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caramel cake seeds

1½ tsp vanilla extract

Julia’s Caramel Shard Poppy Seed Cake

Three layers of light sponge, flecked with poppy seeds, sandwiched together with a caramel, toasted walnut and prune filling – then covered with a light-as-air caramel buttercream. Golden caramel shards and more walnuts add the finishing touch.

Makes: 16

Hands-on time: 2 hours

Baking time: 30 minutes

Skill level: Needs skill

For the sponges:

5 eggs, separated

200g caster sugar

1½ tsp vanilla extract

10g poppy seeds

200g self-raising flour, sifted

200g unsalted butter, melted, then cooled

For the filling:

75g walnut pieces

75g soft-dried prunes, stoned

For the caramel sauce:

50g unsalted butter

100g golden syrup

150g caster sugar

150ml double cream

For the buttercream:

300g slightly salted butter, softened

50g icing sugar, sifted

For the caramel decoration:

240g caster sugar

9 walnut halves

You will also need:

20.5cm round, deep sandwich tins x 3, greased, then base-lined with baking paper

Heatproof pastry brush

Large baking sheet, lightly oiled

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5.

Step 2 – Make the sponges. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk). Quickly whisk in half the sugar to make a stiff, glossy meringue. Set as >

Step 3 – Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and add the remaining 100g of sugar, along with the vanilla extract, and whisk with an electric whisk until very thick and mousse-like and the whisk leaves a ribbon-like trail when lifted. Then whisk in the poppy seeds.

Step 4 – Carefully fold in one third of the sifted flour, then one third of the meringue. Repeat twice more until you’ve used up all the flour and meringue and no streaks of egg white or specks of flour remain.

Step 5 – Slowly pour the cooled melted butter around the s >

Step 6 – Bake the sponges for about 17–20 minutes, until golden, well risen and springy when gently pressed. Loosen the sponges, then turn them out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Step 7 – Make the filling. Tip the walnut pieces into a baking dish and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool. Put the stoned prunes into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to a thick purée. Add the walnut and blitz briefly to chop until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl and set as >

Step 8 – To make the caramel sauce, put the butter, golden syrup and caster sugar into a medium pan and stir over a low heat until melted and smooth. Meanwhile, in another pan or in the microwave, heat the cream until it’s almost boiling, then leave to cool.

Step 9 – Bring the golden syrup mixture to the boil and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, or until it turns a rich caramel colour. Remove from the heat, protect your hand and very carefully add the hot cream. (Take care: the mixture will splutter.)

Step 10 – When the foaming subs >

Step 11 – To make the caramel buttercream, beat the butter using an electric whisk for about 5 minutes, until very light. Gradually whisk in the caramel sauce until very smooth and light. Separate out 100g of the buttercream and mix this into the prune and walnut filling. Add the sifted icing sugar to the remaining buttercream and whisk for about 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Transfer one third to a separate bowl.

Step 12 – To assemble the cake, set one sponge top-s >

Step 14 – Evenly spread the top and s >

Step 15 – Spread the remaining two thirds of buttercream over the entire cake and chill until firm.

Step 16 – Make the caramel for the shards. Put the sugar into a medium pan (not non-stick) and shake the pan so it settles in an even layer. Spoon 4 tablespoons of water over the sugar. Heat very gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and brushing down the s >

Step 16 – Increase the heat and boil without stirring until the syrup turns a rich, golden-brown caramel colour. Remove from the heat and very carefully pour about three-quarters of it on the oiled baking sheet in a thin, even layer (it won’t fill the entire sheet).

Step 17 – Add the walnut halves to the remaining quarter of caramel in the pan, and stir to coat. Using a fork, carefully remove the nuts from the pan and set them on the baking sheet, to one s >

Step 18 – Break the set caramel into shards. Press the shards into the buttercream around the sides of the cake and decorate the top with the caramelised walnuts.

To make the caramelised oranges, put the caster sugar in a frying pan in an even layer and heat until it starts to melt and turn a golden colour. Tip the pan from side to side to keep the caramel as even as you can.

Caramel orange and poppy seed cake

A light and zingy family pud with caramelised orange for a special finishing touch. Perfect for feeding a crowd or a hungry family over the weekend


  • oranges 2, zested and juiced
  • poppy seeds 30g
  • milk 100ml
  • butter 200g, at room temperature
  • caster sugar 175g
  • eggs 3
  • self-raising flour 300g
  • baking powder ½ tsp


  • caster sugar 125g
  • oranges 2, sliced


  • caster sugar 100g


To make the caramelised oranges, put the caster sugar in a frying pan in an even layer and heat until it starts to melt and turn a golden colour. Tip the pan from side to side to keep the caramel as even as you can.

Once it reaches a dark gold, carefully add half the orange juice from the cake oranges (it will splutter so stand back). Keep on the heat, stirring so that any lumps melt back into the caramel. Add the orange slices and heat gently for about 5 minutes until they soften a little. Lift out and drain, keep the caramel and orange slices for later.

Heat the oven to 160c/fan 140c/gas 3. Stir the poppy seeds and milk in a bowl. Beat the butter, orange zest and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour and baking powder and add the poppy seed and milk mixture. Stir, then spoon half into a loaf tin lined with baking parchment.

Add a layer of caramelised orange slices and cover with the rest of the mixture. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

While the cake is cooking, make the icing. Add the sugar to the remaining orange juice and stir. Add to the caramel but don’t try to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the hot cake while it is in the tin, lay the rest of the orange slices down the centre and leave to cool. Remove from the tin when cold.