Recipe for European Poppy seed cake

Posted By on Sep 7, 2011 | 6 comments

This continental Poppy seed cake is a tea time favourite. A sweet poppy seed filling layered in between a rich buttery, vanilla flavoured cake.  This slab-style poppy seed cake was my favourite childhood cake made by my Russian grandmother- this one is now one of my favourite cakes to make.  I'm sharing her recipe in this post :)

Poppy seed cake recipe

Slab style Poppy seed cake. Smooth the vanilla cake batter on the bottom of a deep rectangular cake tin to about 4cm high. Fill with poppy filling to about 5cm, then top with another 1-2 cm of cake batter on top.


I have even used any left over filling to swirl into muffin batter, bake them and then freeze.   I like to finish this cake with a light lemon glaze, or dust liberally with pure icing sugar before serving.

Poppy seed filling

This recipe is the basic poppy seed filling used for Babkas, yeast roll or a butter cake.    It is a time consuming filling to make, but well worth the effort.


Poppy seed Filling

550g ground poppy seeds
4 1/2 cups full cream milk
3/4 cup honey
100g sugar
3/4 cup sultanas

4 eggs separated
180g sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon essence or 1 medium lemon rind grated
150g cornflour

In large pot, add poppy seeds, sugar, honey and milk.  Stir until well mixed.  Place over a medium to low heat and boil for 20 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes so it doesn't burn.  Add sultanas after the first 10minutes of cooking.  The cooking is complete when all the milk has absorbed and the poppy seeds are soft to taste and plump.  Allow to cool completely.

After the cooked poppy has cooled, with electric beaters, whip the 4 egg yolks with 180g sugar until thick and creamy and pale in colour.  Add lemon essence and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Pour whites on top of egg yolk mix.  Sift cornflour on top of this, fold gently.  Pour this mixture on top of poppy seeds and fold through.  Add filling to Poppy Seed Babka, Poppy seed Bundt, Poppy seed yeast roll cake, or Poppy seed Muffins.

Vanilla cake

100 grams unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2  tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 grams vanilla custard powder
1  1/4 cups self raising flour
1/3- 1/2  cup milk

3/4 cup pure icing sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
hot water if needed

Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease large, line  and dust with flour, shaking off the excess flour, a large deep, rectangular cake tin.  Cream butter until soft and fluffy, add sugar a 1/3 at a time until all incorporated and fluffy.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla.  Lightly whisk eggs and add to mixture a third at a time while still beating.  Sift in flour, custard powder and salt.  Beat until combined, adding milk a third at a time while the beater is still running until all the mixture is well mixed.  Beat mixture on high for 1 minute, it should become lighter in colour.

Spoon 1/2 of the batter into the tin.  Add poppy seed filling to about 5-6 cm deep.  Spoon on the rest of the batter.   Put into the oven, bake for 70 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from oven, leave in tin to cool.  While still warm, glaze with lemon glaze- mix icing sugar, lemon juice until a thinned icing consistency- add some hot water a little at a time if necessary.  Dust with icing sugar upon serving.

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  1. Can you freeze the poppy seed filling to use at a later time? Amazing cake by the way, made it and it’s definetly a winner!!!!!!

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    • Hi Yana, thanks for your comments. I think no, because the eggwhites will not allow the seeds to rise after defrosting. You can freeze the poppy seed on its own. Another thing I do is make a muffin batter…see this for basic recipe, and stir through the left over poppy mix , bake and then freeze the cakes. I know that the whole process is a big job, but the muffins are worth it!! THanks for trying my recipe :)

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  2. Hi! This cake looks awesome, and i definitely plan to try it! Just one quick question, by cornflour do you mean cornstarch(white) or actually cornflour(yellow)? I know that in some places in Europe cornflour=cornstarch, but others it actually means the flour, just wondering which one to use. Thanks for sharing your recipe! ^^

    Post a Reply
    • Hi! Thanks for visiting my site! Glad you like therecipe…yes cornflour is cornstarch. Happy Baking!

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  3. Yummee! The family loved the cake. I added a bit of almond essence as well as the lemon rind.
    I am always on the lookout for European cake recipes to add to my collection in Australia.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Robin, glad you enjoyed it! Have you tried the Hungarian apple slice or the other apple crumble cake I have here? Happy baking

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