Let’s Get High! (on Poppy Seed Cake)

Myth Busters taught me that eating too many poppy seeds can actually cause a false-positive reading on a drug test. Thus proving the plot of countless sitcoms to be more plausible than previously imagined. But I have yet to meet anyone personally effected by the potent little seeds (if you failed a drug test because of poppy seeds- please, please let us know! comment!). Drug tests be damned, I love poppy seeds.

Growing up in a Polish family in Chicago, they most often arrived in products from our favorite bakeries: poppy seed kolachky, paczki, coffee cakes. They were all delightful. The most common application in baking is probably the ubiquitous lemon poppy seed muffin, which I can take or leave. My favorite pairing is poppy seed and almond,  which this cake recipe expertly showcases.

This poppy seed cake is so crazy delicious that I almost didn’t know what to do. Well, I ate it. All of it! In like two days! You are probably starting to understand what I like in a cake. This beauty, the caramel cake and Edna Lewis’ Busy Day Cake are all variations on each other, but each is amazing in its own way. I don’t need heaps of frosting or multiple layers to make me happy.

This will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Enjoy!

Poppy Seed Cake (recipe from Lauren Chattman via Food & Wine)

  • 3/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the poppy seeds and cover. Let stand for 1 hour. Scrape the seeds into a blender and pulse until lightly crushed.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/3 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the poppy seed mixture and beat at medium speed until just combined. Add the eggs to the batter one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar, cut into squares and serve.

66 comments to “Let’s Get High! (on Poppy Seed Cake)”

  1. Hi Kelsey- I don’t have a lot of experience with oat flour, so I don’t have a good answer. I don’t believe there is much (if any?) difference in carbs between the two…though obviously oats are healthier in other ways. In any case, I would probably stick with all-purpose (or cake).

  2. Hi Tim, this cake looks so divine, I can’t wait to try it! I don’t have an 8-inch square pan, though. Do you think this would work in a 9-inch round pan? Or a 9-inch springform?

  3. Hey Sarah- sure, it will work in a 9-inch round cake pan. It might be a bit flatter, but still taste good.

  4. My fiancé eat a polish poppy seed cake couple of days in a raw and in the morning right before the test(he didn’t know that this might cause such a big problem now), and he failed his pre-employment drug test. If you know how we can prove that he doesn’t do drugs and he just eat that cake in the morning please email me in personal. I appreciate any help or advises regarding this issue. Thanks

  5. Schuyler Corson says:

    September 16th, 2013 at 10:33 am

    While I never failed a test due to poppy seeds, my father did. And while I was a cook for the military, I was privvy to when each company was going to have their tests popped on them, as our group commander loved poppyseed muffins, but had agreed to have them off the menu on days units under his command would be tested.

  6. I came up positive for trace opiates on a urine test for drugs. I don’t do any drugs, but had eaten a poppy seed roll two days before. This is not a “false positive,” as poppy seeds DO contain traces of opiates. But the amount is so minuscule that it has no impact, in terms of getting high. The opiates from the plant must be highly processed to be sufficiently concentrated for them to produce an intoxicating effect. The positive read I got for trace opiates was easily explained and dismissed. Hope that helps.

  7. My father came up positive the day after eating poppy seed cake several years ago. They dismissed it and he was still hired. It was the first time I had heard of it.

  8. http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/poppyseed.asp Yep, its true that you can get a false positive. I certainly would not stop eating my poppy seed! But, look how it affected some lives.

  9. This looks soo good!

    I did fail a poppyseed drug test once. Showed up positive for heroin and I’ve never done heroin! I had them retry the same sample hoping it was a failure in their lab and it still showed up. I thought they would be able to differentiate from poppyseed and heroin. but I guess not. The worst part was my counselor didn’t believe me, even though I’ve never failed a urine test before. They were like “This doesn’t happen. You’d have to eat 100 bagels.Check Google!” I guess their methadone propoganda videos tell them poppyseed doesn’t come up on UAs. But if that’s true, why does the military have a higher cut off points (by 1000?) and why do prisons ban poppyseeds in food? The nurse at the clinic did seem to believe me, though. I was like “but ask the Russian guy at the Peroshki stand! I bought all his poppyseed rolls!” I also baked a poppyseed almond cake that month (not from scratch though, from a box) which could have been the source.

    Anyway.. I still love poppyseed cake items, I’m just more careful when I eat them. This item looks great.

  10. Also don’t like lemon, but almond is great.

  11. I just made your cake! But I didn’t have a blender so.. I sort of skipped one of the steps, I hope it turns out okay. What happens if you skip the step with the poppy in the water? I did boil water, put the poppy seeds in, and let them sit for like 5 min.. and then put them into the batter. I hope that doesn’t mess it up too bad. So my question is, what’s the importance of the blender and the hour long sit step?

  12. so given that lemon/poppyseed muffins are blah, would it be a crime to serve this cake with tartine’s lemon cream?

  13. Oh, Jake- I’m not going to judge you. Live your life!

  14. Oh great, answer him but not me. By the way, the cake ended up okay even though I didn’t use the blender. But I bought a can of filling, but it’s not as compressed as I’d like. I guess I should invest in a grinder of some sort?

  15. Hi Sayre- Sorry to have missed your comment. The soaking softens the poppyseeds and then the blending just bruises them up a little to release some flavor. I would have guessed that the cake would still be good without the blender component…but maybe not what you found?

  16. Made two of these this weekend. Brilliant. Delicious. Simple. My kind of cake. for sure. A huge hit all over.

    I mortar/pestled as I did not want to dig them out of the blender in all their insidious glory. (Poppy seeds are the glitter of the baking world.)