Yuzu Poppyseed Pound Cake Recipe

by - 1:26 PM

My husband will attest that I am obsessed with the flavor of yuzu... it's a citrus fruit that originated in central China as a hybrid between a mandarin orange and an ichang papeda (think of this like a very very large lemon) and it has this unique vibrant flavor that resembles a tart mix of a grapefruit, lemon, and mandarin orange. 

You might have encountered yuzu kosho on a piece of sushi, it's a spicy Japanese sauce made from yuzu zest, green or red chili peppers, and salt. It packs this bright and flavorful punch that really highlights a creamy delicate piece of sashimi like yellowtail or scallop. 

While very occasionally local Japanese markets will carry the coveted fruit, more often than not picking up a bottle (or twelve) of yuzu juice is the best way to go so you always have some on hand. I use it instead of lemon or lime juice in a ton of recipes, and add a few drops to my water for a refreshing and tasty drink. Now... be careful to buy yuzu juice and not yuzu kosho... or you might end up with a very spicy mishap.  

In thinking what I wanted to bake up this week, I had a craving for some poppyseed cake and figured yuzu would be a perfect swap for lemon! And BOY was I right... this cake has all the feels of your go-to lemon poppyseed, but with that perfect hint of a unique flavor that makes it oh so irresistible! 

And because it's me, I couldn't not add a few small "but how does this work?!" notes... 

Room Temperature Butter & Eggs

We'll start with the butter. Unlike other saturated fats, it's solid at room temperature and capable of being "whipped." When you cream together the butter and the sugar, the sharp edges of the sugar crystals cut into the softened butter to create air pockets which is what helps make cakes so light, tender, and delicious. Cold butter won't "whip" and once you melt butter it separates into its solid and liquid components, it's no longer emulsified and won't achieve that airy quality that's so desired. 

As for eggs, room temp eggs are less viscous than cold eggs. which actually allow them to bind more easily with other ingredients and blend more evenly in batter or dough. Since eggs aid in structure, having them dispersed is important for the texture of the final product. Plus it's easier to whip air into room temperature eggs, which similarly to the butter adds to the airiness of the cake. 

Baking Powder and Baking Soda

So first - what's the difference between the two? Baking powder and baking soda are both leaveners, a.k.a. both add even more of that airy rise to baked goods, however chemically they do it in different ways which is important to note. 

Let's start with baking soda. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a base, and if you think about the volcano experiment you most likely did as a kid - you know that when you mix together a base and an acid (baking soda and vinegar) a chemical reaction in the form of an eruption of bubbles happens. Well that's the same way that baking soda works in our baked goods. When you add baking soda to a recipe you normally also have an acid present (buttermilk, brown sugar, lemon, yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, cream of tartar, molasses, applesauce, cocoa powder, honey, YUZU juice, etc...) with which it reacts to form tiny bubbles. Actually strike that - you have to add an acid, otherwise it'll create a metallic aftertaste in your product if it's not neutralized by said acid.

However when you use an acid to offset your baking soda in a recipe. it will also neutralize the acid and we loose some of the tangy flavor which perhaps was what you wanted all along. Like a heavy pour of yuzu juice perhaps!

That's where the baking powder comes in. Baking powder is like baking soda +. It's normally a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar (i.e. an acid) and sometimes a bit of cornstarch to help bind them. It's got all the rise action baked into one ingredient. Plus many baking powders are "double action" which mean that they're chemically formulated to have two moments of rising, first when mixed into the wet batter, and second when heated... so it actually does a little overtime and can give your cakes a little extra lift while in the oven. 

So finding a good balance between the two when it comes to making tangy citrus-y cakes is helpful!

Sour Cream

Think of sour cream as your secret weapon that works well as a pantry staple. (Or if you aren't down with the sour cream you can always use a nice Greek yogurt) As mentioned above, when using a base/acid chemical reaction to create levity in your baked goods, you need that acid, right? And while many many many recipes rely on buttermilk, who actually has a ton of buttermilk sitting in their fridge, ever? 

Plus when you use buttermilk you thin out your batter and have to compensate by adding other ingredients like more flour which can impact the taste and texture. A thick creamy substance on the other hand that adds that rich fat as well as needed acid that doesn't affect the texture of the batter is just what recipes call for. 

I mostly had sour cream on hand because we'd just done taco night, but I find having a tub of sour cream or Greek yogurt in the fridge at all times the perfect addition to baking. 

Yuzu Poppyseed Pound Cake
from Nicole Iizuka, It's' Borderline Genius

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes || Serves 8-10

For the cake: 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
2 tbsp. yuzu juice
3/4 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

For the glaze:
1/4 cup yuzu juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

TIP: In the morning before you start baking place your stick of butter into a large mixing bowl and set 3 eggs out on the countertop so they're ready to go when you are!

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again with nonstick spray. Set aside. 

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add in the eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and yuzu juice and continue mixing until fully incorporated. 

Next add the sour cream and flour, alternating between the two until combined. The mixture should be thick, creamy, light, and airy. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. 

Bake for 60 - 70 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Carefully remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.

While your cake is cooling mix together the remaining yuzu juice, powdered sugar, and salt to make a pourable glaze. Once the cake is cooled, glaze the outside. Let set for 30 minutes or until the glaze has hardened to the touch. Slice and serve with a warm cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!

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