02 June 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Poppy Seed Cake & The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

Review: The Lost Family by Jenna BlumToday I'm doing something a little bit different because I'm participating in BookClubCookbook.com's Lost Family Virtual Supper Club. I received a copy of Jenna Blum's The Lost Family to read and use as inspiration for creating or sharing a recipe.

Blum's novel features a New York City restaurant that serves "sumptuously decadent continental and Jewish dishes" and is set in the 1960s to 1980s. So, even before I started reading, I already knew what recipe I was going to share. Lemon poppy seed coffee cake reminds me of both my grandmothers, and the Bundt pan it's baked in is historically accurate for the novel.

Before we get to the recipe, let's talk about Jenna Blum's The Lost Family (Harper, June 5).

Let me start by saying that although the Holocaust provides a foundation for the novel The Lost Family is not a World War II novel. The story, told in three parts, is really about about family: present and past.

The first part of the novel focuses on Peter, a Holocaust survivor who named his Manhattan restaurant in memory of his first wife, who (along with their daughters) died in a concentration camp. The restaurant gains a reputation, and it is there, in the 1960s, that Peter notices June, a pretty young woman, whom he soon marries, hoping new love will finally slay his ghosts.

The Lost Family by Jenna BlumThe second part of The Lost Family is set in the 70s. June, who is beautiful enough to be a model, cares for Peter, but after a decade of marriage she realizes she cannot heal his wounds and wishes for a deeper love. She struggles with her self-identity and independence at a time of political upheaval and a rapidly changing America.

The third part takes us to 1985. Peter and June's daughter, Elsbeth, has grown up in the shadow of her parents' pain, coming of age as New York's rock scene morphs into punk. The sixteen-year-old starts to feel the effects of her family's dysfunction, most notably suffering from an eating disorder and making questionable relationship choices.

As I mentioned, World War II provides the underlayer of The Lost Family, but Blum focuses more on family dynamics, the consequences of our decisions, unresolved PTSD, regret, guilt, and the hope for a better future. Throughout, Blum gets the period details just right, from the clothing and food to the politics and social norms. The Lost Family deals with tough issues in a realistic way, and you'll likely think of Peter, June, and Elsbeth long after you close the book.

Food plays a huge role in The Lost Family, not only in the restaurant but also at family gatherings and other social events. I'm not sure that a coffee cake is mentioned in the novel, but there's no way Peter, June, and Elsbeth made it through the 1970s without eating a Bundt cake!

I always associate home-baked goodies with my grandmothers, and lemon poppy seed cake takes me back to my childhood. The recipe I'm sharing today comes from Zingerman's, the now-famous Ann Arbor, Michigan, deli and bakery. This is my all-time favorite lemon poppy seed coffee cake, and I know my grandmothers would have loved it.

Zingerman's Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
[Adapted from Zingerman's Bakehouse (review coming soon)]
Zingerman's Lemon Poppy Seed CakeOne 9-inch Bundt cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon oil
  • ⅔ cup poppy seeds
Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray a 9-in Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, coat with flour, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar and butter. Cream using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer on medium speed. Mix until the color lightens. Add the eggs, one at a time, creaming thoroughly after each addition until well blended. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix briefly until light and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and add gradually to the sour cream mixture, until smooth and well blended. Add the lemon oil and poppy seeds and blend just until mixed through.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the top smooth. Bake for 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan. Then turn out onto a wire rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.

NOTE: Lemon oil is the key to this cake. The brand I use is Boyajian (also recommended by Zingerman's); it's available from Amazon, King Arthur Flour, and other places.

Click through to read more Lost Family Virtual Supper Club posts. Follow author Jenna Bloom on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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14 comments:

Judee Algazi 6/2/18, 6:46 AM  

Your cake looks beautiful. I haven't baked in a long time . Thanks for hosting and have a great weekend

Jackie Mc Guinness 6/2/18, 6:52 AM  

This is totally my kind of book!
Lemon poppyseed reminds me of growing in a Montreal Jewish neighbourhood and I worked in a Jewish bakery in the late 60s during summer break.

Tina 6/2/18, 7:11 AM  

This was a fun virtual party and my first. Your cake looks very moist and I would love a slice with coffee. Great story, I was annoyed with June many times and loved Peter, lots of empathy for him.

Clarissa 6/2/18, 7:33 AM  

Sounds delicious! I’m amused that you are drinking wine to accompany your coffee cake.

Beth F 6/2/18, 8:32 AM  

commenting to get around blogger's glitch.

jama 6/2/18, 8:37 AM  

Thanks for the recipe -- lemon poppy seed coffee cakes also figure in my familial past. The book sounds interesting, too -- will have to look for it. :)

Mae Travels 6/2/18, 9:40 AM  

Zingerman's bakehouse is an overwhelming temptation. However, I like some of their other cakes better. My favorite is their blueberry coffee cake, with cocoa cake a close second. Also, I have a close friend who makes a mean lemon-poppyseed cake: in the past when I wanted some I would invite her to dinner and wait for her to ask if she could bring something.

Because Zingerman's bakehouse is in the same shopping area as our Costco, it's like a magnet every time I go there to fill my gas tank with cheap fuel. Zingerman's cheese shop is right next door too!

I have now read three reviews of that novel, with great recipes, but the book itself doesn't sound that great.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Mary R. 6/2/18, 10:26 AM  

I love lemon poppy seed cake and this one sounds delicious. I will be picking up some lemon oil and trying this recipe soon.

Claudia 6/2/18, 10:56 AM  

I remember making that cake years ago, and it sounds like time for a reprise. I'll wait for the book to hit the library perhaps.

Deb in Hawaii 6/2/18, 12:28 PM  

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake and bundt pans remind me of my mom and my youth. It looks delicious--great pick.
My post for the virtual supper club goes up tomorrow. ;-)

rhapsodyinbooks 6/2/18, 2:17 PM  

That recipe sounds scrumptious! Thanks for sharing it!

Wendy Klik 6/3/18, 6:41 AM  

I enjoyed this novel. I think your cake is perfectly inspired and sounds delicious.

Pam Greer 6/3/18, 1:58 PM  

Your cake sounds delicious! It was great to party with you!

Simona Carini 6/3/18, 11:24 PM  

I love poppy seeds: they are endlessly fascinating for me, in part because I did not taste anything that including them until I moved to California. I can imagine the aroma wafting through the kitchen when you took the cake out of the oven: its' beautiful!

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