My former colleague/current friend Merritt emailed me with a snippet from her dream life the other day. Not her dreamy and beautiful existence in San Francisco but an actual dream. Apparently, in her dreams, my current morning routine involves at least ten minutes of combing my eyebrows with a rusty old dime. Yes. That sounds about right.
Merritt is a good friend. Last year, she took me to my first ever California beach bonfire campout. It was lovely and exactly what this Northeastern girl has always imagined California to be (even though I snuck back to the tent to sleep before the really rowdy partying began.) Being a camping neophyte, I assumed that the extreme discomfort I felt throughout the night was just my untrained body rejecting the toughness of the situation. (Tough is a relative term – we had sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a very cozy tent.) When we broke down our camp in the morning I realized that I had spent the entire night trying to sleep on a 1.5 liter plastic bottle of Poland Spring. I think that in my grumpy nocturnal haze I thought the bottle was a weird, skinny hill. Or maybe that that was just what camping felt like. I consider myself infinitely tougher now. Thanks, buddy.
And as if dreams and stress tests weren’t enough, Merritt also likes to talk baking with me. The other day she emailed me to ask for some advice on her lemon poppy seed cake recipe then continued to wax poetic about the little black beauties. She pointed out that poppy seeds are a delightful addition to baked goods because they distribute themselves in such an even way. They’re orderly and obedient unlike nuts and berries which sometimes tend to cluster at the bottom of a cake like troublemaking kids at the back of the bus. (Don’t you love Merritt?) And she’s so right. After discussing her cake, I couldn’t get poppy seeds out of my mind. I went right to work developing a poppy seed recipe for the cookbook. And, because I’m a little bit stingy (remember, I cherish every rusty dime), and I had bought so many of them, I decided to keep on using poppy seeds and develop a recipe with them for you.
Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cakes
Makes 24 mini cakes or 12 standard cupcakes
For the cakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons freshly grated grapefruit zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons grapefruit juice
1. Make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350° and line a cupcake tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then grapefruit zest, grapefruit zest, vanilla, and poppy seeds.
2. Add half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, and then the other half of the flour mixture. Divide the batter evenly between liners and bake until the cupcakes are light golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 15 minutes. Transfer cakes to a rack to cool completely.
3. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and enough grapefruit juice to make a smooth glaze. Dip the top of each cake into the glaze and let stand until set.