As co-owner with her husband from Future and Stopping Grump’s slice, Sarah St. Aubin has easy access to pizza in almost any form. But she gets her sweet fix by recreating this two-day family recipe. The result is a robust, old-fashioned dessert that satisfies a craving for cake. Butter can replace vegetable shortening in this recipe, though for the fluffiest cake, St. Aubin recommends not tinkering with her grandmother’s original formula.

Grandma’s poppy seed cake

Makes a 10 inch Bundt cake


  • 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of table salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 3 egg whites
  • Icing sugar, for dusting the cake


  1. Place poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles begin to appear but the milk does not boil. (The milk should be around 180 to 185 degrees F.) Pour the milk over the poppy seeds and leave at room temperature overnight.
  2. The next day, preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. In a blender on medium speed or by hand, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and beat until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  4. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the soaked poppy seeds (do not drain) and mix until incorporated. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Repeat, alternating between remaining poppy seeds and flour, until batter is smooth.
  5. In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into the cake batter until only a few white drizzles remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Place on the middle rack of your oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack in a pan for an hour, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle the cake generously with icing sugar. Serve with softened butter.

Terry Kirts joined Indianapolis Monthly as editor in 2007. Lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in journals and anthologies including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home. Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he is the author of the 2011 collection To the Gods of the Refrigerator.