I love lemons. All citrus, really. Fresh lime juice in a cocktail, baked into coconut lime shortbread bars or with spicy pork or chicken in a savory dish. Tangerines and clementines for breakfast, lunch and dinner or candied and served with a ginger-orange cheesecake. Lemon zest with roasted chicken or fresh-squeezed lemonade in the summer. The possibilities are endless.
I bought some poppy seeds a few weeks ago and have been searching for a use for them. Jérôme’s been craving a lemon tart for weeks, but each week our lemons manage to find another purpose. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new.
I came across a recipe for a poppy seed tea cake using fresh oranges and finished off with a tempting streusel topping. I was in the mood for lemons, and decided to tweak the recipe to fit the day’s craving, replacing oranges with lemons and streusel with rich, perfect lemon curd. It was the perfect pairing. The cake could stand alone and did, nor too sweet, nor too heavy. It was great for a quick bite in the morning before work. The lemon curd helped to spruce it up and make it more “desserty,” and also definitively won Jérôme over.
We are lemon purists. I can’t stand a lemon tart with meringue caked all over it. I want the crisp, tart, refreshing taste of lemon to be the centerpiece of the dish. His lemon tart is just that: a simple crust filled with rich, slightly sweet lemon custard. The curd takes things to a whole new level: the perfect balance to the discreet cake, it assaulted my palate with flavor. The best part is, it’s served on the side, which means that this cake can please anyone: from those who like it tart and tangy to those who prefer just a hint of lemon flavor.
Lemon, brown butter, cardamom and poppy seed cake with lemon curd
Inspired by the lemon poppy seed tea cake from Bon Appétit (1998)
Ingredients for the cake:
2 1/3 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cardamom
1/4 t salt
150 g butter
1 C sugar
1 C sour cream or crème fraiche
1/4 C lemon juice
2 T lemon zest
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 C poppy seeds
Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a rectangular pan with some butter and lightly dust it with flour. Begin by making your brown butter. Place the butter in a skillet over medium heat and watch it carefully as it melts, swirly occasionally. Once it begins to brown and smell amazing, it’s ready.
Add the brown butter to the sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing until combined. Add the cream, lemon juice, zest and vanilla, mixing again. Sift in the flour, cardamom, baking soda and powder, salt. Mix until it just comes together. Stir in your poppy seeds and it’s ready for about 40 minutes in the oven. Check to see if the center is cooked after about 30 minutes, and don’t hesitate to decrease your oven temperature if the cake browns too much. It should be lightly brown on top and crispy around the edges.
Ingredients for the lemon curd:
1 C sugar
1/2 C fresh lemon juice
2 T grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
6 T unsalted butter, diced
Combine sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Whisk well to blend, then add the butter and turn on the heat. Over medium-low heat, whisk constantly for about 8-12 minutes, until the mixture becomes thick and coats your spoon. Do not boil. Set aside and let cool. Serve alongside the cake or stirred into a yogurt in the morning!