Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

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This lemon poppy seed cake is laced with fresh lemon zest, filled to the brim with nutty, crackly poppy seeds, and drizzled with a bright lemon glaze. It’s the perfect “company cake.”

A variation of my lemon buttermilk pound cake, this lemon poppy seed cake is laced with fresh lemon zest, filled to the brim with nutty, crackly poppy seeds, and drizzled with a bright lemon glaze. The texture is just what you hope for in a homemade cake — moist and melt-in-your-mouth tender — and the cake keeps well for days. My grandmother would have called it a “company cake” since it’s the perfect treat to have on hand when friends and family come over.

The cake can be made in a Bundt pan or two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans. Before deciding which pans to use, please see the important notes at the bottom of the recipe. The cake keeps well for days on the countertop, and it freezes well, too.

What you’ll need to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

How to make lemon poppy seed cake

To begin: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Whisk well and set aside.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Whisk and set aside.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), combine the butter and sugar.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Beat well after each addition.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. With the mixer on low speed, beat in one-quarter of the flour mixture.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Add one-third of the buttermilk mixture.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Beat in another quarter of the flour mixture, then another third of the milk mixture. Repeat with another quarter of the flour mixture and the remaining milk mixture. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and give a quick mix to make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Spray the Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with sugar. Make sure the entire pan is covered.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes on a rack. While the cake cools, make the syrup. Combine the water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Invert the warm cake onto the rack. Slip a large piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil under the rack to catch all the drips from the syrup. Gradually brush the hot syrup over the cake, letting it soak in (a little syrup will drip off, but try not to rush so that most of it is absorbed). Allow the cake to cool completely, about one hour.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

When the cake is cool, make the glaze. Stir the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl, mixing until completely smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar if necessary to make a thick, opaque glaze (it should be thicker than you’d think — you want it the consistency of honey or molasses).

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

Carefully transfer the cake to a serving platter. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

How to Store and Freeze Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Let the glaze harden before slicing. The cake will keep nicely for 3 days if kept covered on the countertop. It can also be frozen (without the glaze) for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving. (Add the glaze after the cake is thawed.)

how to make lemon poppy seed cake

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This lemon poppy seed cake is laced with fresh lemon zest, filled to the brim with nutty, crackly poppy seeds, and drizzled with a bright lemon glaze. It’s the perfect “company cake.”

Servings: One 10-inch bundt cake, about 16 servings
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 70 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a knife
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 gently packed tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2¼ cups granulated sugar, plus more for the pan
  • 3 large eggs

For the Syrup

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Glaze

  • About 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and dust with sugar. Be sure the entire pan is coated (see note below).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. With the mixer on low speed, beat in one-quarter of the flour mixture, then one-third of the buttermilk mixture. Beat in another quarter of the flour mixture, then another third of the milk mixture. Repeat with another quarter of the flour mixture and the remaining milk mixture. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and give a quick mix with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes on a rack.
  6. While the cake cools, make the syrup. Combine the water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  7. Invert the warm cake onto the rack. Slip a large piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil under the rack to catch all the drips from the syrup. Gradually brush the hot syrup over the cake, letting it soak in (a little syrup will drip off, but try not to rush so that most of it is absorbed). Allow the cake to cool completely, about one hour. When the cake is cool, carefully transfer it to a serving platter.
  8. To make the glaze: stir the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl, mixing until completely smooth. Add more confectioners' sugar if necessary to make a thick, opaque glaze (it should be thicker than you'd think -- you want it the consistency of honey or molasses). Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let the glaze harden before slicing and serving the cake, about 15 minutes. The cake will keep nicely for 3 days if kept covered on the countertop.
  9. Note: You'll need 3 large lemons for this recipe
  10. Note: As the recipe indicates, I grease the Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and then dust it with sugar. It has always worked beautifully for me, but a number of readers have mentioned problems with the cake sticking. If you’d prefer to use a different method, treat the pan by generously coating it with butter and then dusting it with flour, or use a nonstick baking spray with flour like Pam with Flour or Baker’s Joy. (Also, it's best not to use a Bundt pan with an intricate design for this cake, as they are more prone to sticking.) Another option (that is foolproof) is to use two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans instead of a Bundt pan. Loaf pans are much less prone to sticking, and you can line them with parchment paper for extra insurance. To prepare the loaf pans, spray them with nonstick baking spray, line the bottoms with parchment, and then spray them again. The bake time will be 50 to 60 minutes, and you will only need half of the soaking syrup.
  11. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen (without the glaze) for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving. (Add the glaze after the cake is thawed.)

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Calories: 369
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 59 g
  • Sugar: 40 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 158 mg
  • Cholesterol: 66 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Made this with low fat Greek yoghurt instead of buttermilk and skipped the syrup and glaze to lower sugar content. Came out perfect! Used a buttered and floured Bundt pan, no issues there either. Baking time is spot on, too. Delicious coffee/breakfast cake.

    • — Lydia on May 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Do you think a 10 inch tube pan would work with this recipe? The tube can be lifted up when cake is cooled. If so, would baking time be the same as for the Bundt pan? Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

    • — Bev on May 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Bev, I do think it will work and the bake time should be the same. For extra insurance to keep it from sticking, I’d recommend lining the bottom of the pan with parchment and spraying the parchment. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 6, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hello, I used gluten free flour for this recipe, and as it always falls a bit in the middle, I added 100g. Almond meal. The result was fabulous! Thank you so much for publishing this recipe.

