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Add a Polish twist to your Christmas with this poppy seed cake recipe

Popular all over Eastern Europe, makowiec holds a special place on the Christmas table. The Calvert Journal asked Kasia Kronenberger, food illustrator and the founder of Polish food blog Polonist, to share her recipe for this must-try Polish festive bake.

20 December 2021
Text and images: Kasia Kronenberger

Makowiec is a festive Polish poppy seed cake, usually made in the form of a roll. Traditionally, a sweet dough is rolled and packed with a delicious poppy seed blend with raisins, nuts, and an array of dried fruit.

Makowiec is not only mouth-watering and rich, but also very pleasant to look at. The roll is beautifully decorated with a generous amount of icing, and sprinkled with dry poppy seeds and candied orange peel. When sliced, the roll reveals an appetising black and white swirl.

In Central and Eastern Europe, poppy seeds are a symbol of wealth and prosperity. According to Polish folk beliefs, if you serve this poppy seed roll on the Christmas table, your luck will change for the better.

Watch Kasia make makowiec on The Calvert Journal’s IGTV from 6pm GMT on Thursday 17 December.


For the dough:

100-110g unsalted butter

120ml milk

100g sugar

500g all-purpose flour

2 egg yolks (keep the whites!)

40g fresh yeast or 12g dry yeast

a pinch of salt

For the poppy seed filling:

200g poppy seeds

60g raisins

1-2 tbsp liqueur (amaretto, gold rum, or Polish nut liqueur “nalewka”)

2 tbsp orange peel

300 ml whole milk

2 eggs

50g mixed nuts, chopped

40g powdered sugar

100-110g unsalted butter

2 tbsp honey

60g dried fruit: prunes, cranberries, or apricots.

For decoration:

120g powdered sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp dry poppy seeds

1 tbsp candied orange peel, chopped or sliced


Yeast dough:

  1. Place the butter into a pot, add the sugar and pour in the milk.

  2. Cook together until the butter melts. Set aside and let it cool until it’s only slightly warm.

  3. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Don’t throw away the egg whites, they’ll be useful later.

  4. Get a large bowl. Add in the two yolks and crumble the yeast. Blend together with a fork.

  5. Sift in the flour with a generous pinch of salt.

  6. Add in the milky-buttery mixture to the bowl and knead the dough. I do it by hand, but you can use a mixer (preferably using a dough hook). Five to 10 minutes of kneading is usually enough, but you can continue for longer.

  7. Form a dough ball and let it rise for two hours. It should triple (or at least double) in size.

Poppy seed filling:

  1. Pour the liquor over the raisins and let them soak.

  2. For the orange peel, use a fine-bladed paring knife, a sharp vegetable peeler, or a grater, to trim away the orange parts of the orange’s skin. Discard the white bits, they’re bitter. Chop the orange peel finely.

  3. Boil the milk in a pot. Pour in the poppy seeds and cook them for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then allow the poppy seeds to cool down. Use a sieve lined with cloth to drain the excess milk.

  4. Grind the poppy seeds — ideally with a meat grinder. Using a disc with very small holes, grind the poppy seeds two to three times. Alternatively, blend with a food processor instead.

  5. Crack the eggs, and separate the whites from the yolks.

  6. Add powdered sugar to the yolks, blend with a fork, and set aside.

  7. Chop the nuts, and roast them in a pan. Add the honey, butter, and the orange peel as well. Let it fry together for a minute. Add the dried fruit and the boozy raisins. Then, add the poppy seed mass as well. When combined, take it off the heat, and let it chill.

  8. Whip the egg whites with two tablespoons of powdered sugar, and add them to the poppy seed mass with the sweet egg yolks we previously prepared.


  1. Move the dough onto your work surface and roll it out. Aim for a long rectangle, roughly one centimetre thick.

  2. Spread the egg whites over the dough (if you have any left). This will make the filling stick better.

  3. Spread the filling over the whole dough rectangle, avoiding the edges.

  4. Starting at a long end, roll the dough up tightly (just like you would do with a Swiss roll).

  5. Move the roll onto parchment paper. Fold the paper over, forming a tunnel. Pack it tightly but leave a small gap, just enough to let it rise.

  6. Heat the oven to 180C with fan-assist or 190C without.

  7. Bake the roll for 40 minutes until golden.

  8. If the poppy seed roll cracks, that’s probably because the paper tunnel opened up, or the temperature was too high. But you can cover the damage with icing.

  9. Mix a cup of powdered sugar with some lemon juice and water. Mix together until it has an icing texture. Cover the poppy seed roll generously.

  10. Decorate by sprinkling the poppy seeds and candied orange peel on the roll — and it’s ready to serve.

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