Friday, April 22, 2022

Marilyn's Poppyseed Cake from @MaddieDayAuthor #giveaway

MADDIE here, with a sweet recipe on a bittersweet day. 

My wonderful mother died ten years ago yesterday. Marilyn Flaherty Maxwell Muller was eighty-six. 

She was the one who taught me to sew, to bake - and to love mysteries. Her shelves full of crime fiction were always available to me, and I read Agatha Christie, Earle Stanley Gardner, Arthur Conan Doyle, even Poe, from an early age. 

Apropos of my history, I'm at the Malice Domestic convention in North Bethesda right now, where tomorrow night I'll pick up my two-year-old teapot celebrating Charity's Burden (my fourth Quaker Midwife Mystery, written as Edith Maxwell) winning the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. I owe it all to my mother.

Marilyn was also a brilliant seamstress, sewing all of her three daughters' clothes and ballet costumes (for three or four dances each every spring) when we were young.

Edith (Maddie) and her sister Janet in tutus Marilyn sewed.

She also sewed more than one beautiful quilt for each family member in her retirement, plus others for charity projects. Here is a lovely quilt she designed and began for me but wasn't able to finish. I completed the assembly and got it machine quilted a few years ago.

Still, this is a recipe blog, so let's talk about Mommy's sweet tooth and her love of baking. I can't remember a time when I wasn't at her side as she baked pies, cookies, and cakes. She wasn't an inspired savory cook, although she always put a balanced dinner on the table for our family of six. But it was sweets she excelled at.

After the Ukraine invasion began and Leslie Budewitz mentioned in her blog post here a few dining options inspired by that beleaguered nation, I went looking for something to bake. When Google uncovered mention of Ukranians loving desserts with poppyseeds and sour cream, I remembered the poppyseed cake my mom used to bake. I searched my recipe box, which sadly didn't include an old 3x5 card with the recipe on it. But that's what sisters are for!

Janet, Barbara, and Edith with Marilyn two months before she left us, with one of her quilted wall hangings behind.

Sure enough, Janet had the poppyseed cake recipe and emailed it to Barbara and me. I tweaked it only by adding some lemon zest in the batter and a lemon glaze on top.

So, without further ado, I share our mom's poppyseed cake recipe. It's easy and tasty and you can bake it in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who still need all the help we can give them.

Marilyn's Poppy Seed Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a bundt or angel food cake pan.



½ pound (two sticks) butter

1 ½ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

½ pt. sour cream

1 package poppy seeds

1 tablespoon lemon zest (finally grated lemon peel)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

4 egg whites, beaten stiff


6 tablespoons butter, melted

3 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)


Cream butter and sugar. Add yolks and mix well. 


Stir in sour cream, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Stir in flour and baking soda. Fold in egg whites. 

Gently spoon into prepared pan.


Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for ten minutes, then upend on a cooling rack.


For the glaze, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine melted butter, powdered sugar, and lemon juice until smooth. Warm for fifteen seconds and whisk to remove any clumps. 

Poke holes in the cake with a chopstick. Drizzle the glaze all over.

Allow glaze to set before slicing. Enjoy with a cup of tea or an after-dinner liqueur.

In a belated celebration of my pandemic-lockdown Agatha Award, I'll send one commenter a copy of Charity's Burden!

Readers: what's your favorite celebration cake - or a baked good your own mom made?

My most recent release is Batter Off Dead, Country Store Mystery #10, out now!

My next release is Murder in a Cape Cottage, the fourth Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery.

We hope you'll visit Maddie and her Agatha Award-winning alter ego Edith Maxwell on our web site, sign up for our monthly newsletter, visit us on social media, and check our all our books and short stories.

Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell) is a talented amateur chef and holds a PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University. An Agatha Award-winning and bestselling author, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and also writes award-winning short crime fiction. She lives with her beau north of Boston, where she’s currently working on her next mystery when she isn’t cooking up something delectable in the kitchen.


  1. For me, cheesecake is a celebration cake.

  2. My favorite cake is Angel food with a lemon drizzle icing. But you can’t leave out cheesecake/-any but chocolate.

  3. Chocolate cake with snot frosting and Jimmie all over.

  4. My mother made the best chocolate sauce to go on ice cream. She doesn’t use a recipe so try as I might, I haven’t been able to replicate it yet.