    • — Barb Stephens on April 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Ok, I’m 3 days into eating this lemon poppy seed cake and I cannot say anything bad about it. I do like my cake with more lemon and so I added much more lemon to the batter after all the liquid and dry ingredients were added. I also added more sugar to the syrup and really went to town with saturating the cake with it. I did not use a glaze at all but even without it, my family and colleagues hit this cake hard. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be saving this to my personal cookbook that I’m gathering my favorite recipes for so that my kiddos have something to reference. I’ll be giving you all the credit for this superb cake.

    • — Sausan on April 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’m sad to say I fell victim to the sticking pan. I read the comments and Jenn’s notes carefully and considered the options. Since one reviewer mentioned how the caramelized sugar really is special, I decided to give it a go. I used Pam on my Noricware bundt pan, and REALLY sprayed it, then dusted it with sugar. I inverted it at exactly 10 minutes, and to my dismay, it did not release. I smacked it hard on the counter a number of times and nothing. I used a knife down the sides to see if just a little release would help, but still nothing. I then got aggressive with the knife and finally half of the cake released but the bottom stayed in the pan. 🙁 The only thing I can think of is the pan is a little too detailed. It’s the Nordic ware “Party Bundt Pan.” It’s not intricate, but perhaps it’s still a little too much for the recipe. Lesson learned. I was going to have this Easter tomorrow. But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade! I guess I’ll whip up some lemon curd and make a lemon berry trifle instead! The crumbs are certainly tasty!

    • — Angelique on April 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Baking this cake at 325 convection for 65 minutes will give you an over baked cake. It is so dry. I will decrease the baking temperature next time. Three stars for flavor- needs much more lemon flavor for my tastes and less sugar too. I’m worried that cutting the sugar may effect the moisture level. I will try this one again though- I think it’s got potential

    • — Tiffany on March 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Tiffany, I suggest using the standard (non-convection setting) for baking as the convection setting tends to make baked goods dry. Hope you have more success the next time you make it!

      • — Jenn on March 14, 2022
      • Reply
      • Came out perfectly the second time! My friends say it’s so good “it’s dangerous” 🙂 thank you very much for the advice

        • — Tiffany on March 21, 2022
        • Reply
        • Glad it worked out!

          • — Jenn on March 22, 2022
          • Reply
  • I made this Lemon Poppyseed Bundt Cake for my grand son’s birthday cake. It was my first Bundt Cake and I was a little nervous about the whole thing. However, I followed your recipe exactly, and it was PERFECT! I used melted shortening and almond flour to prep the pan. It popped right out without any problems. Thanks so much for this great recipe. Everyone loved it. My husband even had a second piece, and he doesn’t like cake!

    • — Carol on March 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Obsessed. This recipe is perfect. Just the right blend of sweet and tart, and so delicate!

    A little note for anyone who is baking in a warmer climate: I tend to have to bake things a bit under the time in their recipes because of the weather where I live. I never realized how much the weather affected baking until I moved from Maine (where I could bake everything strictly according to recipe times and it would come out great) to Hawaii (where everything I bake gets done in significantly less time than it took in Maine). I baked this for 52 minutes in a bundt pan and it came out just right.

    Thank you so much–this is definitely going to be one of my go-to cakes now. I can’t wait to try your other recipes!

    • — Becky on February 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is just the most perfect Bundt cake – I have made this recipe so many times now and it never ever fails – fabulous recipe and fabulous tasting cake

    • — Mugglemumma on February 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can this be made into two loafs? If so what would recommended baking time?

    • — Kelly G on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes, You can use two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans instead of a Bundt pan. To prepare the loaf pans, spray them with nonstick baking spray, line the bottoms with parchment, and then spray them again. The bake time will be 50 to 60 minutes, and you will only need half of the soaking syrup. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 20, 2022
      • Reply
  • This cake was gorgeous came out very soft and nice

    • — Kimmy craig on January 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Unfortunately I did not read the comments before I made it. It was a disaster when I tried to get it out of the pan. I was making it for my daughter’s birthday and she lives overseas and has not been here in over 10 years for her birthday. No time to re do anything so we are having lemon poppyseed crumble!! Making lemonade with our poppyseed mess!!

    • — Diane on January 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • I found this recipe on Google and I must say I was lucky. Just tried it and cake came out perfect. The steps are very clear and the use of butter and sugar for the pan was something new to me but it just made the cake elegantly leave the pan and onto the cooling rack. Thank you for sharing your recipe 😊

    • — Shouq on December 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • I make this cake whenever I have to bring something to a function (and I’m not making something last minute lol). I’ve made it with and without the poppy seeds and it’s a winner either way. I butter and sugar the bundt pan and never have an issue with sticking (unless I don’t let it cool long enough before removing it!). Thanks for sharing it.

    • — Jay on December 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe has become a family and friend favorite. It’s a hit anytime of the year, especially around the holidays because we live in northern Canada where the winters can be long. This is a perfect pick me up and has such a fresh taste that friends and family love it and it’s the most requested cake!

    • — Dawn on December 10, 2021
    • Reply

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