The Trauma of A Poppy Seed Cake

In my grandmother’s recipe box she has pink index cards with recipes written on them.  Some of these have titles like, “Julie’s Fish.”  I actually know the Julie to whom she was referring- she was the wife of a college friend of my grandfather’s.  I promise to write about them someday because it’s an interesting story.  Others have titles like, “Cheese Pastries” and in the top right corner is written, “from Canada.”  What does this mean?  Did she mean all of Canada?  Or someone in Canada that was so obvious she/he didn’t need to be named?  It’s a mystery.

The poppy seed cake I’m going to tell you about is no mystery.  It’s a cake that has been in our family for years but I almost never make it.  Not because it’s bad.  Oh, no. Far from it.  It’s a dense, moist, vanilla-y cake with a nice texture and flavor from the poppy seeds.  Think lemon poppy seed without the lemon flavor (which I often find overpowering).  It’s the kind of cake I dream about when I’m dreaming about cake (and I actually have had dreams about cake.  When I was pregnant I had gestational diabetes which luckily was diet-controlled.  This meant no desserts.  And so, I dreamed about desserts.  It was a sad state of affairs.).  It’s a recipe that was given to my grandmother via my mother’s college roommate’s mother.  Funny thing, my mother and her college roommate have the same first name.  It’s spelled differently because my mother, in a fit of adolescent “I must be my own special snowflake” added a silent “e” to her name.  She still spells it that way today.  Anyway, Mrs. R, the roommate’s mother, gave us the recipe for this cake and this is marked on the back of this recipe card.  So with all this positivity around it, why don’t I make it?

The trauma.

Here’s the real story behind this cake.  We make it once when I was about six or seven.  It was one of the few things my mother would do in the kitchen, make this cake.  It was when we lived in our house, rather than the condo we moved to when I was twelve.  Our across the street neighbor was over, helping.  Mum had put everything into the stand mixer and I was so excited!  I turned to tell our neighbor just how excited I was and that’s when it happened.

My long, blonde hair, which was pulled into a ponytail, got caught in the mixer.

Now, if you’ve never had your hair caught in a mixer (and I really hope you haven’t), well, it is just as bad as it sounds.  It shocks the hell out of you, pulls, makes your neck hurt and in the end, you have to cut your hair out of it.  I mean, think about it- stand mixers can KNEAD bread dough.  They’re strong, tough and powerful.  And the cake?  Ruined.  No one likes hair in their cake.  Perhaps, not surprisingly, the mixer itself was fine.

I was devastated.  Not because my mother had to cut my hair but because we couldn’t have any cake.  See?  I take my desserts really seriously.

Mrs. R’s Poppy Seed Cake (hair-free)


1 yellow cake mix

1 package instant vanilla pudding

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

1/2 cup white wine (I used Riesling)

4 eggs

1/4 cup poppy seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl.  For safety’s sake do not use a stand mixer.  Or at least secure hair tightly to head.

Note the absence of a mixer of any kind. Just an old-fashioned spoon.


Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix until it’s all well-blended (no dry parts left).

I did, in fact, break down and use a hand mixer- not a stand mixer!!-- and with some deep, calming yoga-breaths, I was ok.

Pour into a greased bundt pan.

Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let it cool entirely before trying to get it out of the pan- if you don’t, it will stick and you’ll be sorry.


4 thoughts on “The Trauma of A Poppy Seed Cake

  1. For years I resisted getting a mixer for fear of having my hair pulled into it – so now that I have one, I’ve chopped off my hair. The real tragedy is the lack of cake that day (although I am sorry about your neck and sudden haircut.)

  2. Pingback: Ruthless Cooking (A Very Special Guest Post) « My Family Table

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