I took ideas from a number of other sources, played with them, and combined them into this delicious balance of flavors. And since the basic rule is three changes to any recipe makes it new and original, this cake is my first original recipe. I developed this dessert while I was still in college–so a long time ago–as the dessert for my best friend’s wedding shower. Since then it’s become my signature dessert and a favorite of many of my friends. The base is a mild white almond poppy seed cake covered with a dark chocolate ganache. The frosting starts with a cooked based and is sweet and buttery. I like to garnish the cake with fresh fruit and mint leaves. I have made this cake in a number of different iterations — heart-shaped, cupcakes, sheet cakes. I haven’t shared the recipe with many people, but I’m breaking the rule for you.
¼ c. poppy seeds
½ c. milk
1 pkg. white cake mix
½ c. butter
1 tsp. pure almond extract
½ c. heavy cream
8 oz. dark chocolate, melted
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. milk
1 ½ c. sugar
1 ½ c. butter, softened
1 T. pure almond extract
Cake: In 2-cup measuring cup, soak poppy seeds in ½ cup milk for 1 hour. Add water to poppy seed mixture to equal 1 ½ cups.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13×9 inch pan. In large bowl combine poppy seed mixture, cake mix, butter, and eggs at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at high speed. Fold in almond extract. Pour into greased and floured pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until top springs back when touched lightly near center. Cool 10 minutes. Invert onto serving tray; cool completely.
Genache: In heavy sauce pan, warm cream over medium heat. Remove from heat, stir in melted chocolate. Cool to room temperature. Do not allow to set. Pour ganache over cooled cake; spread to cover top and sides. Refrigerate until set.
Frosting: To prepare frosting, lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In medium sauce pan, combine flour and 1 ½ cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly! Heat until mixture is very thick; remove from heat. Cover surface with plastic wrap; cool completely. In large bowl, beat 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 ½ cups butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture by tablespoonfuls; beating at high speed until smooth. Beat in almond extract.
There is plenty of frosting to frost and decorate the cake as you’d like. I usually do an easy scalloped edge along the bottom and dots on top of a 13×9 inch cake (or half sheet as is pictured), garnishing with fresh fruit and mint leaves. The mini cupcakes in the photo are dipped in the ganache and frosted using a large star tip and finally garnished with a raspberry and mint leaf.
Because of the ganache and frosting, the cake must be refrigerated.
Making this cake can be a bit time consuming, but I promise it is worth it. It’s beautiful and the delicate balance of flavors will make your eyes roll back in your head.