This lemon poppy seed cake is not only tender and buttery, but also boasts a dense pound cake texture. Bursting with poppy seeds for a delightful crunch and nutty flavor. Baked with plenty of lemon zest, orange zest and almond flour, it's a one-of-a-kind treat that's truly the real deal.
Table of Contents
A Real Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Lemon poppy seed cakes are simply popular, because almost everyone likes lemon cakes. Besides, lemon and poppy seeds make such a great flavor combination. So it is a traditional favorite in many cultures.
But most lemon poppy seed cake recipes here in the US, often use very little poppy seeds. You literally have to search for the seeds. When you give a cake its’ name, you wonder where exactly are the poppy seeds?!
And then the cakes are overly sweet without having much flavor to balance the sweetness. This poppy seed cake recipe though has a ton of citrus flavor and nuttiness from plenty of poppy seeds and almond flour.
We take this cake up a notch by using both lemon and orange zest for a nice sweet flavor. Then we also use both the zest and juice. Because we combine lemon and orange juice, the tartness is also very balanced.
This lemon poppy seed pound cake is dense, buttery, moist, flavorful and so easy. Drizzle it with lemon glaze for an extra citrusy and sweet touch.
Here are some notes about ingredients.
- Flour: All purpose flour works well. You can combine whole wheat pastry flour with all purpose flour as well.
- Almond Flour: This gives some texture and extra nutty flavor. Also almond flour is naturally sweet, so you will use less sugar than a cake using only all-purpose flour.
- Eggs: We use large eggs that are at room temperature.
- Butter: Use high quality butter. Branded butter may be a better option than store brands or try European butter. Because the cheaper butter brands may have more moisture content. And it should be at room temperature and softened.
- Sugar: Be sure to measure this well, using a weighing scale if possible. To get perfect baking results, don't skimp on sugar, as it is very important for the final cake texture.
- Poppy Seeds: Buy fresh poppy seeds from stores with a fast turnover. These can turn rancid (off flavor) quickly, so freeze them always and smell them before using. Buy small quantities and use quickly. Try to find it in the spice section, health food or ethnic food aisles of well-stocked grocery stores, whole foods and health food stores.
- Lemons and Oranges: Buy these organic, scrub them well and pat dry before using. We will use these citrus fruits for both the zest and juice. You may need at least 2 medium size lemons and one large orange.
- Citrus Zest: Using a zester, grate the zest finely.
- Citrus Juice: We use both lemon juice and orange juice. Start with 2 tablespoons of each at a time and add more as needed for a slow dropping consistency.
- Vanilla Extract: This is optional and I don't usually use it. Add this only if you want extra background flavor.
- Baking Powder: To check if it is active, place ½ teaspoon of baking powder in a small bowl and pour ¼ cup of hot water on top. If the mixture foams up, it indicates that the baking powder is active.
- Salt: To enhance the sweetness and balance flavor.
- Glaze: We combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Use only water for a plain glaze. For a more opaque glaze that is not tart, skip lemon juice and use milk, cream or combine greek yogurt with milk. Milk based glaze will be mildly opaque, cream will give a richer white glaze.
How To Make Lemon Poppy Pound Cake
Brief overview below. *Full recipe at the end of blog post.
- Wet Ingredients: Whisk butter with sugar until fluffy. Stir in lemon and orange zest. Add eggs, one at a time and continue to beat.
- Cake Batter: Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Sift into egg-sugar mixture in batches, alternating with lemon juice and orange juice. Stir in the poppy seeds. Add almond flour. The batter should have a slow dropping consistency.
- Bake: Transfer cake batter to baking pan and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Decorate: Combine powdered sugar with lemon juice or cream. Drizzle lemon glaze on the cake.
Measure the ingredients properly. Using a weighing scale will give the most accurate results. In the recipe card at the end of this post, toggle between ‘US customary’ and ‘metric’, to get the weight measures.
Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. If needed, soak cold eggs in warm water for five minutes to bring them to room temperature.
Beat the butter and sugar until very fluffy. And beat the eggs one at a time, about 30 seconds per egg. This is when you incorporate air and increase the volume of the batter.
Fold the flour in evenly and scrape the bottom of the bowl to avoid any unincorporated flour. But be cautious not to over-mix the batter.
Watch the baking temperature and time carefully. Do not over bake the cake.
Bundt pans bake cakes faster than round or square pans due to the center tunnel which helps transmit heat.
How to Serve This Cake
- Simple: This lemon poppy cake tastes amazing as it is. But you can decorate it with some lemon and orange slices, citrus zest or almond slices.
- With Whipped Cream or Ice Cream: Serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, berries and chocolate sauce.
- Trifle Dessert: Slice the cake and use it to make a lemon trifle dessert. The dense cake will soak up all the juices for a lovely texture and the bright lemon flavor will make the trifle more delicious.
These are some suggestions you could try, but I have not tested some of them.
- Gluten Free: Use gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour.
- Vegan: Substitute butter by weight, using a blend of equal amounts of oil with thin nut-butter (with tahini-like consistency). Refer to this marble cake recipe that uses this technique. For an egg-free alternative, try substituting eggs with ¾ cup of thick vegan yogurt, and use plant-based milk.
