Babeczka – Small Cake – Little Bun

Babka is the name of a cake in Polish – or rather it refers to its shape – the name means grandma or little old lady – the shape is round and dumpy.

It can be a yeast cake or a sponge type cake. I will go into detail about these later in the year.

A small  bun or fairy cake can be called a babeczka (babeczki is the plural).

I have also seen the word mufinka now in Poland!

Using my various poppy seed recipes I have tried out some variations to make some babeczki.

These I made with a yeast pastry & poppy seed filling for Wigilia – Christmas Eve – a couple of years ago – using a different yeast pastry to the one in the traditional poppy seed roll.

Babeczki with Poppy Seed filling. The photo is dark as it was taken in the evening whilst getting ready for the special meal.

I used a simple sponge mixture to make 2 other types of poppy seed buns.

I have used paper cases – I am not sure if these are available or used in Poland but they are so useful and make the buns very portable and easy to eat.

You can use a basic Victoria sponge mixture made using 2 eggs, butter or margarine, caster sugar and self-raising – the recipe method and amounts such as in the Be-Ro  recipe book will work well.

This mixture should make about 12 buns.

I use a method  which I will write about in more detail later in the year, in this  the eggs are weighed in their shells and each of the other ingredients is then that same weight.

Weighing eggs

Buns – 1 – Using dry roasted poppy seeds To the sponge mixture you add dry roasted poppy seeds. The dry roasting  gives them a more nutty flavour. Note – Lemon zest  is not used in this recipe.

Buns made with Dry Roasted Poppy Seeds

To dry roast poppy seeds It is best to make this first before mixing up the sponge cake.  Weigh out the required amount of poppy seeds  – in this case 40 – 50g for a 2 egg cake mixture.

In a small dry  frying pan (ie without any oil or butter) fry the seeds for 5 minutes – stirring them with a wooden spoon or spatula – being careful not to burn them.

Tip the hot seeds into a bowl containing some cold milk. Once cool, pour the mixture into a fine sieve to separate the seeds from the milk.

Leave the sieve over an empty bowl, press down on the seed a few times to  remove as much milk as possible.

Buns -2  – Using the traditional poppy seed filling

Making the filling  is time consuming but only a small amount is needed to make 12 buns. So what I do is to make in the full amount with 200g of poppy seeds as in an earlier post Poppy Seed Cakes and Yeast Cakes  in advance and then portion this up into 2 or 3 portions and freeze them.

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Poppy Seed Mixture

 

Put the bun cases into the bun tray.

Now the next it is a bit fiddly and you have to judge the quantities by eye.

The idea is to:

  • put a spoonful of cake mixture into each bun case
  • followed by a spoonful of poppy seed mixture
  • followed by a covering amount of cake mixture.

I have found it easier to do each step for all 12 buns at a time – that is :

  • cake mixture into all the cases
  • then the poppy seed filling
  • then final cake mixture.

Bake the buns in the usual way  – GM5 – 190°C  – for around 15 to 20 minutes.

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Dust with Icing Sugar once they have cooled and before serving

IMG_20150709_073855224 IMG_20150709_075018278 IMG_20150709_082101258 IMG_20150709_082114326 These have proved very popular!

Makowiec – Poppy Seed Cake 4

A Very Easy Method

Weighing the poppy seeds

This cake is a more modern version as soft tub margarine is used and it is an all-in-one method which is so easy to do with an electric hand whisk.

I use either Flora original or Stork for baking – both of these have given good results.

Cake Ingredients

175g soft tub margarine for baking

225g self-raising flower

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

175g caster sugar

Grated rind of 2 lemons

3 eggs

3 tablespoon milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)

100g poppy seeds

Lemon Glaze Ingredients

Juice of 2 lemons

175g caster sugar

Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 1800C.

Make this as a tray bake in a tin about 31×22 cm.

I have a selection of Mermaid Hard Anodised rectangular baking tins and they are superb.

Grease the tin and use one piece of greaseproof paper to line the base and the two long sides of the tin.

Place all the ingredients except the poppy seeds into a large bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until they are well blended.

Add the poppy seeds and beat till they are well mixed in.

Put the mixture into the tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes and release the cake from the tin and put on a cooling rack.

Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar to dissolve the sugar.

Prick the top in several places with a thin cake testing skewer.

Dribble the lemon glaze over the cake so the top in covered.

You can dust with icing sugar before serving.

 

Cake Stands in Glass and China

I just love cake stands.   They make the cakes look really special.

I started of with a few glass ones I got from my mother and now have at least seventeen.

Most are old, bought from charity shops and car boot sales.

I have also started buying china tiered ones.  These look better just placed around the dining room but I sometimes use them for small cakes, chocolates or fruit.

