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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Lemon cakes are by far my favorite cakes to bake and eat.  If you love lemons just as much as I do, then you don't need me to tell you about that sweet/tart element that is so enticing in lemon desserts.  It is what it is!

The combination of lemons and poppy seeds is classic.  Layer cakes covered in rich buttercream are great and festive, but when you want something simple that is sure to be a crowd pleaser, then only a bundt cake will do.  Bundt cakes are great to have on hand when company comes around, because they don't feel overly indulgent to enjoy with a cup of coffee for brunch or with some tea in the afternoon after a light luncheon.  The cake portions can be as generous or as slender as one desires.

Whether or not you choose to ice a bundt cake, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or leave it plain, it's bound to be a welcomed ending to any meal.

This special Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is baked with the basics of butter, flour, sugar, fresh eggs and lots of fresh lemon zest.  It's up to you as to what type of lemons you use, but if you happen to have meyers, then by all means use them.  Your poppy seeds, however, must be absolutely fresh and not at all stale.  If you're unsure about the ones in your pantry, go to the supermarket and pick up a new batch.

With the many shapes and sizes of bundt pans from which to choose at baking supply stores, it's fun using the more unusual ones for special occasions.  I recently added a square bundt pan from Nordic Ware to my baking pans, and thought: why not use it for that tasty lemon poppy seed cake I've been making for the past several weeks?

Let's bake a cake that every lemon connoisseur is going to enjoy.  With a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of preparation, you can have a cake worthy of your best cake stand and cake dome.

This is what I did for my family.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Equipment: 10-12 cup bundt pan, buttered and floured or sprayed with nonstick baking spray.

NOTE: A smaller bundt pan, such as the square Nordic Ware pan, should only be filled ⅔ full of batter (you will have leftover batter if using this cake pan; if using the larger ones, like the 'Anniversary Pan', you can use the entire batch of batter).  Leftover batter can be baked into cupcakes. Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes.

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350° F (177°C)
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Keep it ready. 
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until lightened, about 30 seconds.  Add the salt, sugar & lemon zest, and cream on medium speed until light and creamy 4-5 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the bowl and paddle at least once during this process.  
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated and emulsified.
  4. Beat in the lemon and vanilla extracts.  
  5. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle attachment.  
  6. On low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the sour cream; add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 of the sour cream, and so on. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.  
  7. Add the poppy seeds and blend well.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake the cake for 50 minutes to one hour.  The cake should feel springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean when it’s completely baked.
  9. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes;  gently flip and remove the cake from the pan and cool completley. 
  10. Frost as desired. 

Simple Lemon Icing
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons strained lemon juice
  • poppy seeds
Mix confectioners sugar with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and begin to thin it out by the 1/4 teaspoon with more lemon juice until you have a very thick, yet pourable icing.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds while the icing is wet.  Let set.

If you can manage to resist slicing up the cake before company arrives, keep it in a cool environment so that the icing doesn't run into problems.  For this occasion I remembered that I had a large 19th century blown glass cake dome, so I used it to cover the cake while it waited.  Believe me, it was so hard to resist. 

When we finally did slice into it, I was pleased with how light the crumb was (sifting is very important as is not overmixing) and what a great flavor it had. Anything made with sour cream or even buttermilk comes out quite tender and delicious.  

There you have it.  A very good lemon bundt cake with the added bonus of having tasty poppy seeds in both the batter and the icing, will have people asking for seconds.  Whether you choose to enjoy a slice with a cup of coffee, some tea or even some milk, be sure to eat every last crumb.  A cake like this will keep for a couple of days under a cake dome or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, but why not share it with people so that you have no leftovers.  Have fun baking this cake and do let me know what you think!


  1. Deeeeeeeelightful! I can't wait to give this a try. I love the square pan... I'll have to investigate and buy one. Lemon goodness.. here we come!

  2. Great looking cake! You mentioned the vintage glass dome, but I want to know what the flat plate is. It would be nice to have one.


    1. ChanC, that round plate/platter is made by the french company, Pillivuyt. I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma many years ago, so I don't know if they still carry it, but you can always do a google search for it.

  3. LOVE lemons and LOVE your new square Bundt pan. Can you believe that I haven't touched mine yet? :(


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