- Dairy Free: Replace butter by weight, with a blend of thin nut-butter (with tahini-like consistency) with an equal amount of oil, or try using vegan butter as an alternative. Additionally, substitute regular milk with plant-based milk.
- Egg Free: Try replacing eggs with ¾ cup thick vegan yogurt.
- Replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour by measuring the same weight. Start with a partial substitution and gradually increase the amount as desired.
- Allulose is a new sweetener that is gaining acceptance. It is a natural sugar that is indigestible and supposedly produces better outcomes for baking than other non-nutritive sweeteners.
- Skip the glazes.
Measure all the ingredients and ensure they are at room temperature before preparing the batter. Zest and juice the lemon and orange.
- Room Temp: This lemon cake is best enjoyed at room temperature. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days
- Refrigerate: The cake keeps well for 5 days in a refrigerator. Also, refrigerate the cake if it has a milk or cream glaze. It may dry out a bit when refrigerated, so microwave cake slices for 10 seconds before serving.
- Freeze: Cover the cake with parchment paper or plastic wrap and pack it in a freezer-safe bag. Freeze the cake for up to a month. Before serving, allow the cake to reach room temperature.
You can, but it will not have the same great taste that comes with the crunch and flavor of using the optimal amount of poppy seeds. Use at least ½ cup poppy seeds for this recipe.
If you make this recipe only with almond flour, the cake will have a denser and richer texture. But this substitution will also require modifications to the other ingredients in the recipe. Further, the cake contains a significant amount of poppy seeds, which lends it a coarse texture.
Yes, you can use only lemon zest and juice or just orange juice and zest for this recipe.
No, do not lower the amount of sugar. That will alter the taste and texture of the cake. You can however try to experiment using allulose as I have explained under “variations” above.
Check this cake pan size guide for making this recipe in a different baking pan. For loaf pans, you can try dividing the batter into two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ loaf pans. You may also need to adjust the baking time. Review this guide and start checking your cake after 30 minutes of baking time.
Poppy seeds are good sources of protein, dietary fiber, antioxidant nutrients, some essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium.
However this poppy seed cake is still pretty rich and so should be enjoyed in moderation. Even a small slice of this vegetarian and soy-free dessert is so satisfying. Serve it with lots of fresh berries.
You can also make this cake without the lemon glaze. Be sure to check out the variations above for ideas to make this cake to suit your lifestyle and to lighten it up. Also, when possible try to use grass fed dairy products.
More Citrus Based Desserts
- Easy Fruit Salad With Orange Juice
- Easy Stollen Recipe With Cranberry and Orange
- Dark Chocolate Orange Slices
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Best Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- 250 g butter 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons, room temperature, softened
- 1¼ cups sugar 250g
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest from organic lemons
- 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest from organic oranges
- 2 teaspoons vanilla optional
- 6 large eggs room temperature
- 2¼ cups all purpose flour 275g
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups almond flour 125g
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- ⅔ cup poppy seeds 100g
- Extra butter and flour for preparing the pan
Lemon Glaze (optional)
- 1 cup powdered sugar 125g
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or water
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10 inch bundt cake pan generously with soft butter and dust with flour. Shake off excess flour and set aside.
- Wet Ingredients: Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer with paddle attachment), whisk butter at high speed until creamy. Add sugar and beat the mixture until very fluffy, scraping down the bowl in between, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon and orange zest. Add eggs, one at a time, while continuing to beat, about ½ minute per egg.
- Batter: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk it into butter-sugar-egg mixture in 2 batches, beating at medium speed, and adding lemon juice and orange juice in between. Whisk in the poppy seeds at low speed until well incorporated. Then add almond flour in 2 batches.
- Consistency: The batter should have a slow dropping consistency. Adjust the amount of juice needed accordingly. Tip: Each time, fold the flour in evenly and scrape the bottom of bowl to not miss any flour. But don't over mix the batter.
- Bake: Transfer cake batter to the prepared bundt pan and bake in the center rack for about 45 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake.
- Cool: Remove the cake pan from the oven. Let it rest about 10 minutes and invert the cake from the baking pan onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before pouring the glaze.
- Glaze: Top with lemon glaze if desired. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar with lemon juice to form a thick mass of slow-pouring consistency, adding more juice, a few drops at a time, if needed. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the cake. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on top and let it set
- Use all ingredients at room temperature.
- Measure the ingredients accurately by fluffing the flour, spooning it into the measuring cups, and then leveling it off. For even greater precision, use a kitchen scale to weigh your dry ingredients.
- To use other baking pans, follow this guide.
- Poppy Seeds: Buy these fresh from stores with a fast turnover. They can turn rancid (off flavor) quickly, so freeze them always.
- Glaze: For a more opaque glaze that is not tart, use milk, cream or combine greek yogurt with milk.
- Storage: Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, or refrigerate for about 5 days, but expect some drying when refrigerated. For freezing, wrap the cake with parchment paper or plastic wrap, place it in a freezer-safe bag, and freeze for up to a month.
- For more information on ingredients, variations, recipe FAQs and serving suggestions, scroll up the page to the blog post.