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A Selection of my Cake Stands

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This Cake Stand was one of my mother’s

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This Large Stand I bought in an antique shop in Poland. I managed to get it back in my Hand Luggage. It is very HEAVY.
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My most recent china purchase. Maybe a bit bright for cakes but lovely colours
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Another Bright Cake Stand

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An Egg Cup Holder. The egg cups were missing when I bought this.

Lead Crystal Cake Stand

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Etched Glass Cake Stand
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A Laura Ashley Cake Stand
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Pink Glass & China Cake Stands

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Cake Stands in my Cupboard

Babeczki for Wigilia - with Poppy Seed filling

Babeczki for Wigilia –  Christmas Eve –  with Poppy Seed filling on a Christmas Stand

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Two types of buns on a stand
Two types of buns on a stand

Poppy Seed Cake 3 — Lighter on the Seeds

Poppies in my garden

This photo is taken from a very old slide but the plant is still growing in my garden and most years looks as good as this.

However this year it has not done so well.  I think it must be a combination of the alternating  very dry days and the cold wet days this summer.

It is a good job I am not relying on this as my source of seeds.  My best source of seeds is an indoor stall in  Leeds Market.  The stall sells dried fruits and nuts which are weighed out on request from large jars as well as other aids for baking.

On my first visit to Poland  I went to stay with my mother’s sister  and her family who had a small farm in the Masurian Lakes in the North East of Poland.  This was still in Communist times.

I saw there was a huge field of large headed purple flowered poppies.  My auntie had a Government contract that year  to grow these poppies for the production of morphine for  hospital use.

Poppy seeds of superior quality for culinary purposes are harvested when they are ripe, after the seed pod has dried.

Seeds for the production of morphine are harvested while the seed pods are green and their latex is abundant and  when the seeds have only just begun to grow.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

This Poppy Seed cake is inspired by one I had when I was in America.  It is  like a lemon drizzle cake with fewer poppy seeds than in my other recipes.

This can be made with butter or block baking margarine.  I find that with many flavoured cakes margarine is as good if not better than butter.

To get the most zest from the lemons I use a fine Microplane Zester – It is the best!

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2 Graters & 1 Fine Zester
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Fine Microplane Zester

 

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Lemon Zest

 

Cake Ingredients

60g poppy seeds

125g self-raising flour

100g butter/block margarine

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

Grated zest of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons of warm water

Glaze Ingredients

80g caster sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 1800 C

Grease and line a 20cm/8inch square tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together till they are light and creamy.

Stir in the lemon zest.

Sift the flour.

Lightly beat the eggs together and then beat them into the mixture, a little at a time, adding a little of the flour with the last of the eggs.

Using a metal spoon, fold in the remaining flour and the water and then fold in the poppy seeds.

Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake the cake for about 35 minutes, or until it starts to shrink from the sides of the tin.

In a small pan dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice over a gentle heat.

When the cake is baked remove it from the oven and leave for a few minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack.

Put a plate underneath, prick the cake all over with a fine skewer whilst it is still warm and spoon the lemon glaze over it. If any runs through spoon it back on.

When the cake is cold dust it with icing sugar before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy Seed Cake 2

Makowiec – Poppy Seed Cake 2

 

There are many versions of Polish poppy seed cakes and many of them use yeast pastry.

This one does not have a yeast based pastry and is much easier to make as it does not take as much time as the more traditional roll.

I often make this one now for Wigilia – Christmas Eve.

The original recipe used twice this amount but I often found it would sink in the middle which did not look as nice so now I always make this smaller one.

This version has a lemon glaze followed by lemon icing – this is my favourite but you could just dust the cooled cake with icing sugar or use the glaze then dust with icing sugar before serving.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

1 egg

5ml vanilla extract

100g poppy seeds

Grated rind of 1 lemon

65g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

60ml milk

65g melted butter

15 ml sunflower oil

Lemon Glaze & Icing 

Glaze – Juice of 1 lemon & 50g caster sugar

Icing – Juice of 1 lemon & 200g icing sugar

Method

Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 1800C

I find this easer to remove using either a loose bottom or spring form tin –  Grease a 20cm diameter tin.

or

grease and line with one piece of greasproof  for the 2 long sides and base -so you can remove the cake from the tin easily – a 16 x 27 cm tin.

 

 

 

 

Whisk the egg, sugar and vanilla extract until they are thick and creamy.

Stir in the poppy seeds and lemon rind.

Sift the flour and add the baking powder and salt.

Fold this into the egg and poppy seed mixture alternating with the milk – do this in about three batches.

Fold in the melted butter and the oil.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for around 30 to 35 minutes.

