paris because this is where I have bought a huge amount last time I was there 😉 Polish grocery shop, 20, rue Jacques Louvel-Tessier (10ème), for example métro République, Mon-Sat 9h30-19h30. They also have incredible smoked sausage and other ham-like cold meats… and black pudding… They might also sell the read-made cake mixture with poppy seeds, but I wouldn’t take it if I were you…

      1. Thanks, I’ll be sure to take a look, and happy belated birthday – I also read it as that your birthday was “upcoming”, not passed already!

  7. This cake is really unique. I have never tried a cake made with ground poppy seeds. And coffee + alcohol + chocolate is a great combination. To me the cake looks great and it looks delicious.

    By the way happy belated birthday. When did you make this cake:)

    And congratulations on the award

  8. I have never liked those birthday cakes which are full of buttercream too and the only types of cake I eat are chocolate cakes ;). This cake of yours is certainly different, I have actually never tried anything like this that it sounds so intriguing. The cake looks very pretty though :)! I am not much a baker and most of the cakes I make taste totally weird (yes, I can decorate cakes, but I can’t really bake good cakes – how sad;)!).

    1. Thanks, CG! I always prefer chocolate cakes wherever I am since even if they are heavily sweetened, the cocoa bitterness somehow makes the cake edible 😉 I am sur with your decorative skills you would make excellent layered cakes (the baking itself isn’t difficult here).

  9. You have SOLD me on this fabulous sounding (and looking) cake. I really don’t think it is bad looking at all. Infact it made me drool and that’s totally inappropriate at my office desk. I bet my dad would LOVE this. He adores poppyseed sweets at our local bakery. Can’t wait to give it a go.

  10. Wow Sissi, this cake is so different, poppy seeds! I’d love to have a slice of it. Love the ingredients in it, and a touch of rum must taste really delicious.
    Hope you have a great week and congratulations on your award…well deserved 🙂

  11. Sissi, you are entirely too hard on yourself for this cake looks amazing!! I’ve never tasted a cake like this; no flour and the use of bread crumbs. I’m so intrigued with this recipe; it looks so light. I’m not one for liking anything too sweet either and never wanted a “cake” for my birthday in that traditional sense either!! Congrats on your award – very well deserved!!

    1. You are so kind, Linda! For me (and all my family who loved this cake) it was also always very different form other pastries (even different from other poppy cakes).

  12. omg same here, i never understood how people could like those layered sponge cakes with greasy buttercream in between, then i came to london and tried very good sponge with real double cream in between and that was different, but i’m still partial towards moist cakes (: this cake looks and sounds fab!

    1. Thank you, Shuhan. I also sometimes find whipped cream-filled cakes good, but there has to be a flavour (coffee/chocolate etc.), otherwise cream gives me nausea.

  13. wow…sounds scrumptiously tasty..
    first time your space..
    very interesing posts with nice presentation..
    Am your happy follower now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..

  14. dexterity, patience and love of details are not really my thing – hee-hee! that was funny mostly because i can completely relate and often feel the same way. i did pottery for a number of years and the teacher would often refer to my ‘failed pots’ because i never bothered taking painstaking measurements and dimensions into account – i just liked to let the wheel take me where it would and, as a result, my pots were often off-center and oddly shaped (which i quite liked). In any event, your cake looks great and i certainly would not have been aware of any miss here. the idea of soaking seeds is very intriguing to me… my son has recently put this bug in my ear with respect to chia – more on that to come in a future post. This is a wonderfully unique cake Sissi.

    1. Kelly, you are very kind, as always. Thank you! I’m happy you like my cake in spite of its weird shape and clumsy decoration. I can already imagine myself during pottery classes, I would be laughed on by everyone! Soaking poppy and grinding makes the seeds soft, moist and gives them a very special taste. I am impatient to see your future post!

  15. This looks FABULOUS Sissi! And I can tell from the recipe that this one is one delicious cake! Thanks for letting me know you made it, I am itching to try it out… well as soon as I recover from our Thanskgiving overeating – haha – Would you mind if I called it Sissi’s Birthday Cake? I won’t change the title if you didn’t like it. Oh and HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY my friend!

    1. Zsuzsa, I am so flattered by your compliments! You are the queen of even the most complex, complicated cakes, so your opinion counts a lot for me. I would love to see you making it. I’m sure the result will be breathtaking. I would be honoured of course if you called it Sissi’s Birthday Cake! Thank you for the Birthday wishes!

  16. What a gorgeous cake! It looks ever so delicious and tempting. I’d love to have a slice with my coffe… ;-P



    1. Does Chopin have anything to do with it? I am very happy you like me 🙂 I like you very much too!

      1. Most definitely and I knew you would have guessed it. Chopin’s music lives within me and my life is so much richer everyday because I feel alive whenever I play or listen to his music.

  17. A very happy belated birthday Sissi….Hope this year gives you only reasons to smile and be happy….

    the cake looks so yummy…I do like the idea of mixing chocolate with cream….less fat…more antioxidants (I hope, anyway!) The layers look fab…and poppy seeds are just brilliant! love them…

    Happy birthday and have a great year….

    1. Thank you, Shilpa, for the birthday wishes and the compliments. I also hope my cream was healthier 🙂

  18. Thank you so much Sissi for passing it on to me!!! You are so sweet! That really just made my morning!

    And a Happy Belated Birthday to you!!! (I am a bit behind this week)

    This cake looks spectacular!!!! I have never heard of anything like it but I feel like I simple MUST try it now!!!!!!

    1. You are welcome! Thank you so much for birthday wishes. Luckily it takes a long time to make, otherwise I would have this cake every week…

  19. Happy Belated Birthday Sissi!
    The cake looks fantastic, I think you’re a little too harsh on you.
    I love the idea of a flourless cake, using poppy seeds is pure genius. And the ganache, sounds like the perfect pair.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  20. Although your cake looks much more rustic than ZsaZsa’s, I can certainly appreciate the flavours and lovely Ganache because it’s so thick and creamy in your version. My Mom used to love baking with poppy seeds, it’s such a Hungarian thing to do!

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. It’s very kind of you to say that. I am not able to make a neat, perfectly shaped cake like Zsuzsa’s… I hope I will improve the look in the future at least a bit. It’s true that I have put much more ganache (my mum uses butter-based cream, but I thought ganache was a lesser evil 😉 and frankly I prefer ganache; I could eat it alone with a spoon). Poppy seeds are also popular in the Polish pastry.

  21. What a lovely and unique cake, Sissi. And how thoughtful of your mother to find flavours and tastes that suited you better than the sweeter, heavy traditional birthday cakes.

    I have no talent for decoration and I would be more than happy to be able to present something like this to my family and friends. A little ground walnut hides any icing imperfection and tastes good too. 🙂

    I’m too late to wish you happy birthday on this occasion so an ‘early’ Happy Birthday wish from a new friend for 2012.

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn. The first time my mum made it she probably didn’t suspect I would never want anything else. Sometimes we talk however about cakes and sweet treats and each time my mum makes a new recipe and forgets to modify it, it’s much much too sweet for her taste… I suppose we learnt to prefer the less sweet and more serious cakes. this one doesn’t taste like a typical children pleasing sticky sweet cake. Although if made with cocoa butter cream instead of ganache, it is rather high calorie of course.
      You are right. The walnuts are great to hide everything. Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I am really touched by your friendly message. I have never suspected I would meet so many friends through blogging.

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