Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Vegan Cake Nirvana. I’ve reached it. I seriously thought my quest for the perfect citrus poppy seed cake was to be a never ending one. The key to success was so elusive, it was driving me mad. I caved at various points along the way, sharing a recipe that was ‘almost’ the one… There are a few of those variations on the blog, but perfectionist that I am, none were quite what I imagined they should be. They were either too dense, too dry, sunken in the middle, you name it. After a while, I let the idea rest. It was all too hard.

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}

Then, after a break, on again with renewed vigour. In the end, there were three keys to my longed-for success. Firstly, I had to discard my natural desire for an easy one-bowl solution. I knew from experience that by employing the age-old method of creaming butter and sugar, then adding eggs, that a soft cushion of a cake was possible, yes, even in vegan baking. There was nothing else I could think of that would create the lift I so dearly wanted. So out came the neglected beaters, and the traditional method was employed.

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}

The second breakthrough came through reading up on the Vegan 8 website, where Brandi states unequivocally that potato starch is the key to a successful gluten-free vegan almond cake. I took her word for it (I had nothing to lose), and hey presto, the perfect cake! I have not often used potato starch in baking, and struggled for a time even to find it locally. But Asian grocers are a veritable goldmine, and they often stock flours that are unheard of in regular supermarkets, and they are always cheaper than any health food store.

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}

Third and last came the realisation that I was in fact, using too much leavening agent (i.e. baking powder). This surprised me, and was possibly the hardest thing to change. Often in gluten-free baking, you will need to increase, even double, the leavening agent for a recipe to be successful. Not this time. Not with lemon. I gritted my teeth, reduced the baking powder by half, and found that the aggravating crevice was no more! It feels surreal to have finally cracked the code, but there you have it. Cake Nirvana.

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake {vegan, gf}
A conventional cake, made by unconventional means.

Makes one 7-inch round cake

50g dairy-free margarine
½ tsp each lime, orange and lemon zest
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons water or plant milk
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup almond flour (blanched almond meal)
¼ cup potato starch
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze: (optional)
½ cup pure icing sugar, sifted
2 to 4 teaspoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line the base of a 7-inch round cake tin. * (see Notes)

Zest citrus and then add zest to sugar in a small bowl. With your fingers, rub zest into sugar until the oils are released, and then set aside.

Prepare the flax egg by measuring flaxseed meal into a small bowl, then adding 3 tablespoons water or milk. Whisk until smooth and beginning to thicken. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the margarine with an electric hand mixer until soft. Add citrus-infused sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add flax egg and beat, then add applesauce and beat again. Scrape down sides of bowl, add in lemon juice and beat until fully incorporated.

Whisk together flour, starch, baking powder, and poppy seeds in a separate bowl and then add to margarine mixture. Stir gently with a spatula until all ingredients are combined and there are no lumps remaining.

Spoon batter into prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes, or until cake is slightly domed and lightly browned. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake will flatten a little on cooling.

To make glaze, gradually add juice to sifted icing sugar and whisk until it reaches the desired consistency. Drizzle over warm cake.

Store for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

*Twice this recipe will fit nicely into a 9-inch round cake tin. Three times will fit comfortably into a 6-cup capacity bundt tin.

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