Saturday, 19 March 2011

Poppy seed cupcakes with toasted almonds & chocolate fudge

Purim is here, the one holiday of the year dress up and intoxication are considered as 'tradition'. Traditional purim food is all about sugar and dough and can be categorized to 2 main schools of pastry: the east European variety consists mainly of either shortbread or sweet yeast pastry filled with poppy seeds or dried fruit (prunes or dates, ie what was available during the cold European winters), while the Mediterranean pastries consist of different versions of deep fried dough drenched in sugar syrup.

Following visits to an Iraqi and Tripolitanese pastry shops in the week leading to Purim, I’ve had my share of deep fried pastries and hydrogenated oil for the near future and so I decided to play around, baking poppy seeds.

Poppy seeds have quite a troubled reputation, and in a way, rightfully so. You see, if poppy seeds are ground they begin to taste bitter and stale within hours, and since this is how they’re sold in supermarkets, people have grown to assume this is what they taste like. Nasty.

Truth is, freshly ground poppy seeds are nutty and sweet and nothing like the nasty pre-ground version. I baked these cupcakes for Sabrina's Purim/Birthday party. These are a combination between a poppy seed loaf cake (turned cupcakes) and an ice cream flavor close to my heart, essentially apoppy seed & almond tart thrown inside an ice cream maker. heavenly.

If there’s one thing that will determine the success of these cupcakes it’s grinding the poppy seeds right before they’re ready to be used. The longer time passes between grinding and baking the sweet, nutty poppy seeds will begin to taste bitter and stale and generally awful. They can be ground using a spice or coffee grinder. Alternatively, buy them in a spice shop, ground to order, then rush home and keep them sealed in the freezer.

If you want to read more about Purim and its pastries, this is a link to an article published earlier this week on the NYTimes.

Poppy seed cupcakes

with toasted almonds & chocolate fudge

Adapted heavily from ‘Orna & Ella’

Makes approx 15 cupcakes

125g poppy seeds, freshly ground

2 heaped tbs all-purpose flour

3 heaped tbs breadcrumbs

100g butter, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

4 eggs yolks

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1/8 almond extract

4 egg whites

2 tbs sugar

A pinch of salt

Chocolate fudge topping

100g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids), chopped

25g golden syrup

25g butter

A handful of slivered almonds, sliced and toasted

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter and flour a cupcake tin and set aside.
  2. Place a tin large enough to accommodate the cupcake tin and fill it with water to a height of 2cm.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the ground poppy seeds, flour and breadcrumbs. Set aside
  4. Using an electric hand whisk, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  6. Add the vanilla and almond extract and whisk until incorporated.
  7. Gradually add the poppy seed-flour mixture, whisking it on the lowest setting until almost combined. use a spatula for the last few turns, until combined.
  8. In a clean bowl, use the highest setting on your electric hand whisk to whisk the egg whites, salt and sugar to stiff peaks.
  9. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the poppy seed mixture. Add the remaining egg whites and fold until incorporated.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in to the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven. Once cool enough to handle transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  12. While the cupcakes are cooling away prepare the chocolate ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and over a saucepan of simmering water (a double-boiler), until the chocolate has melted (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water).
  13. Add the butter and golden syrup and stir until smooth.
  14. Spread the fudge over the cupcakes and decorate with toasted almonds. Allow it to cool.


  1. These are absolutely beautiful and a wonderfully creative recipe! I love it.

  2. I love your photos! I've never tried ground poppy seeds...How do you make sure its freshly ground? I have a packed of poppy seeds, can i ground them in my blender? does that count as freshly ground?

  3. Hi Carine,
    Grinding allows the poppy seeds' exquisite flavor to really shine and these cupcakes are dense, and all about poppy seeds, so to make sure they're freshly ground either grind them yourself (you need to use a spice or coffee grinder, a blender wont grind them fine enough. You could also try using a mortar and pestle). Alternatively, ask to grind them at the spice shop, this way way you'll be sure of their freshness. Make sure to store them in the freezer ASAP. Good luck and let me know how they turn out!