Monday, 15 February 2010

Montag, Mo(h)ntag...

Poppy seeds have a long history - there have been finds of poppy seeds from Germany dating back to about 4600-3800 BC. While opium, also derived from the poppy plant, was used only for medicinal reasons in Europe during the Middle Ages, poppy was listed in about every compendium of plants for food and medicinal use - the Capitulare Karls des Großen, the plans for the garden of St. Gallen, and so on. Poppy seed oil was not only used for food purposes, but also for mixing paints, since it dries up. (All after Körber-Grohne, Nutzpflanzen in Deutschland).

And why do I write all this? Because some years ago, we became acquainted with the family recipe of a good friend of ours - a poppy seed cake. And what a poppy seed cake! It combines all good things - poppy seeds, freshly ground and heated up with milk to release all the flavours; yeast dough; streusel topping and finally an icing of lemon juice and sugar. This cake is heavenly, and the recipe I have is just too good not to share. So here you go - a typical German-style family recipe:

Mohnrolle mit Streusel (Poppy seed cake roll with streusel)

For the dough:
Ingredients: 500 g flour, 30 g yeast, 1/5 litre milk, 60 g butter, 60 g sugar, 1 pinch of salt.
Instructions: Make yeast dough from this.

Poppy seed filling:
Ingredients: 500 g ground poppy seeds, about 1/2 l milk, about 3 tblspoons semolina, 2-4 eggs, a little bitter almond aroma, ample sugar.
Instructions: Cook a thin soup from milk and semolina, put in poppy seeds. Stir well and let it cool. When cool: mix in eggs, sugar and aroma until mass is spreadable. Sugar to very sweet taste because poppy is slightly bitter in taste. Amounts needed may vary; add in only 2 eggs at first to keep the filling from getting too liquid. Should it be too stiff, add boiling milk.

Ingredients: 200 g flour, 125 g butter, 125 g sugar
Instructions: Mix flour and sugar; knead in butter (cut into pieces) until streusel result.

Ingredients: 250 g icing sugar, lemon juice
Instructions: Mix until spreadable.

How to make the cake: Roll out dough until thin. Spread poppy seed filling on it and roll cake into a roll. Place on baking sheet. Moisten roll with cold water and place streusel on top. Bake 50-60 min. at 190-200° C. When cool, ice the cake.

As you can see, it's quite... non-elaborate, and thus always reminds me of medieval recipes - "hey, anyone knows how to make this or that, so there's no need to describe it". However, here are some add-ins from me to make it a little less non-elaborate. (If you don't know how to make yeast dough, I will not describe it here. Go find out - it's totally worthwhile to acquire "make yeast dough" as a basic cooking skill!)

Ground poppy seeds are best used fresh. You can use a poppy seed grinder, which will process absolutely nothing but poppy seeds, or buy freshly ground poppy seeds - though that can prove a bit difficult.
I use about 360-400 g of sugar for the filling, and usually only 2 eggs. The icing will take the freshly pressed juice of one to two lemons.
Roll out the dough really thin; to transfer the roll to a baking sheet, roll out on a clean tea towel, spread filling on it, roll by lifting one side of the tea towel and carry the roll to the sheet on the towel, there to let it roll off. Handle very carefully, or it will burst. When spreading the filling, don't spread it all the way, but concentrate on the side where you will start rolling and leave the opposite end free - the filling will spread more while rolling.
Baking in our oven takes about 50 min at 170° C in our fan oven.

This cake is a fair bit of work - grinding the poppy, preparing all the different bits - but is totally worth it. And I will now go and have a piece of the little that is still left from the weekend...


sasphyria said...

There is anything left??? ;)

I love mohn-poppy! My Grandma used to bake a super delicious cake :( unfortunately i dont ask for the recipe and now its to late!

Maybe i will try yours!

cathyr19355 said...

Sounds very tasty!

Over the Christmas holiday, I started a food history blog (using a very generous definition of history). It can be found at I'd like to post a link to this poppy seed cake recipe post there (if you don't mind).

a stitch in time said...

Sasphyria, yes, there is a little left - and is still. This cake is not only large, it is freaking huge and will feed a lot of people - even if the lot consists of cake-lovers. Just add up the numbers roughly - 700 g flour, about 800 g sugar, about 180 g butter, and 500 g poppy seeds, plus all the other odds and ends like eggs and milk - that gets you one heavy roll of food. I usually have to bend it into some L-shape to get it onto the baking sheet, and it grows while being baked.

Cathy, yes, you are of course welcome to post a link to here - and I'll go and check out your food blog : )
You know the blog Medieval Cookery, do you? Might be nice for you to cross-connect, too...

SilvaInWonderland said...

i´m overjoyed by the word Streusel, I´m from germany, it is so cute to read german words like STREUSEl in an english text, delightful
love it <3

a stitch in time said...

Hehe, yes, it looks quite funny in an all-English text. However, I did my homework and looked German Streusel up at, and besides "crumble" (which I connect with a different type of crumbly topping, maybe wrongly), they did give streusel as a proper English translation. So... streusel it is.