  5. My mother didn't bake but bought French Horns which I loved. Woman like my mother made commercial bakeries profitable.

  6. Bread pudding always reminds me of my mom. She made the BEST bread pudding. I rarely buy it out anywhere, because it never tastes as good. No recipe though. Most of Mom's cooking was a dab of this and a dash of that. Don't forget the handful of raisins. Fortunately I was in the kitchen enough with her that I can bake up one similar to hers. Just don't ask me for the recipe LOL

  7. My Mom made a depression era cake called spice cake, and I still make it. Spices and raisins..Oh so good.

  8. A fondly remembered celebration cake in our home growing up was fresh grated coconut cake. Mom made it all from scratch including cracking, peeling and grating the coconut. Through the years, we did adapt it. After finding that you could buy fresh frozen coconut and it was available all year long, that was the first change. Then we found the recipe for Three Day Coconut Cake whose end results tastes very similar to Mom’s and takes a lot less work to make. The biggest advantage is that you definitely have to make it three days ahead of time which leaves time closer to the celebration free for the hundred other things that need to be done.

    Three Day Coconut Cake
    1 box of Duncan Hines Butter Cake mix
    3 pkgs of the fresh frozen coconut (freezer section at WalMart usually during holidays or Kroger year round) thawed
    8 ounces of sour cream
    2 cups sugar
    Prepare cake mix according to package directions.
    Recipe calls for 3 layers – this gal now used the 9 X 13” pan and then just split the cooled cake into two layers.
    Cool 10 minutes and then cool on racks.
    While cake is baking make the icing.
    Mix the sour cream and sugar stirring until sugar dissolves – DO NOT BEAT.
    Then stir in the thawed coconut and place in refrigerator until ready to ice cake.
    When cake has cooled spread icing onto cake already on cake plate that has a sealed cover like Tupperware. Top with layer(s) and finish icing. Cover with lid, seal and place in refrigerator for a minimum of three day before eating. I check once a day and if any liquid comes off cake I spoon back to top of cake. If you do the sheet cake with two layers, you can also put first layer back in pan, put half the icing mixture, top with top layer and then top with remaining icing. Doing it this way you don’t need to check it daily. Just put in refrigerator and forget it for 3 days.

    After three days, you will never know there is sour cream in the icing and it’s the best moistest cake you will eat. It will just continue to get better. It will never dry out. The longer it sits the better it gets IF you can have it last long enough to find that out. It also freezes very well.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. For my birthday a couple of weeks ago my son made me a cheesecake, as I had requested. It was perfect and now I'll insist on it every year!

    I have been looking for a poppy seed cake recipe so I'll be sure to save this one. Thank you!

  10. My favorite cake is banana cake, it is differentthan banana bread. It was the cake I also baked for my babies birthdays when they were little. Now they ask me for elaborate things to challenge my skills.

  11. My favorite cake is banana cake, it is differentthan banana bread. It was the cake I also baked for my babies birthdays when they were little. Now they ask me for elaborate things to challenge my skills.

  12. My mom made an apple cake that was so rich and delicious. I haven’t had it for awhile and this is a reminder that I need to make it n

  13. Your cake is delectable. I love a cake with poppy seeds since we used to enjoy lemon poppyseed cake when I was young and my grandmother lived with us. She was an accomplished baker.

  14. This sounds so good, Edith! And a loving tribute to your dear Mommy.

    My mother also was a workaday meal cook, but a brilliant dessert maker. She made both German Sweet Chocolate and Carrot cakes from scratch that were divine.

  15. Both of my parents loved to cook, my father a bit more than my mother. I remember many savory dishes (Julia Child's Chicken supremes), but not sweet treats. It certainly wasn't because we lacked a sweet tooth!
    I'll have to ask my sister what she remembers. You've got me curious now.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. By the way, does the glaze actually go down into the chop stick holes?

    2. Yes, Libby. It permeates the cake. SO good!

  16. My Mom made a fabulous fresh apple cake. It was my favorite. She made it for my birthday every year. I loved it and still do but it's not the same when I make it for myself.

