This might be my favorite cake. I've been making this cake for years, for so long now I have no idea where I originally came across the recipe, but I've made it so many times and in so many variations that it feels like I can claim ownership at this point. It's not too sweet, and that sweetness is balanced with the bright, slightly bitter tang of citrus; the poppy seeds lend a satisfying crunch to every bite. It's the perfect breakfast or snacking cake, and I often can't help cutting off a thin slice each time I walk by.
I originally made the cake with a dash of vanilla or almond extract, and that is good. If that's what you have, use it. But recently I've started subbing in a good splash of amaro, which ramps up the bitter citrus flavor and really makes the cake shine. (Credit for that idea goes to Marjory Sweet, a friend and cook whose book Farm Lunch is available in our shop.) I've been using Amaro Angeleno, a locally made amaro with a strong citrus flavor and native herbs that just feels right here.
Finally, a note on substitutions: this is a very adaptable recipe. You can make it with any type of citrus, if you don't have oranges on hand, you just need 1/2 cup of juice. That could come from one large grapefruit, or a few limes or tangerines, or even a mix of different types of citrus. If using a less sweet citrus like a lemon or very tart grapefruit, you might need to add a bit more sugar to balance it, depending on your tastes. Try other seeds, or even just finely chopped nuts if you don't have any. You can use an oil, like coconut or olive, instead of the butter, and you can also sub in other types of dairy for the yogurt—milk, sour cream, buttermilk, probably even non-dairy milk or yogurt, though I haven't tried it. It also works well gluten free, just sub in a gluten-free flour blend, or a mix of gf flour and almond flour. (My gf flour blend : 24 oz white rice flour + 7.5 oz brown rice flour + 7 oz potato starch + 3 oz tapioca starch.)
Orange Poppy Cake
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar (white or brown works)
1-2 tbsp amaro
zest and juice of 2 oranges (1/2 cup of juice)
1/2 cup poppy seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup yogurt
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, or similarly sized cake pan, and set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar, either by hand or with a mixer, until fluffy. While beating, add the eggs one at a time and mix well to incorporate them. Then add the amaro, poppy seeds, orange juice & zest, and yogurt, one by one, and continue to mix. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients, mixing only until it all comes together.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the top is browned and a tester inserted comes out clean. The cake keeps well, covered, for several days.