Keep cooly cool, orange and poppy seed cake

Earlier this year, our ten year old lad, on the cusp of eleven, said he wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom. When this happens, you stay calm (try not to let your excitement show). As the Jets gang sang in the iconic West Side Story movie, keep cooly cool, boy.

He brought along a mattress, a doona, his pillows with once again wrestled off pillow cases and a book.

He said that he loved our room, it made him feel safe. This was because it was on the second story and always felt comforting to him.

I told him you are always welcome here.

He read and shared some of his thoughts whilst I also read. Be cool, I thought. It was like entertaining a nervous gazelle. One false move and you could scare him off. I kept my breathing light.

‘Mum, did you know that Aztec children played a game of ball where they would rip each others limbs off?’

‘Really?’ I replied. (Gross was what I actually thought but ‘get cool’ I reminded myself.)

‘Mum, how old can you be before you get your drivers licence?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I think it is 16 for your learners licence.’
‘Is that too young do you think Mum?’
‘Maybe,’ I said. (Playing it very cool.)

I went to him, kissed his still soft cheek and told him I loved him and was proud of him. ‘I love you Mum,’ he said.

He fell asleep and his breathing evened. I am getting older and somewhat wise enough to know how rare these times are. I know I have been a less than perfect parent, that my impatience and temper have at times ruled the day when they should not have.

No-one can ever tell you how very scary this parenting journey is, how imperfect we all are, how many mistakes we will make. My new parenting motto for myself?

Keep cool.

All too soon, Kid 1 returned to his own boudoir. A fleeting moment indeed. He adores this orange and poppyseed cake recipe that the dearest of friends bakes on a regular basis. So, before the lad embarks on a school camp this week, I baked this cake, especially for him.

Slightly nutty tasting poppy seeds (which are actually considered a spice) combined with citrus in baking, is a long-standing tradition in many European countries. The zingy aroma of orange that permeates your kitchen as this cake bakes is drool worthy. The buttermilk adds a lovely moistness and the entire cake is low in fat. This fact is greatly appreciated by those of us older than eleven and keeping a close eye on their ‘ice-cream’ pants. The Yak stared at this speckled delight with great sadness and maybe (just maybe), a tear welled up in his coeliac eyes. A gluten-free version will be baked very, very soon.

Kid 1 was happy not to share.


2 cups self-raising flour, (I used white but you can use half white and half wholemeal.)
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
3/4 cups caster sugar (raw or white, my friend has used coconut sugar as well and it also works)
2 tbls poppy seeds
2/3 cup oil (grapeseed or rice bran oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange

60g cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
2 – 3 tsps orange juice
shredded orange rind, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C, grease and line a 23 cm round cake tin with baking paper. (I used a 20cm deep baking tin and my friend uses a bundt tin.)
Sift flour,baking powder and sugar together into a large bowl.
Stir in the poppy seeds.
Combine the oil, buttermilk, eggs, juice and rind in a separate bowl of jug.
Blend this mixture into the flour mixture and beat for one minute.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for five minutes.
Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
My friend never ices this cake and nor did I, choosing instead to dust with a light rain of icing sugar. I have provided the icing recipe in case you would like to.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until well combined.
Beat in the orange juice to achieve a spreadable consistency.
Spread over the cooled cake and decorate with the orange rind. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from a friend, who found it, she knows not where.

40 thoughts on “Keep cooly cool, orange and poppy seed cake

  1. I’m off to buy some oranges tomorrow. Everything else I have, and I will make my own ‘buttermilk’ from a tablespoonful of lime juice (I have a lime tree in the back yard) and some lactose free milk (yes, I have anti-milk insides too, o joy). It sounds yum! I’ll be using commercial GF self raising flour, so I’ll let you know how that goes. We can’t have a tearful Yak, can we? Oh, and I *might* just give in to temptation and make an icing sugar/orange juice crispy thin glaze…

    • I know, a coeliacs tears are particularly
      bitter. 😁 The lactose thing is an added challenge for you! Can’t wait to see how it goes, I gather you don’t do a direct swap in cups but weigh it out. I am constantly torn between commercial blends which are more stable and making my own blends for health purposes. But usually, they are the ones I spend more time on trying to perfect. A two edged sword indeed. It really is a lovely cake so I await your experiment eagerly. 😊

      • I’ll start off by doing a direct substitution cup for cup. I find the White Wings GF flours reliable and stable in most situations, so that’s what I’ll use. I have a recipe I’d like to offer you but not one I want to post because it’s my ‘secret’ recipe. May I have an email address to send it to? You can email me if so – my address is on my Contact Me page.

      • Cool, would love it thanks, Will keep it top secret. 😊 I will send you an email. Also, I sometimes use a conversion method from the GF Girl, I can email that to you too if
        you would like.

      • OK, made, scoffed, happy non-Yak husband. I didn’t have as many poppyseeds as I thought, so only 1 tablespoon went in. Also, I think my orange was a bit feeble; the juice wasn’t tart enough and I would have preferred more orange flavour in the cake, perhaps two lots of zest. However, the texture is wonderful and it rose beautifully. I might have trouble seeing how it keeps, on the basis that it won’t last long enough to keep… Would you be OK if I posted about this test version and referred people to your post? If you’d prefer not, that’s perfectly fine.

