I had a cake catastrophe.
It was late, after a long but lovely day hosting my beloved aunt-in-law for Easter dinner, while also prepping for brunch with friends the next morning, and making cake for birthday cake in the afternoon with even more friends.
The witching hour was approaching and the cake would just not finish baking. It was an untried recipe and even though I thought I might do things differently (less oil, maybe?), I decided to follow the instructions exactly.
Just when I thought it might be — MUST be! — done, this oily mess with odd lumps fell out of the cathedral-shaped bundt pan; my heart dropped even farther. The concoction had “a really nice flavour” according to my best tester.
It is sickening: all that effort, all those yummy ingredients, the oven blasting heat away for over an hour. I had a meringue roulade and there were giant caramel pecan buns rising overnight in the fridge, but I did want to have another cake: call me greedy if you want.
My guests were coming a bit later than planned, so miraculously I would have time. It would be wise to make something familiar and easy, but then again, I guess I like a challenge.
And I knew: the Delphine Poppy Seed Cake’s day had come.
I have this aunt: a serious multi-tasker before we had a term for it, a career woman, a gracious hostess, fun-loving, and, like all her sisters, quick to laugh. She would travel just to go help someone out, bringing tools and home baking and a serious amount of elbow grease.
Some of my best memories from my teen years are of family breakfasts in her home, when we would come over from the island and whoever else in the family was free would join us there. She used her china, crystal and linen, and she and my uncle would lay out a feast as everyone laughed together, helped out, caught up, laughed, talked more and kept laughing. Then we’d all head out and do whatever we needed to be doing that day, but feeling connected, loved and a bit weak from all that laughing and such good food.
Maybe this is why breakfast is my favourite meal and I’d host a million brunches over one dinner party.
Once when we were home from Ireland, she had a big open house for the whole gang. With all the other deliciousness, there was a cake on her silver cake stand that was particularly tasty. When I asked, she wrote out the recipe for me and in all those years (19 1/4) I have never made it.
So that Monday before brunch I baked Auntie Leona’s cake* with its extravagant amount of tiny midnight seeds.
Miraculously — and I believe all cake successes are small miracles — the cake was fit to serve and appropriately made its Dublin debut on a day of breakfast with linen, china, great conversation, much laughter and a whole bunch of love.
Leona's Delphine Poppy Seed Cake 3/4 c oil 1 c sugar 3/4 c evaporated milk 2/3 c poppy seeds 2 eggs 2 c flour 2 3/4 tsp baking powder 1 tsp vanilla Put all ingredients into mixing bowl and mix well. Pour into greased tube pan (9 inch/23 cm) and bake at 350/180 for 45 min - 1 hour (I covered mine with foil after about 30 min) -- until tester comes out clean. Let sit in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and pour lemon sugar glaze over cake. Crunchy Lemon Glaze: Mix 1/3 c sugar, 1 c icing sugar and 1/4 c lemon juice.
*I did make a couple of changes that I thought would improve my chances at success:
Instead of a plain lemon glaze, I used the crunchy, crumbly one already made for the disaster. I decreased the oil, and because I always have to use less liquid in Ireland when I’m baking from North American recipes, I decreased the milk as well. I learned the hard way that those trans-Atlantic recipes call for single-acting baking powder and what we have here is double-acting, so that measurement drops by a third as well (hence the weird 2 3/4 tsp — you could try using 3 tsp if you’re brave). Because I love my homemade vanilla, I threw a teaspoon of that in too.
7 thoughts on “The Day of Delphine Cake”
You have a way with words my dear cousin/friend! I must try auntie Leona’s cake!
I would also love to try Auntie Leona’s Poppy Seed Cake. Do you ship? Even without a picture, I can tell from reading the ingredients that it’s delicious. What I appreciate most is that you put on your thinking cap and made executive decisions to suit your personal whims, as well as took into account that some ingredients had to be altered and/or scratched. You challenged yourself to succeed. I’m impressed and a bit peckish now too. Thanks for sharing!!! 🙂
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Anything for cake! Well, almost anything. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words, Sparkyjen! I hope you find some cake soon!
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