Quince-poppy seed cake

February 28, 2012 § 14 Comments

Every year I look forward to my birthday: it’s an excuse to bake. Granted, I really don’t need much of a reason beyond “I just read the coolest recipe, must try that!” or “Maybe I should use up some of that whole wheat pastry flour,” but it is nice to celebrate sliding into my next quarter-century with a dessert tailored exactly to what I want.

For this year’s birthday, my latest obsession, quinces, came to fruition as quince-poppyseed cake, from the charming cookbook Super Natural Every Day.

Quinces are rather under-appreciated fruits; they’re a bit like an apple but not recommended for consuming raw. They’re often cooked into quince paste, also known as membrillo (the book opts for the title membrillo cake), or turned into heavenly jams or jellies.

Membrillo paste is often eaten in tiny dabs, its sweet-tart fragrance playing delicate counterpoint to really ripe cheeses on a cheese plate. However, in this cake, the blobs of quince paste (I attempted to make neat cubes but was foiled by clumsiness, not very solid quince paste, or both) transform into little gems of  jammy filling nestled inside a poppy seed-studded crumb topped with crunchy, sparkly demerara sugar crystals.

Another lovely feature of this unique treat is that it is equally at home at the dessert table as it is at the breakfast or brunch table. Knowing that I was being treated to a birthday dinner on the actual day, plus a family outing tonight, meant that a multi-purpose cake would be the best plan: or to translate, birthday cake for breakfast, yes please!

Quince-poppy seed cake

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day

Makes one nine-by-thirteen inch cake, to serve ten to sixteen


  • Two and a half cups (eleven ounces or 310 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
  • One tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder (I accidentally used regular baking powder and it was fine, though)
  • 1/2 cup (two and a half ounces or 70 grams) fine-grain natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (two ounces or 60 grams) poppy seeds
  • Grated zest of two lemons
  • Two large eggs
  • One and a half cups (355 ml) buttermilk (or clabbered milk, see note)
  • 1/4 cup (two ounces or 60 grams) unsalted butter, melted and left to cool
  • Ten ounces (280 grams) membrillo paste (also known as quince paste), chopped into tiny bits (I had more success making blobs of quince paste) (see note)
  • Two tablespoons large-grain turbinado (raw) sugar

1. Butter and flour a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/205 degrees Celsius.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cane sugar, sea salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk/clabbered milk. Then, stir in the melted butter.

4. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just mixed, although a few specks of flour here and there are fine.  Stir in 2/3 of the membrillo (quince) paste.

5. Pour cake batter into the prepared pan. Dot over the remaining blobs/cubes of membrillo (quince) paste, and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the cake.

6. Bake cake for twenty to twenty-five minutes, checking at about eighteen minutes. An over-baked quince-poppyseed cake is a dry cake! Enjoy right away, while hot, or serve at room temperature. The cake will keep at room temperature for up to three days if tightly wrapped.

Note: Quince paste, also known as membrillo, can be purchased at many groceries (especially ones with nice cheese selections), gourmet stores, cheesemongers, international foods stores, natural foods stores, and sometimes even wine shops.

To make clabbered milk, place about a tablespoon of something acidic (in this case lemon juice since there are lemons in the recipe, but distilled white vinegar works too) into a measuring cup, and top off with milk to the desired measurement, one and a half cups liquid total. If making less clabbered milk, reduce the tablespoon measure to a teaspoon.


Swanson, Heidi. “Membrillo Cake.” Super Natural Every Day. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2011 (187).


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