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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

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4.76 from 33 votes

This layered Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is moist, buttery, and is bursting with lemon flavor and poppy seeds. Smothered with a light and refreshing lemon buttercream frosting. This cake is perfect for summer and lemon lovers!

If you love Lemon Cake, be sure to try this Lemon Loaf Cake, Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake or Lemon Cupcakes!

PIN this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake to try later!

Frosted Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with a slice markPin

Welcome to #LemonWeek 2022, day #5 hosted by Lynn from Fresh April Flours and Rebecca from Devour Dinner.  This week is sponsored by Rodelle and La Tourangelle. I may have received product samples from these sponsors to help in the creation of my recipes. All opinions are my own. Come join me and my fellow Lemon Week bloggers as we bring you recipes from appetizers to drinks to entrées and desserts!

I love how simple, elegant, and easy this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is to make. It looks so much fancier than it truly is and it’s the perfect dessert during Spring or Summer. Serve this cake for gatherings, parties, bbq’s, birthday celebrations, or any time you’re craving a Lemon Cake!

The cake itself is fluffy, decadent, sweet (but not too sweet), and packed with just the right amount of zest from fresh lemons. Layered with a light buttercream frosting that compliments the lemon cake so perfectly. 

I love any dessert with lemon in it and I especially love Lemon Poppy Seed treats like these Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes, and Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

slice of cake with lemon slice on topPin

KEY INGREDIENTS

You don’t need any special or fancy ingredients to make this cake from scratch. If you have a lemon tree like us, this is a great way to use up those lemons!

Butter: Makes the cake extra moist, flavorful, tender, and buttery. You want to be sure the butter is unsalted and softened at room temperature. I tested this cake with oil and it just wasn’t the same. 

Lemon juice and lemon zest: The most important ingredients! We use both lemon juice and zest in this recipe to bring out the most flavor and always use lemon juice from fresh lemons. You’ll need about 3-4 lemons total. 

Sugar: Adds just the right amount of sweetness to the cake. 

Vanilla extract: enhances all of the flavors and adds warmth. I always prefer to use pure vanilla extract. 

Milk: Adds moisture to the cake. I recommend using whole milk but you can also use low or reduced fat. 

Sour cream: Makes this cake extra tender and tang balances out the sweetness. 

Eggs: Adds richness and helps bind the cake batter together. 

Poppy seeds: the most nutritional ingredient in the cake! 😉 a few tablespoons goes a long way.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake, step by stepPin

HOW TO MAKE LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE

WHISK DRY INGREDIENTS. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.

BEAT BUTTER MIXTURE. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy- about 2 minutes. Add eggs one a time, mixing until mostly combined after each, then add the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
 
ALTERNATE DRY MIXTURE. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir together on low speed until combined. Add the milk, sour cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir again just until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and continue to mix until combined.
 
BAKE. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 42-47 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted. Set the cake pans on cooling racks and let cool for at least 20 minutes, then flip the cakes upside down to remove them from the cake pans. In the meantime make the frosting.
lemon cake on cake stand Pin

HOW TO FROST & ASSEMBLE CAKE

To make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat together softened butter on high speed until smooth and creamy about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, and heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until fluffy and completely smooth.
 
Frost and Assemble: Once the cakes are completely cooled, place the first layer on a cake platter or cake stand (flat-side-up) and spread generously with about 1/4 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top (flat-side-up) and spread more frosting on top and on the sides until completely covered. You can also pipe the frosting if desired. Garnish with sliced lemons and lemon zest (optional). Slice and enjoy!
Slice of Lemon Poppy Seed cakePin

FAQ

Can I make this cake without poppy seeds? 

You can! If you aren’t a fan of poppy seeds, you can omit them to make a Lemon Cake. 

Can I make this in a bundt pan? 

I love baking this cake in a bundt pan. You will have to increase the baking time to 44-55 minutes and make sure to generously grease the bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

Can I make this in two 9-inch baking pans instead?

You can, just note that the cake will not be as tall once the cakes are stacked together and frosted. You may also have to decrease the baking time by a few minutes. 

Can I make this in a loaf pan?

Definitely! You will need to divide the batter in half and bake each half in a loaf pan. 

Do I have to frost the cake?

You do not have to frost the cake! If you prefer a lighter frosting option, I recommend dusting the cake with powdered sugar or drizzle with a light icing or glaze. 

lemon poppy seed cake on platePin

THIS LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE IS

  • The perfect cake for Spring, Summer, birthdays, or any celebration! 
  • Moist, fluffy, decadent, and bursting with fresh lemon flavor. 
  • Easy to make and can be made into a bundt cake, loaf cake, or cupcakes. 
  • Super soft and tender. This will be the lemon cake of your dreams!
frosted lemon cake on cake stand- birds eye viewPin

RECIPE TIPS & VARIATIONS

Garnish the cake with fresh lemon slices, poppy seeds, flowers, white chocolate chips. or sprinkles. Pipping the frosting on top to make little puffs is totally optional. I love the way it looks and you can decorate the cake any way you wish. The possibilities are endless!

