Lemon Poppy seed Cake

For my friend's birthday this year, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, and she asked for lemon poppy seed with a simple, barely-there glaze. My first thought was, really?! I had never even seen poppy seeds let alone tasted anything with them and... well, seeds in a cake...? Although I love a lemon cake, I didn't really understand why poppy seeds had to be included, especially such controversial ones! But I had to deliver on my friends' request and boy, am I glad I did...

My friend is the type who doesn't really celebrate birthdays or makes a big deal out of them so I purposely made this cake very simple and unassuming. Something for her to enjoy while she reads her kindle curled up in her armchair, or to nosh on in between medical rotation breaks.

This reminds me of when I made the white chocolate raspberry cupcakes for another friend a couple years back... I was still a wee little baker at the time and the thought of fruit and chocolate repulsed me. Until I made them and they were a total hit and now they're possibly my favorite cupcakes of all time... 

Although I hate being proven wrong, I love it in the context of a great dessert. I am totally in love with this lemon poppy seed cake. I may like it more than the birthday girl herself... I guess I went into it with such low expectations that I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The cake was so soft and fluffy, and the poppy seeds definitely add a great semi-crunchy texture. Now that I've used them, I can't imagine this cake without poppy seeds. It would be like mint ice cream without any chocolate chips (blasphemy!).

The cake itself doesn't have very much lemon in it, and most of the lemon flavor comes from the syrup added at the end. It smells heavenly and adds a wonderful citrus-y kick to it. It's plate-licking good. I only added half the syrup/glaze to the cake since my friend is not a fan of the sour lemon taste. I kept the other half in a bowl on the side for people to add to their own slices.
I added a lot to my own.

This cake may also work well as a layered cake with a lemon filling/frosting. But for now, I think it's best as a simple stand-alone everyday kinda cake. 

So what I have learned from this? Poppy seeds are actually a very pretty blue and not black like I always assumed they were! 
And also, check your smile after eating this because they are tiny and love to sit in between your teeth, which can get awkward.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Adapted from here
Makes 1 10-in cake

For the cake:

2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk 
3/4 cups + 1 tbs sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour (250g)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp b powder
1/2 tsp b soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 grams finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup poppy seeds
14 tbs butter at room temp

For the lemon glaze:

5 tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup powdered sugar (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and poppy seeds in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and the sugar together with an electric beater.
Add in the eggs and yolk, sour cream, and vanilla, beating well after each addition.
Add in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Transfer the batter to a pan and level the surface.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached.
The cake should spring back when pressed lightly.

Lemon glaze:

Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds until the sugar is dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Once the cake is done, poke the cake with a thin skewer and pour the glaze over it. You can preserve half for people to add to their own preference or add the entire amount to the cake.

Let cool before serving.


  1. Really, lemon poppy seed for a birthday. I'd have reacted the same way as you. But, seeing the cake, it really does look DELICIOUS!

  2. Simply beautiful. Sometimes the most unassuming foods are the most delicious!

  3. I love lemon poppy seed cake but have never made it before. This recipe sounds fantastic. I'll definitely try this and yes you definitely need to hit the restroom after eating it, if out and about. Nothing like smiling with a mouth full of poppy seeds!

  4. love that that this is simple and unassuming but looks so delicious - would be a great breakfast addition

  5. I love lemon poppy seed loaf! So delicious and light, goes great with an afternoon coffee.

  6. Lemon poppy seed cake is always a good choice. Subtle for a birthday cake, but still delicious. I'm glad you gave it a try! :)

  7. Drooling here - I love lemon poppy seed anything! I agree, it could be a really tasty addition for a breakfast/brunch:)

  8. Thank you for the cake! =D It was delicious! I think the main reason you liked it more is because of the syrup, since I dislike sour notes in my baked goods (and I really wish I'd remembered to tell you that!). But the cake was wonderfully moist and overall a very successful birthday cake for me!

  9. I absolutely love poppy seed! And lemon poppy seed cake is one of my favorites! This looks absolutely delicious.

  10. I love it when you try a new recipe and it ends up becoming one of your favorites! I have been searching for the perfect lemon poppy seed cake recipe, because I love it! I will have to try this recipe next. Hey, any recipe with sour cream has to be delicious! I stumbled this!

  11. This lemon poppy cake is different than the one I normally make. I normally always add a bit less lemon to my normal cake I make. This was already calls for less, but you have the option of adding more, if you like the more of the lemon taste. I like just a hint of lemon, so this worked out to be the perfect recipe for me!!


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