      • Excellent! My orange was rather large so maybe that’s why it was ‘orangey’. Perfectly cool with you posting your test recipe and referring back. I will probably still do a gf version trialling some other flours, at some point. But then I will probably also refer to yours as well. Sharing is totally caring.

      • Thank you! I might suggest using two oranges if they’re small… Having said that, the interior of the cake is a gorgeous glowing orange. I’ll post in the next day or two and link back to you. And now you can relieve the jealous pangs of the Yak, safe in the knowledge that it works perfectly well with commercial GF SR flour, volume for volume.

    • Thanks Conor, I am glad I stole the recipe. It’s a keeper. I remember being told that when the lads were little and thinking ‘yeah, yeah.’ But how very true it is.

  2. A sweet and wistful memory paired with an evocative aroma and flavor. Now when you make this cake, you’ll always think of the second floor. Don’t worry, the driver’s license is still far off!

    • Yes, I have a vision of myself making this cake in the future and having a good old cry. Then ringing him and saying ‘do you want to call by, I made you an orange and popppyseed cake.’ Drivers license, not quite yet thanks goodness! Eek!

  3. A fleeting moment iindeed. I’ve just recently realized that i don’t really come full circle, but my children do. They have their own circle of life, so to speak. I have to practically go visit them and bang on the door until they answer, and these two really like me! So definitely enjoy the time, but also know they’ll always need you. Beautiful cake.

  4. Such a sweet moment in your son’s life, and you captured it beautifully, Mom. As an inadequate parent who has often lost the battle to keep cool myself, I believe we may be forgiven for losing our tempers if our hearts are in the right place. Cake helps, too. BTW, do you think it would work with lemon instead of orange?

    • Thanks Mel, I really like that idea and also, saying sorry goes a long way too. I believe that it’s good for them to hear a grown up apologise if they have been out of order. Cake certainly helps! Yes, I think lemon would be fab and thanks for the idea, will try it myself soon.

  5. A.PROMPTreply

    Such a sweet post on so many levels…..sweet interaction, sweet treat, sweet regret knowing the moments aren’t coming as frequently. But the important thing is that you’re seeing them when they do come and they’re all the more sweet for that!

  6. Gorgeous looking cake and a lovely story – I also have an almost 11 year old and your words struck home, especially when I am having a weekend where my impatience and frustration is getting the better of me, and I feel I am letting my kids down 😦 Anyway, you are right, these moments are fleeting and happen less often – I actually got into his bed to give my big boy a cuddle and he just felt so big compared to his skinny, smaller 8 year old brother! Ahhh…

    • Thanks so much CJ, on all accounts. The cake is a good one. Yes, I always say that being a parent is the best thing but also the hardest thing, I have ever done. And I do think we are all probably hard on ourselves. But patience, sigh. Those cuddles are just lovely and still important, even as they do get bigger.

  7. Savour any attempts for intimacy with your kids ’cause in the blink of an eye they’ll have flown the nest and be busy busy busy. There is a chance however, you might lure him home with a piece of his favourite cake.

  8. Pingback: Super citrus | talltalesfromchiconia

  9. Awwww!!!
    This is a cute post Mz. Cheergerm, well played indeed!
    And beautifully executed, this cake looks yummy! I can image the lightness of it all thanks to the orange zests and poppy seeds.
    I want some 😦

  10. Wonderful cake! You are so right, there is something magical that happens when you combine poppy seeds and citrus in baking. My son’s favourite is a lemon version of this. Poor Yak. I hope you come up with a gluten free cake soon. And, I love how you say parenting is scary. Too true; mine are adults now and the parenting continues. So, stay cool.

    • Thanks KW, gotta love a bit of kitchen alchemy. And I am definitely going to do a lemon version and yes, gf for the poor old Yakko. I will try and stay cool, if it’s still scary when they are grown ups, I have a long road ahead. (Mum has said it is still scary as well….so my lesson is ‘get used to it.’)

    • It’s a goodie Francesca, hope you are having a grand road trip. Yes, he went off to a two day camp today. I know I am blessed but I also know that life is short, spins on a dime and I am really trying to treasure those moments. Maybe being an ‘older parent’ helps with that. Sometimes.

  11. Oh cheergerm, feeling kind of teary after reading this, as I know full well what you’re talking about. I remember the last time my youngest swept up my hand to hold as we were walking along… I’m sure it wasn’t done consciously, but I certainly remember wondering at the time if it would be the last and held on as long as he’d let me. They grow up so fast… 😦
    We all have our moments where parenting brings it’s frustrations, but you sound to me like a wonderful Mum. How lovely to have made this favourite cake as a pre-camp treat – sounds delicious!

    • Oh thanks Margot, I just got a little teary thinking of that ‘last hand hold.’ All these tiny increments of letting go. Parenting is a hard gig at times but I wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China.

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