Poppy Seed Bread

You need this recipe. You need to print it and put it wherever you keep your pile of “never fail” stand by recipes. Recently, I traveled with my family to the beautiful and quaint town of Fulton, Missouri. My husband went to college there and we returned to visit dear friends Courtney and Doug Mertens. Courtney and Doug are really really good cooks. And, they have a killer stash of cookbooks. Needless to say, I spent a rude and fabulous week staying in their home, snooping through their book nooks, and eating them out of house and home. I am not an ideal house guest.

Moving on, at a certain point Courtney pulled out the Junior League Centennial Cookbook (which  I immediately ordered…and which is now in my Amazon Store) and casually whipped up the following Poppy Seed Bread that simply blew my little mind. It is a perfect cake-like treat that is satisfying and has a great texture. The glaze is made of orange juice and granulated sugar and it retains a little crunch that is wonderful. I typed the recipe (and about 10 others to which you will surely be subjected in the near future) into my iPad and the moment I returned home I set about recreating this wonder. It really is that good. The recipe makes two 9 inch loaves, but I decided to make one loaf and a dozen muffins, which my daughter believes to be cupcakes if that gives you a hint of how good they are.

The muffins took 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The loaf, which was projected to take an hour to an hour-and-fifteen minutes was thoroughly done (perhaps a bit too done) at an hour, so I suggest you start testing with a tooth pick early. Also, the loaf should probably be glazed in the pan so that it will retain as much of the glaze as possible. I took it out of the pan to cool and then glazed it and was sad with each drop of glaze that was lost to the parchment paper below. You will have to determine the aesthetic you are going for and glaze accordingly. The muffins were a great option. I had plenty for my people and a half a dozen for Linda next door who not only kept my serranos from dying during my absence but also was kind enough to do a burglar check when our alarm misfired while we were gone. Linda, like Courtney, is a goddess.

One final thought, while I am no food snob, the notion of “butter flavoring” threw me for a loop. It is just kind of yucky sounding. If you want butter flavoring, use butter, right? And the stuff smells like movie popcorn. However, whatever it does in this recipe…however it does what it does…is 100% good, so if the idea of butter flavoring makes you squeamish, get over it. Use the stuff. You will be happy with the results.

Poppy Seed Bread
Recipe type: bread
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
This is a terrific breakfast bread, doubles as a dessert, and is just the thing for a house warming gift or to take to a friend.
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons almond extract (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon butter flavoring
  • ½ teaspoon butter flavoring
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice (I used enough frozen concentrate and water to make a quarter cup)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch loaf pans. You can also do one loaf pan and a dozen standard muffins using muffin liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set it aside. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in the milk, oil and sugar. Add the poppy seeds, vanilla, almond extract, and butter flavoring. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth.
  3. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes for the loaves, or about 25 minutes for the muffins. Remove the pans to a rack to cool.
  4. Once the bread has cooled, mix together the glaze ingredients. If you have muffins, dip the tops into the glaze. I went through the process twice so they were double glazed. Pour the remaining glaze over the loaf.

Note: A sharp eye will notice in the photos that I forgot to add the sugar to the wet ingredients until the very end when I had already added the flavorings and the poppy seeds. I don’t recommend that order, but it didn’t affect the outcome one bit. With a pacing Hoover of a dog at my feet and kids begging for spatulas to lick, and dryer buzzers going off it is no wonder I do this sort of thing (are you seeing a Calgon commercial in your mind?). It is good to know that there are recipes out there that can withstand a few errors. Speaking of which, I held back on the almond extract because my bottle was sooooo old that I feared that it would be too potent. You need not hold back. And, please make sure to note the much shorter baking time if you opt for the muffins.

The loaves we were eating at the Mertens’ stayed fresh and delicious for several days. This recipe has holding power, so it is great for guests, or taking to the lake…or whatever…you get the idea. It is a great recipe.

Oh, one more thing, apparently poppy seeds go rancid relatively quickly so if you buy a nice new jar for this, you might want to store it in the fridge.

Thank you, Courtney!


  1. Courtney says

    These are really yummy! My daughter asked to make another batch while she was eating the last piece of bread. Making the recipe into muffins is a great idea. By the way, you and your entire family are ideal house guests. We look forward to your next visit! I am glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  2. Lindsey says

    I love this bread. I gave some to Scott to bring to work, and he said it was gone by 10 AM! Since I didn’t have loaf pans or a muffin pan… I used a bundt pan which worked out quite nicely! I will definitely be making it again. Thanks!

  3. Barbara H says

    Kelly, your mother turned me on to your blog – I love it! I received this recipe from a dear friend about 20 years ago. I use it every Christmas to make gifts for my neighbors and now they ask about it every year at that time. I have a Swedish daughter (exchange student) that loves this bread. The flavorings are hard to find in Sweden so I have been known to make it and mail it to her as a little surprise. She swears it is still fresh after the 2 weeks it takes to get there.

  4. Kelly says

    So glad to see you on here Barbara. This is really one of my all time favorite recipes on the whole site.


  1. […] Also the mom of multiple big boys, Karen Mertens fed the boys of Fulton during my husband’s stint at Westminster College…and apparently still feeds the very lucky international students who attend the college. I must say that my husband’s memories of this family also include the many radish sandwiches and pickled herring he was fed by Mr. Kenneth “Kingfish” Mertens, a beloved figure who my husband mentions fondly with frequency. They are just folks who know how to make you feel at home, even when home is far away. This tradition is carried on with great success by Doug and Mitch Mertens and Doug’s sweet wife Courtney, the source of the Poppy Seed Bread. […]

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