Make Ahead

Flourless Butterless Poppy Seed Cake

January 12, 2018
4 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
Author Notes

This is a cake that comes from Alto Adige in far northern Italy—in fact, it's origins are from nearby Germany and Austria. You can usually find it plain, or simply topped with powdered sugar. I topped this cake with 2 mandarins, sliced thinly, cooked for a few minutes in about 1/2 cup of mandarin marmalade and a splash of water.

Diana Henry makes a version of the Austrian cake where she uses walnuts in place of the almonds, splits the batter into two tins (which you could easily do with this batter) and serves them stacked on top of each other with cream and blackberry jam in between. And there's nothing to stop you putting a layer of lemon buttercream (or any layer, above or in between) on this cake.

Featured In: No Flour, No Butter, So Much Flavor: Meet Italian Poppy Seed CakeEmiko

  • Serves 8-10
  • 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 tart cooking apple, peeled and grated
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) whole blanched almonds (or almond meal)
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) poppy seeds
  • 11/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • splash of rum (optional)
In This Recipe
  1. Heat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Zest the lemon and place the zest together with the sugar in a large bowl and rub together until the sugar is damp and fragrant.
  3. Separate the eggs into two large bowls. Beat the yolks with the sugar and lemon zest until creamy and pale. Wash the beaters very well, then beat the whites until soft peaks form.
  4. Juice the lemon and stir through the grated apple.
  5. Place the whole almonds in a food processor and blitz until they resemble fine sand. Add to the egg yolk and sugar, along with the poppy seeds, grated apple (and splash of rum if using). Stir through the baking powder. Finally, fold in the egg whites.
  6. Pour into a greased and lined 10 inch (25cm) cake tin and bake for 40 minutes or until the top is springy and golden brown. Let cool and decorate with one of the ideas in the notes.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nicole S. Urdang
    Nicole S. Urdang
  • Marci Liroff
    Marci Liroff
  • Sandra Grzebielucha
    Sandra Grzebielucha
  • FrugalCat
  • Windischgirl
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.

29 Reviews

Joanne B. April 1, 2020
Question: should I grind the poppy seeds first?
Author Comment
Emiko April 1, 2020
No need, they just go in as they are!
judye August 20, 2018
Will it work if I leave out the poppy-seeds? I really don't like them.
Joyce April 4, 2018
Not a fan of white sugar, what do you think about honey or molasses as a substitute?
Pilar March 10, 2018
If using two tins and stacking the cake, what size tins(cake pans?) would you use for this amount of batter?
Author Comment
Emiko March 11, 2018
This is quite a lot of batter, I think you could easily divide it into two of the same size pans as the large cake (10 inch).
garywtsnd February 3, 2018
Thank you.
garywtsnd February 2, 2018
I have a severe allergy to apples; can you suggest an alternate?
Author Comment
Emiko February 3, 2018
You could simply leave it out; or perhaps use grated carrot? The apple is there to add a bit of moisture and soft texture to the cake. But as I noted in one of the comments below, I once accidentally left it out entirely and it was still lovely!
Nicole S. February 2, 2018
Can you please tell me how many cups equals 7 ounces of nuts?
Thank you.
dinner A. February 2, 2018
good weight-volume conversions here:
Nicole S. February 2, 2018

Great! Thank you.
Marci L. January 28, 2018
What does 11/2 teaspoon of baking soda mean?
Author Comment
Emiko January 29, 2018
one and a half teaspoons of baking soda :)
Ginny January 28, 2018
For the poppy seeds and the almond meal (I’ll use almond meal), does the recipe call for 7 ounces by weight or volume? Thanks!
Author Comment
Emiko January 29, 2018
Weight always unless the ingredient is liquid! This is why I also put the grams next to the measurement as well.
Sandra G. January 28, 2018
What temperature should I set my oven to for baking this cake?
Author Comment
Emiko January 29, 2018
FrugalCat January 28, 2018
I used turbinado sugar, walnuts and a mix of chia and poppy seeds. Everyone loved it.
PatKM February 1, 2018
Did you use same amount of walnuts as almonds, i.e. 7 ounces. Thank you.
Author Comment
Emiko February 2, 2018
Yes, you should use the same weight as the almonds!
Windischgirl January 26, 2018
Emiko, thank you for posting this! We have a good friend who must eat GF and dairy-free, so this is the perfect thing to make when we get together. Plus, I love poppy seeds...
Author Comment
Emiko January 29, 2018
That's great, it's just the right thing for everyone to be able to enjoy!
dinner A. January 26, 2018
I'm excited to try this! Do you have an estimate of how large the apples you use are? They can vary so much in size.
shahnnen E. January 26, 2018
In my experience, the apple weight can vary quite a bit and still be ok. The tart apples that I can find easily are usually on the small side, so I usually use 2. I shoot for a heaping cup of grated apple, but Emiko may have another recommendation. This cake is wonderful, and great to take to potlucks because it's gluten-free.
Author Comment
Emiko January 27, 2018
You're right but in this case I wouldn't worry too much about the size of the apple, just use what you have on hand. The grated apple gives the cake a great boost of moisture and adds to the texture, it won't be too much if it's too big and it won't be dry if it's a small one (once I forgot completely to put it in and it still came out lovely, albeit a slightly different texture). The only thing that may happen if you've got a really big apple is that you may find you've got a little too much batter to fit in your cake tin nicely but that's not such a bad thing!
dinner A. January 28, 2018
Thanks to you both! Glad to hear the recipe is so robust. I'll give it a try soon.
levy H. January 22, 2018
Look great ! Should I use ground poppy seeds ?
Author Comment
Emiko January 22, 2018
Just regular whole poppy seeds is best!