Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Regionalism is rapidly coming to an end; we can speak of chicken and dumplings as a uniquely Southern dish, but any given Southern foodways pundit will tell you it’s now being served in dim sum with a local spin by expatriated Alabamans living in Hong Kong. It’s no longer safe to make an assumption such as I did with pound cake being a New England recipe on the basis that it just sounds so simple and practical–a pound each of flour, sugar, eggs and butter mixed and baked–but no, a friend from Texas now living in Maine said that their new neighbors considered pound cake a particularly Southern recipe, which makes me think that what I consider as simple and practical Mainers think is broke and stupid. Then again, people have been making this Ur-recipe for cake since, well, the dawn of history, so it all boils down to a matter of perspective if not a quibbling over terms. This durable recipe and slight variations thereof is an old favorite, a summery cake great with any fresh fruit, with ice cream a sin.

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 (trust me, this is a crucial step). Grease, line and set aside a 10-inch loaf pan or bundt. Combine sugar and butter, beat until creamy. Add poppy seeds, buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla, mix well, add remaining ingredients and beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until thoroughly blended and moist. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake one hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cake in the cooling oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least an hour before slicing.

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