 

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes and release the cake from the tin and put on a cooling rack or remove using the 2 ends of the greaseproof.

Prick the top in several places with a thin cake testing skewer.

Lemon Glaze

Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar to dissolve the sugar, dribble this over the cake so the top in covered. Leave till nearly cool then put the cake on a plate or stand.

Lemon Icing

The amount of icing sugar you need will vary depending on the size of the lemon and the dampness of the sugar. (If you want less icing use a small lemon or half a large one and 100g of icing sugar)

Place the lemon juice in a bowl and slowly add the sugar mixing it with a wooden spoon is best, use more or less sugar to make a soft runny icing which will coat the back of the spoon.

Pour this over the cake.

You can aim for just the top covered or to have drips down the sides.

Poppy Seed Cakes and Yeast Cakes

Yeast Cake

Makowiec
Traditional Poppy Seed Cake
book pic mak
Photo from my Old Polish Cookbook
Kuchnia Polska - Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery
Kuchnia Polska – Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery

 

Weighing Poppy Seeds
Weighing Poppy Seeds

 

poppy mix
Poppy seed mix

I do not know why but the smell of baking yeast cakes just fills me with warm loving feeling, it is so wonderful.

Yeast cakes feature greatly in Polish festivals and there is Babka for Easter, Makowiec (Poppy seed roll) for Christmas Eve and doughnuts before the start of Lent and New Year’s Eve and Epiphany.

Surprisingly my mother did not seem to have a great success with yeast cookery, maybe her kitchen was a bit cool, I do not know.   We got our yeast cakes from her friends. I have done lots of experimenting with yeast recipes and have had a lot of success (and some failures from which I also learnt much!). I now know that you can succeed in a cool kitchen; you just have to start a day beforehand.

Watching the yeast rise still seems like magic to me even though I am well aware of the science that makes it happen. It can be unpredictable and depends on the yeast and the temperature.

I prefer to use fresh yeast but cannot always get it, so now I use dried yeast and also get good results. I have used the type of yeast that you add straight to the flour but I like to see that the yeast is active before it goes into the flour so this is not my favourite type – but I have to admit is does work in many recipes.

Many  recipes use a batter starter and I like this method as you can see the yeast making the mixture really rise.

The best time to make a yeast cake is on a day when you are in and doing other things as the times for rising and proving can vary, you have to be around and do the next stage when the time is right, you cannot rush it.

One of the drawbacks with yeast pastry is that the cakes go stale very quickly so you need lots of people on hand to help to eat it all.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are the blue-grey seeds of the poppy – Papaver somniferum. They have been used since antiquity and were known in Egyptian, Minoan and Sumerian cultures. They are used in European and Middle Eastern cooking and are especially popular in Jewish and in Polish cooking.

Mak is the Polish word for poppy seed and a cake made with poppy seeds is called makowiec.

This is one of the dishes served on Christmas Eve and I will be writing about the food for that evening later in the year.

Makowiec – Poppy Seed Roll

Traditional Recipe

This classic yeast cake is served on Christmas Eve. Poppy seeds and honey are used to make a filling which I think is just so delicious. Some fillings also use dried fruits such as raisins but I prefer it without.

I have been searching for many years for the best recipe for this cake and I think I now have it. Many recipes that I have tried, have made a cake which is so large that it has tried to escape out of the baking tray and the oven and I have been experimenting to get an amount which is more suitable for the standard size oven in the United Kingdom.

Also the shape of a nice roll of cake has eluded me till now, mine seemed to rise too much and crack and spread across the baking tray with all the filling escaping!

On a  visit to Poland I was given a suggested that you wrap the rising yeast roll in greaseproof paper to keep its shape and this worked.   So at last I have the size and shape that works well.

Without a doubt this recipes is time consuming – so in my next posts I will give some easier simpler variations which are also delicious.

There are 3 parts to the making of this cake: the poppy seed filling, the yeast pastry and the icing.

Poppy Seed Filling

I make the poppy seed filling first, or during the time the yeast is rising, as it has to be cool when used. You can make the filling ahead of time – there are several stages where you can leave it to finish later. I often make till until the addition of the butter and add the rum and egg just before I need it. You can also freeze this filling at this stage.

 Ingredients

200g poppy seeds

500ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

50g ground almonds

120 ml runny honey & 1 tablespoon

25g butter

1 large egg – separated

1 tablespoon of  rum

¼ teaspoon of vanilla essence

Put the poppy seeds and milk into a saucepan and simmer then together for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop any sticking or burning. The aim is to cook the seeds and adsorb as much of the milk as possible. You need to watch this carefully and keep adjusting the heat to stop the mixture burning.

Using a fine sieve, strain the poppy seeds from the liquid – leave this for a while to remove as much liquid as possible.

