APPLE POPPY SEED CAKE - ALMÁS MÁKTORTA
The 2012 Cake of Hungary was created by Zsolt Pintér at the Kokó Confectionary in Veszprém, Hungary. I made a version of it yesterday and it seems I can’t get enough of this complex, well balanced, beautiful cake. I don’t think I tasted anything as lovely since I made Sissi’s birthday cake. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t the poppy seeds; to tell you the truth I am not really a poppy seeds fan. I love these cakes for entirely different reasons. The harmony of the seemingly unrelated flavours and textures grabs your senses and holds you captive with the first bite… I wish I could share a slice with Sissi, I think she would appreciate the beauty of this cake.
At first I was going to increase the cream, it was almost not enough, but in the end I realized it was just the right amount to balance the apple and cake layers. I will just have to spread the cake layers a little thinner next time. I couldn’t manage to get 6 layers out of my baking pans, but I must say that five layers worked out rather well.
*The original recipe called for grated apples for the apple filling. Granted, these would have produced neater, thinner layers, but I was concerned about mushiness, so I thinly sliced them instead. If you prefer to grate the filling, use 500 g of peeled, grated apples. Grated apples really pack down, and so the volume would be considerably less and cooking time would also be shorter. It is therefore better to weigh the apples if you plan to grate them and be mindful of the shorter cooking time.
Great care must be taken assembling and slicing this fragile cake and I would strongly recommend to freezing the cake layers before the assembly. Have the fruit filling cooked and cooled and the cream ready to spread before you remove the cake from the freezer. Once assembled, chill the cake but you cannot freeze it again, because freezing the apple filling will make it mushy.
The original cake called for heat treated poppy seeds. Unless you live in a large city, you will have to use your smarts to get any kind of poppy seeds, but heat treated? - Not likely. I buy my year’s supply of poppy seeds about two weeks before Christmas, by then the poor souls bought up all of last year’s rancid seeds and I can get to the fresh ones. Timing is of essence, if I buy too early, the seeds will be rancid. If I leave it too late, there won’t be any poppy seeds left in the stores. So there must still be Hungarians left in town who honour our Christmas beigli tradition. Then I noticed some of the recipes suggested grinding up the seeds. Well that’s a bloody chore with a tiny coffee grinder and so I thought I should try heat treating the seeds myself.
*I started out with a quarter of a cup and when I saw the poppy seeds really did soften up in a non stick skillet, I heat treated the rest. You have to preheat the skillet at a low medium. If you use an electric stove, be very careful not to start out with high heat, because even though you turned down the heat, the pan will still be much too hot for the seeds. The seeds will burn and turn bitter on high heat. So give it time, and don’t hurry this process.
1-1/2 cups + 3 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 tsp finely grated lemon rinds
3/4 cup, peeled and grated granny smith apples
2 cups egg whites [buy egg whites, otherwise you will have lots of leftover yolks]
1-1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp sugar [do NOT reduce sugar]
3-1/2 Tbsp butter 5 cups of peeled and ether thinly sliced granny smith apples
* or 500 g peeled and grated granny smith apples
1 Tbsp Fruit Fresh
1/4 cup sugar juice of 1/2 lemon [remove the seeds]
2 pinch ground cinnamon
2-1/3 cups milk
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup sugar
1 stick of vanilla
1 cup 35% whipping cream
Make the cake the day before. Leave the cake in the baking pans and freeze them. Do not divide or cut the layers yet. This will be much easier with a frozen cake.
If you have 5 identical sized round cake pans, use them. I don’t, so I made a slab cake instead. I could have made a six layer slab cake with two same sized rimmed baking sheets, [the original cake was six layers], but since I only had one I had to supplement the second baking sheet with a smaller baking pan. This required additional planning to get the five cake layers I needed for this cake.
• Line the bottom of the baking pans you are using with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper and the sides of the pans and set them aside.
• Next is heat treating the poppy seeds: Place a large non stick skillet on the stove over low-medium heat. If you have an electric stove, it will take a few minutes to heat up the pan. If you haven’t done so, please read the last paragraph marked with a *. When the pan is thoroughly heated, add the poppy seeds and gently stirring with a heat proof plastic spatula [gently, because the seeds can scrape the coating of the pan] until the seeds begin to steam a little. Continue to stir for 1-2 minutes and then remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the poppy seeds into a large chilled bowl to cool. The seeds must cool down to room temperature before starting the cake.
• Preheat the oven to 375F.
• Next peel and grate the apples. Do not worry about the apples going brown; these will be mixed into the poppy seeds.
• Add the grated apple, breadcrumbs and the grated lemon peel to the poppy seeds.
• Mix to combine and set aside.
• Next beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form – do this gradually. Start with medium low speed and let the beater go at that speed for a couple of minutes. Then increase the speed and beat it at medium for a couple of minutes and then beat it on high until the peaks are stiff. There is a fine line between stiff and overbeaten egg whites, so be careful not to overbeat. At the final beating I stop the beater several times to check for the consistency.
• Gently and gradually fold the poppy seed mixture into the beaten egg whites.
• Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans in an even height. This cake is fragile and you won’t be able to slice the cake layers horizontally.
• Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes.
• Remove from heat and let cakes cool down in the pan.
• Transfer the pans to a freezer for the night.
• In 2-3 hours, the tops will be solid enough to gently cover the cakes with plastic wrap.
Apple and Cream Fillings:
• Next day, prepare the apple filling first.
• Peel and core the apples and slice as thinly as possible.
• Place in a large skillet on medium low heat.
• Sprinkle with Fruit Fresh, add the sugar, lemon juice and the cinnamon.
• Slowly sauté the apples until they are almost tender.
• Remove from heat and let the apples come to room temperature.
• Meanwhile make the cream.
• In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup of cold milk with the cornstarch and the egg yolks and set aside.
• Heat the remaining milk with sugar and the vanilla bean in the microwave.
• Transfer to a pot and bring to a slow simmer.
• Very gradually add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk to the cold milk mixture you set aside earlier.
• Gradually pour this mixture into the simmering milk, whisking with a balloon whisk continually.
• Bring to the simmer and cook, whisking continually until the custard is thick.
• Remove pot from heat.
• Place a large fine sieve over a larger bowl and force the custard through the sieve.
• Cover the custard with plastic wrap and set it aside to cool down to room temperature.
• Whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Use the same method as with whipping the egg whites.
• Gently fold the cool custard into the whipping cream.
Assembly of Cake:
• To assemble the cake, remove baking pans from the freezer.
• Lift the cakes out and remove the parchment paper.
• With a large chef’s knife cut 5 layers and place each layer on clean parchment paper. • Spread a thin layer of cream on three of the cake layers.
• Arrange the apple filling on two layers.
• Place a cake layer with the cream filling on a serving platter.
• Place the cake layers on the top alternating between cream filling and the apple filling. • The top layer should be a cream filling.
• Spread the remaining filling on the sides.
• Place the assembled cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
• The original cake was decorated with apple slices and cream rosettes, but I figured I worked hard enough as it is.
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