Seromakowiec — Cheesecake with poppy seed paste

A Polish cheesecake that you’ll feel right at home with


Photo: Nassima Rothacker

Polish baking often incorporates poppy seeds, especially on the festive table, when the poppy seed roll makowiec makes a star appearance, as do noodles with poppy seeds. This is because poppy seeds are associated with prosperity, happiness and even fertility according to Eastern European tradition. You can buy poppy seed paste in cans from a Polish supermarket, or you can make your own.

Serves: 12

Prep: 15 mins (plus 30 – 40 mins if making poppy seed paste)
Cook: 55 mins – 1 hr (plus 1 hr cooling)

400g poppy seed paste or 1 x 850g can of masa makowa

100g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

400g cream cheese or twaróg sernikowy (see note)

100ml sour cream

75ml double cream

45g cornflour or potato flour

icing sugar, for dusting

For the poppy seed paste: makes about 500g

200g poppy seeds

160ml boiling water

150g mixed peel

100g raisins

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tsp almond extract

40g butter, melted


  • To make the poppy seed paste: Rinse the poppy seeds, drain them through a muslin cloth and then cover with the boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes. Grind the soaked seeds in a high-powered blender or a coffee grinder. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, whizz up the mixed peel and raisins with the flour and baking powder. Add the honey, almond extract, poppy seeds and melted butter, and stir well.
  • Store in a sterilised jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It also freezes well. Bring the paste back up to room temperature before using.
  • To make the cake: If you have made your own poppy seed paste, take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. If you are using canned paste, transfer it to a bowl and leave it at room temperature.
  • Preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 30 x 23cm rectangular baking tin, about 5cm/2in deep, with butter and baking paper.
  • In a clean bowl or a stand mixer, beat the caster sugar and butter together for a few minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat again, followed by the vanilla bean paste. Beat in the cream cheese, then the sour cream. Pour in the double cream and beat again until slightly thickened. Stir in the cornflour or potato flour until fully incorporated.
  • Spread half of the poppy seed paste over the bottom of the lined tin, then pour in the cheesecake batter. Use a tablespoon to drop small amounts of the remaining poppy seed paste all over the cheesecake batter, then use a knife to carefully swirl the paste into the mixture to create a pattern.
  • Prepare a bain marie by filling a large, shallow roasting tin ¾ full with hot water. Place your cheesecake tin into the hot water, then transfer it to the oven. Bake for 55 minutes – 1 hour. It is ready when the sides are firm but the centre is still a little jiggly.
  • The top should be light golden. Once baked, turn your oven off, open the door slightly and leave the cheesecake inside the oven for 1 hour.
  • Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven. Leave to cool, then place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
  • The next day, carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin and remove the baking paper. Dust with icing sugar and cut into slices.

Cook’s tip on twaróg:
Normal supermarket cream cheese is perfectly fine here, but if you’re near a Polish shop, look out for twarog sernikowy which is for cheesecakes. Other types of twarog or white cheese are too crumbly. Full-fat is best.

Recipe adapted from: The Sweet Polish Kitchen (Pavilion)

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