  17. Wow! You have a bunny whisk!

    1. This is hilarious. I never once noticed that was a bunny in it!

    2. I scrolled back up to check something and noticed the bunny. A delightful bit of whimsy.

  18. We enjoy a marble cake for celebrations. So tasty and moist and yummy. We bake this delightful cake for special occasions.

  19. That looks splendid! I have made cheesecake for parties, as I'd never want to eat one all by myself. That would be another good one to take to potlucks. <3
    Both books are wonderful (so don't pick me; I don't want to deprive others ;-)

  20. Such an interesting whisk, Edith! Where did you get it?
    Mom always made a two layer chocolate mayonnaise cake with whipped cream frosting for my birthday. I always love bundt cakes - especially lemon ones. This is one I'll make quite soon!

  21. That sounds delicious,Edith! Besides her bread pudding with whiskey sauce, Mom was most famous for her pineapple upside-down cake, with cherries and lots of pecans. lola777_22 at hotmail dot com

  22. I am sorry for your loss. My mom died almost ten years ago now also. It sounds like your mom and mine were similar. Mom also had a lot of mystery and cowboy books that she allowed us five kids to read as we got a bit older. I recognize the authors you had and so many more. She also had books by Zane Grey and other cowboy authors. And sewing - yes. I learned to sew at the age of six. I still sew. While in high school we both learned together to quilt. I still quilt. She taught me so many other crafts also. Many of which I still do. But cooking, oh my, my mom could cook. Like I said there were five kids. For our birthday we got to pick out our special dinner and a special cake. One year, I think I was nine, she got a recipe from one of her aunts. A Cherry Carnival. She asked me if I wanted to try that for my birthday cake. SURE, I loved berries, especially cherries. Well, long story short, this became my favorite birthday cake every year. When I got married, my husband would make it for me. When we started to have children, he would have them help him make this cake. As the children got older they wanted to take over the baking themselves. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  23. Your cake looks delicious - lemon poppyseed is one of my favorites! I remember my mom as more of a cook than a baker, although she did bake bread for us. My sister and I started baking & she's the best family baker now. My favorite for celebration is her pear tart that we have at Thanksgiving, along with apple & pumpkin pies. My mom & grandma were both excellent at sewing & knitting so we had lots of handmade clothing growing up, I learned to sew & knit from them. Mom also had lots of books and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine around the house which inspired my taste in reading. Louise Penny's Three Pines series is the last thing she recommended to me before she passed away 11 years ago.

  24. One baked good that my mother made was pear cobbler. We had a pear tree in our back yard and she put them to good use!

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  25. My favorite celebration cake is called The White House cake and it's from one of my favorite restaurants.

  26. Sorry for your loss. I definitely miss my mom! She would make the box cakes and I miss eating them. Thank you for the recipe.

  27. My favorite desert is cheesecake. My mother didn't make a lot of deserts but made sure we always had a balanced meal for supper. Supper was at 6 and you'd better be on time.

    1. Conney, you are the lucky giveaway winner! Please send your snail mail address to, and congratulations.

  28. Growing up in Chile, my favorite cake (still today) is 1,000 Leaf Torte. It is sort of like a Napoleon, but much better, in my humble opinion :-)It can be somewhat reproduced by using store-bought frozen phyllo dough filled with alternating layers of Dulce de Leche (caramelized condensed milk) and apricot jam. 4+ layers best. The sides and top are covered in dulce de leche and chopped walnuts or pecans. There is a store in Los Angeles that makes it, so every year or so I treat myself to this sweet and wonderful creation.

    Pics here:[]=torta%7Cautocomplete%7C2&term_meta[]=de%7Cautocomplete%7C2&term_meta[]=mil%7Cautocomplete%7C2&term_meta[]=hojas%7Cautocomplete%7C2&term_meta[]=chile%7Cautocomplete%7C2

    Yay for sisters...and thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. Will make in honor of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine...God protect them !!! luis at ole dot travel

  29. We love poppy seed! My husband is Czech, German & Hispanic & is from a small predominantly Czech town where poppy seed reign as the favorite filling for kolaches. I had my first experience with poppy seed after my family moved to that small town. Thank you for sharing your Mom's recipe. My Mom made a chocolate pie for every holiday dinner during my childhood. That's my favorite dessert from Mom's kitchen.

  30. My Canadian mom used to make meat pies.