Now this poppy-seed plum cake is very special to me. I first made it for my sister’s birthday when she came to visit me in Prague, where I spent few months working there, which was a really great experience. I immediately fell in love with their cuisine, especially desserts. Buchty, trdelnik and many more treats are perfect for spending an autumn day walking along beautiful streets and squares of Prague. But one thing in particular caught my attention more than others – it was some kind of pastry sold at a small bakery near the place where I worked. I came there accidentally and little did I know that I was about to taste perfection. It was plum and poppy filled sweet dough, rolled…or folded… It was just perfect, you could taste cinnamon and it was still hot and so good and comforting.
Few days later, my sister came to spend a week with me, and I was so inspired by my snack that I came across the idea of turning it into a pie, using a moderation of my favourite cookie dough as a base. So I went to the store, bought what I assumed was rye flour (oh, the struggle with the language…) and started my adventure. The apartment lacked all the essential cooking aids (electric mixer, scale, pans, spatulas, rolling pins (in such circumstances I recommend using an empty glass bottle as a rolling pin, it does the trick), even the temperature wheel on the oven (?!). So when I tell you I improvised, that is really so.
What’s ironic, I have made that pie many many times after because it was such a hit with me and my sister, but she claims that the one I made in Prague that day has still not been topped. So there you go, do not be discouraged if you have poorly equipped kitchen, just grab an empty bottle and roll the dough with it. =)
This poppy-seed plum cake is full of textures and rich warm flavours. It has rye flour base, but you could also make a graham cracker crust, rich and creamy poppy-seed filling, sweetened with honey and perfumed with cinnamon and caramelised plums on top sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon that together make your kitchen smell like cookie factory while baking. I really like making it in fall season because there are gorgeous ripe plums that go sooo well with cinnamon. Also poppy has always been more of a fall/winter ingredient for me. I could go on and on about this cake, but have faith in my enthusiasm and make it. Oh yes, this is a mini cake, baked in Φ16 cm, so if you want to make a bigger cake, multiply all the ingredients by 1,5.
preparation time: about 1 hour
time of baking: 10 minutes, 180°C/350 F
45 minutes, 165°C/325 F
pan size: Φ16 cm/6,3 in
Ingredients for the dough:
120 g rye flour
1 Tbsp (20 g) brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
small pinch of salt
65 g butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 egg yolk
Ingredients for the filling:
200 ml milk
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200 g poppy seeds
1 egg white
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar* + 1 tsp cinnamon
1. Begin by making the pie crust. Use food processor or do what I do – make it by hand, it will be just as easy. Combine all the dry ingredients – flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir them together shortly. Add butter, cold and cut into small cubes and mix it in the flour mixture until you get crumbly texture and butter is turned into very small bits evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.
2. Add honey and egg yolk and mix everything just until the dough forms together. The key to know when the dough is perfect is that it will still look crumbly, but if you pinch it, it will stay together. Depending on the size of the egg yolk and the humidity of the honey, you may need to add a tablespoon of cold water or a tablespoon of flour. This was perfect amount for me, but adjust the recipe if necessary.
3. Crumble the dough into a baking pan and roughly distribute it along the bottom. Use a glass or a cup with narrow sides and press the dough to the bottom and against the sides of the baking pan. See this example. Prick it with a fork a few times and put it in the fridge to chill for about half an hour. It will make the butter harden again.
4. While the dough is chilling in the fridge, prepare the plums. Use really ripe and juicy plums for this cake because when they bake, their juice caramelizes and they become gooey and sweet and give the best aroma. So wash the plums, dry them on a kichen towel and using a sharp knife cut them into 4-6 slices, depending on the size of your plums.
4. After about half an hour of cooling in the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C/350 F. Put the pan with pie crust into a hot oven and bake for 10 minutes.
5. In the meantime, while the oven is preheating, start preparing the filling. Pour the milk into a skillet and put it on medium high heat. Add honey, sugar, cinnamon and a tiny bit of vanilla bean seeds. Stir everything together and let it come to simmer (small bubbles formind around the sides of the skillet). After it has come to a simmer, add poppy seeds, stir everything together and remove from the heat. Let it sit aside for a few minutes to cool.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and gently fold it in the cooled poppy-seed mixture using a spatula.
7. Take prebaked pie crust out of the oven and lower the oven temperature to 165°C/325 F. Then pour poppy-seed filling into the pie shell. Level it with a spatula and arrange pieces of plums on top. Sprinkle with two tablespoons of vanilla sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon and continue baking for about 40-45 minutes (or up to an hour if you are making a bigger pie).
8. Let the pie cool for about half an hour and, even though it is really good when cold completely, I suggest eating it while it is still warm. Finally, pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!