You may not think of poppy seeds and chocolate together, but this popular Israeli poppy seed cake with chocolate ganache will show you the wonders of this combination. A simple, European-style cake full of delicate flavor that is easily made dairy-free.
This easy-to-make poppy seed cake with ganache is a favorite in Israel, although I've never seen anything like it in the US. Poppy in general is a popular flavor among Israelis, the legacy of prewar Hungarian and Austrian Jews and their famous pastries. If the canonical pairing for poppy seeds is lemon Stateside, in Israel it's more often chocolate, or raisins, or both. It's not reserved for merely gracing an occasional bagel top or muffin, or just for Purim.
I'd call this a European style cake, with its addition of nut flour--coconut or almond--plus its insistence on beating air into those eggs. Whole eggs here, no need to separate and whip. It also has a bit of baking powder in it for insurance. This cake is also particularly amenable to making dairy-free, since it uses moisture-giving oil for that fat in any case. Though Central European poppy pastries tend to call for cream or milk, here you can readily substitute almond milk or forgo it altogether and use orange juice. You'll notice the dairy most in the ganache, of course, but my most serious resident chocolate lover relishes the parve version as well. Either way, the ganache is a snap to make and turns the cake into something more, subtle but satisfying.
Grinding poppy seeds
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that poppy seeds need to be ground before using them in desserts. There's only a small visible difference, though a big one taste-wise. You'll need a spice grinder (or a coffee grinder designated for spice purposes) to grind them. First it'll look like nothing is happening, then the seeds will turn powdery, and finally they'll darken a bit and form more of a paste. That's when they're ready to use.
Which pan to use
You can bake this cake in any medium-sized cake pan, round or square, but I think a nice presentation is to display it with the poppy seed sides showing. I like to use a glass-bottomed springform pan with silicone sides, a genius invention that I learned about from David Lebovitz (seen also here). It allows for effortless and attractive serving. And then you pop it in the dishwasher. There are also ones with metal sides, if you prefer those.
Need more Israeli cake in your life?
- Israeli Coffee Cake (parve) - The quintessential accompaniment to a cup of coffee, on Shabbat or any day of the week, really.
- Israeli Apple Cake (parve) - A quick and irresistible apple cake to have anytime of year.
- Israeli Babka Roll (dairy, can be made parve) - My mom's signature dessert is one of many variations on the babka theme that are so popular in Israel.
Israeli Poppy Seed Cake with Chocolate Ganache (parve or dairy)
- Springform pan, 9" / 22cm diameter
- ¾ cup poppy seeds
- 1 cup flaked coconut or almond flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup oil - 180 ml
- 1 cup milk, dairy or almond - 240 ml
Chocolate ganache topping:
- 1 chocolate bar - 3.5 oz / 100g
- ¼ cup cream or 2-3 Tbsp almond milk - 60 ml cream or 30 ml almond milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Grease a 9" / 22 cm springform pan.
- Begin by grinding the poppy seeds in a spice grinder until powdery and just beginning to clump together.
- Empty out the ground poppy seeds into a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl: coconut or almond flour, all-purpose flour, and baking powder. Stir to combine.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until thickened and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add in the sugar.
- Add the oil and milk to the mixer bowl and beat to combine.
- Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add in the dry ingredients from the other bowl and fold in by hand, using a silicone spatula, until just combined. The batter will be thin.
- Pour into a greased round springform pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until solid and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges.
Make the ganache:
- Chop or break the chocolate into small pieces. Place in a bowl.
- On the stovetop or in the microwave, heat the cream/milk until hot but not steaming. Pour over the chocolate and let stand for several minutes.
- Stir the chocolate mixture until the chocolate pieces are melted. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- When thickened, empty the ganache out of the bowl on top of the cooled cake. Spread evenly over the top of the cake.