The poppy seeds need to be crushed, I use a hand held blender for about 5 minutes which I find is the easiest way but you can use a pestle and mortar or a mincer.

Once crushed, place the poppy seeds back into a saucepan and add the ground almonds, the vanilla essence and the 120ml of honey and mix thoroughly.

Add the butter to the mixture and simmer gently for about 5 minutes and then leave this mixture to cool completely and then add the rum.

Whisk the 15ml (1 tablespoon) of honey with the egg yolk until this is thick and creamy and then add this to the mixture.

Just before you need the filling, whisk the egg white until it is stiff and then fold this egg white into the poppy seed mixture.

Yeast Pastry

This is made in 2 stages

Yeast Starter

5g fresh yeast or a 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast

40g plain flour

60ml of milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl then cover this with a tea towel or cling film and leave the bowl in a warm place for 3 hours.

After this place the bowl in the fridge – you can leave this overnight.

Rest of Dough

10g fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon of dried yeast

40g sugar

60ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

1 egg and 2 egg yolks

300g plain flour

pinch of salt

100g butter at room temperature

Warm the milk slightly and put it into a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar and leave in a warm place for 15 minutes or until you can see that the yeast is active and rising.

Add the starter, the egg and egg yolks, the pinch of salt and the flour. Mix and then knead the dough until it forms a soft ball.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or cling film and leave for 15 minutes.

Add the butter in tablespoonful amounts to the dough, kneading slightly at each addition and then knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should be soft and elastic but not sticky, if it is too sticky add some more flour knead till it is the correct texture.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave to rise.

Putting together the poppy seed roll

Have ready a greased baking tray as the size of rectangle of dough you need is governed by the length of the baking tray.

When the dough is ready, roll it out into a rectangle of around 20cm by 25cm. It will be about 1cm in thickness.

Place the filling onto the dough leaving about 2cm clear at all the edges.

Roll up the poppy seed roll lengthwise and then enclose the roll reasonably tightly lengthwise in greaseproof paper, do not cover the ends of the roll which will rise and expand lengthwise.

Place the roll onto a baking sheet with at least 5cm at each end to allow for the expansion and leave this to rise for about 1 hour.

Pre heat the oven to GM4 – 180oC

Place the risen roll into the oven with the greaseproof paper still on.

Bake for about 40 minutes and then cool on a wire rack, remove the greaseproof paper as soon as the roll has cooled slightly.

Before serving dust the roll with icing sugar – or you can glaze it with a thin lemon icing.

I cut the short end of the roll off and do not serve these.

Lemon Icing

Juice of ½ lemon

100g icing sugar – sieved

The amount of icing sugar you need will vary, depending on the size of the lemon and the dampness of the sugar.

Place the lemon juice in a bowl and slowly add the sugar mixing it with a wooden spoon is best, use more or less sugar to make a soft runny icing which will coat the back of the spoon.

Easier Recipes

So that is the end of my first recipe, which does take quite a while to make but I felt I had to include this traditional version especially now I have mastered it.

There are many other poppy seed cakes and I will be continuing next with a few of these. They quicker and easier to make but are still very delicious and also a few recipes for poppy seed cakes which have evolved from these.

Polish Cakes

 

 

Cakes & Pastries

There seems to be is no end to the variety of cakes in Poland: yeast cakes, tort(layer cake), poppy seed cakes, apple cakes, cheesecakes, cakes with berries, honey cakes, cakes with nuts and many more. I could write a book just on cakes alone, even on just one type of cake.

The influence of France, Austria and Hungary can be seen or rather tasted in some of the cakes and pastries. This has come about through royal alliances in the past with foreign princesses bringing their chefs to Poland.

There are special cakes for different days of the year especially  Easter and Christmas Eve.

A Few Notes on Ingredients

I have adapted some recipes, as did my mother, to take into consideration the availability of ingredients here in England.

Cream in Poland is smetana – soured cream, and before its general availability in England we would use single or double cream with lemon juice added to it.

As in many countries in Europe, there is not any self-raising flour in Poland. There are different flours for bread making and there is a special plain flour for cake making to which you have to add baking powder. Many recipes use potato flour and sometimes cornflour.

Sugar in Poland is from sugar beet and is white sugar so there is not a tradition of cakes with brown sugar or syrup or treacle. Strangely enough the sugar is granulated or icing there is not any caster sugar.

Butter in Poland is unsalted and this although is better for baking and certainly for making butter cream, I do not find it makes enough of a difference to go out and get this type specially, salted will do if that is what you have.

Tort is usually layered up with rich butter cream or similar.

Chocolate is usually dark chocolate.

I  am going to start with a Traditional Poppy Seed Cake recipe.