Layer the cake with lemon curd or lemon pudding if you want to add more lemon flavor. If you decide to add a lemon filling, I would use less frosting on the cake to prevent it from being too rich. 

To make frosting the cakes easier, I like to flash freeze my cooled cakes for 15-30 minutes to until they have hardened. This will make the frosting go on smooth and you will get less cake crumbs. 

Instead of making a cake, you can make Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes. Line two cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

lemon cake slice with frosting Pin

LEFTOVERS & STORAGE

Leftovers: Store leftover cake in an airtight container or cover cake platter with foil or plastic wrap. Store in a cool area for 2-3 days, then transfer to the refrigerator and store for 2 more days. The cake will start to dry out once it’s stored in the refrigerator. 

Freeze: You can freeze unfrosted cake by wrapping each cake round with plastic wrap and then place in a heavy-duty ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To freeze frosted cakes, place the cake in the freezer and freeze for at least an hour until the whole cake is frozen. Cover with plastic wrap or place the frozen cake in a bakery box. 

Defrost: To defrost the unfrosted cake, let the cake thaw completely before frosting by placing the cake in the refrigerator to sit overnight. Defrost the frosted cake by letting the cake sit out in the counter for at least 3 hours or you can defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. 

fork with lemon cakePin

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lemon poppy seed cake on serving dishPin

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Pin

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This layered Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is moist, buttery, and is bursting with lemon flavor and poppy seeds. Smothered with a light and refreshing lemon buttercream frosting. This cake is perfect for summer and lemon lovers!
4.76 from 33 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lemon cake, lemon poppy seed cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 whole eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk whole
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Lemon Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Instructions

To make cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch baking pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy- about 2 minutes. Add eggs one a time, mixing until mostly combined after each, then add the vanilla extract, scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir together on low speed until combined. Add the milk, sour cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir again just until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and continue to mix until combined.
  • Pour the cake batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 42-47 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted. Set the cake pans on cooling racks and let cool for at least 20 minutes, then flip the cakes upside down to remove them from the cake pans. In the meantime make the frosting.

To make the frosting

  • In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixing, beat together softened butter on high speed until smooth and creamy about 2 minutes.
  • Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, and heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until fluffy and completely smooth.

To assemble

  • Once the cakes are completely cooled, place the first layer on a cake platter or cake stand (flat-side-up) and spread generously with 1/4 of the frosting.
  • Place the second layer on top (flat-side-up) and spread more frosting on top and on the sides until completely covered. You can also pipe the frosting if desired. Garnish with sliced lemons and lemon zest (optional). Slice and enjoy!
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Notes

Recipe Notes: 
  • Leftovers: Store leftover cake in an airtight container or cover cake platter with foil or plastic wrap. Store in a cool area for 2-3 days, then transfer to the refrigerator and store for 2 more days. The cake will start to dry out once it’s stored in the refrigerator. Freeze: You can freeze unfrosted cake by wrapping each cake round with plastic wrap and then place in a heavy-duty ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To freeze frosted cakes, place the cake in the freezer and freeze for at least an hour until the whole cake is frozen. Cover with plastic wrap or place the frozen cake in a bakery box. 
  • Defrost: To defrost the unfrosted cake, let the cake thaw completely before frosting by placing the cake in the refrigerator to sit overnight. Defrost the frosted cake by letting the cake sit out in the counter for at least 3 hours or you can defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. 
  • Garnish the cake with fresh lemon slices, poppy seeds, flowers, white chocolate chips. or sprinkles. Pipping the frosting on top to make little puffs is totally optional. I love the way it looks and you can decorate the cake any way you wish. The possibilities are endless!
  • Layer the cake with lemon curd or lemon pudding if you want to add more lemon flavor. If you decide to add a lemon filling, I would use less frosting on the cake to prevent it from being too rich.
  • To make frosting the cakes easier, I like to flash freeze my cooled cakes for 15-30 minutes to until they have hardened. This will make the frosting go on smooth and you will get less cake crumbs.
  • Instead of making a cake, you can make Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes. Line two cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

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Recipe Rating




29 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was the fluffiest, softest moist and flavourful cake ever! Very delicate crumb, I used buttermilk instead of sour cream and milk and it turned out delicious. Made it for my boyfriend and his new roommates and it was gone the same evening. Will be making again in spring

    1. 5 stars
      Hi Mimi! Thanks so much for trying my recipe and for your review. I’m so glad you loved this lemon poppy seed cake recipe and I love how you used buttermilk instead of sour cream!