Lemon Poppyseed Cake

This Lemon Poppyseed Cake is a tender, moist cake that’s full of lemon flavor and poppy seeds! It’s covered in a light lemon cream cheese frosting for a cake that’s perfect for lemon lovers!

collage of images. a slice of cake and the whole cake

It’s no secret around here that I love a tasty lemon dessert. I have quite a variety of lemon flavored cakes and this is my latest. Believe it or not – it might just be my favorite!

LEMON POPPYSEED CAKE RECIPE

What I love so much about this cake is the lemon flavor. It’s perfection. There’s a large variety when it comes to lemon cake flavor, but I really love a strong flavor in pretty much anything I eat. That can be tough with lemon, but this cake is just right.

To make this amazing cake, start with both butter and oil. The butter lends that wonderful flavor, while the oil helps with keeping the cake moist. Beat them with some sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed until the mixture lightens in color and gets a fluffier texture, about two minutes.

Next, you’ll add the eggs, then alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk and fresh lemon juice. For our leavener, we’ve got both baking powder and baking soda in order to properly balance the acid in the lemon juice.

Finally, you’ll add some lemon zest and poppy seeds.

slice of cake with a bite taken outan image of the whole cake from the side

WHY ADD POPPY SEEDS?

Poppy seeds add both flavor and a little crunch. They also contain a good bit of fiber, calcium, copper, phosphorus and magnesium. All are good and healthy things. Clearly that means this cake is healthy too! 😉

That said, this cake could also be made without them.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This Lemon Poppyseed Cake is finished off with my favorite Cream Cheese Frosting, with a little bit of lemon juice and lemon zest added. It adds a subtle lemon flavor, which goes great with the cake.

The final cake is nothing short of delicious! The combination of the full flavored, moist lemon cake with the light flavor of the poppy seeds and cream cheese frosting is heavenly. It’s a wonderful combination of sweet and tangy and such a wonderful citrusy cake for spring and summer. I seriously wanted to sit down with a fork and just eat it one sitting. I hope you love it too!

slice of lemon poppyseed cakean overhead of the lemon poppyseed cake

MORE LEMON DESSERTS TO TRY

Lemon Cake with Lemon Bavarian Cream
Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake
No Bake Lemon Cheesecake
Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake
Triple Lemon Cake

Print
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slice of lemon poppyseed cake
Recipe

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Lemon Poppyseed Cake is a tender, moist cake that’s full of lemon flavor and poppy seeds! It’s covered in a light lemon cream cheese frosting for a cake that’s perfect for lemon lovers!


Scale

Ingredients

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (172g) butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

Instructions

1. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
3. Add the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
6. Combine the milk and lemon juice, then slowly add the mixture to the batter and mix until well combined.
7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
8. Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds and gently stir to combine.
9. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
10. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
11. To make the frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until well combined and smooth.
12. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
13. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until well combined.
14. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth. Add more or less powdered sugar, as desired for consistency purposes.
15. To put the cake together, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat, if needed.
16. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
17. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake.
18. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
19. Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the outside of the cake. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed. To make the line pattern in the side of the cake, I used one of the decorative sides on this icing smoother.
20. Finish off the cake as you like. I added rosettes around the top outer edge and sprinkled on some poppy seeds. I also added some lemon slices.
21. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. Cake is best served cool, but not necessarily cold.


Keywords: lemon poppyseed cake, lemon poppyseed dessert, lemon cake recipe, lemon frosting recipe, best lemon cake, easy lemon cake

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Recipe rating

164 Comments
  1. Monica

    I’m planning on making this for Mother’s Day and I was wondering if I could use cake flour instead of All purpose flour.

  2. Thuy

    Hi Lindsay,

    Just wanted to know if you have ever made an orange and poppy seed cake before? If so, could I adapt this recipe and change the lemon parts to orange? 

    Thank you. 

  3. Chelsea

    Hi Lindsay,

    Thank you for this amazing recipe! One question:
    Can I substitute half of the all-purpose flour for cake flour?

  4. Brenda Milcetic

    Hi Lindsay,
    This cake, like all your others, looks amazing! Can I bake it in two, 9″ pans?
    Thank you and God bless,
    Brenda

    1. Lindsay

      You can, you just might need to adjust the baking time a little bit. And keep in mind that your cake won’t be quite as tall.

  5. Millie

    Went down really well with my family- they said it was the best cake I ever made! Thanks for the recipe x

  6. Katelyn

    This is the best thing that I’ve ever baked! (I am a little biased because I love lemon 🙂 ). I made adjustments for altitude because I live in Denver: I reduced baking powder for each tsp by 1/8, reduced sugar by 2 tablespoons, and increased the oil by two tablespoons. I also cooked it at 375 for 18 minutes and it was perfect! Thank you so much!

    1. Lindsay

      I haven’t tried it to be able to say. If you use all oil, it would be harder to cream things together and get that same light and fluffy texture that helps add air to the batter. Plus, some cakes I just think taste better with some butter in there rather than all oil.

  7. anu

    Hi Lindsay
    I plan to bake this cake( a wonderful looking one i must add) for my daughter’s first birthday. However i do have a question for u. Is the poppy seeds roasted before putting in cake batter? I am from India and havent seen black colored poppy seeds. Hence the question

    1. Lindsay

      I didn’t toast the poppyseeds. That is how they come here in the US. I’m not really sure what to suggest, but you could try toasting them.

      1. Anu

        Hello again, 
        Back with an update, A positive one ☺️
        For testing purpose, i tried a vegan version with the white poppy seeds we get here. The appearance was definitely not as appealing, but the texture was wow. The poppy seeds did add a nice crunch to the cake, so it is this cake for my baby’s birthday 😍. Thank you in advance will keep you posted. 
        Hipe this helps others who dont get black poppy seeds where they live🤗

  8. Laura Slauenwhite

    I made this cake for a dinner party recently and I’m still dreaming about it. This cake was a huge hit, everyone raved about it! I did find that the recipe yielded almost double the needed icing though, which did not go to waste. I will definitely be making this again. 

    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I do tend to use a lot of frosting so you can definitely cut that down if you like.

      1. Dani

        After you remove the cakes from the oven, does “remove to cooling racks” mean to turn the cakes out of their pans and let them cool directly on the racks? 

  9. Hiba

    I made it and it turned out AMAZING. I loved the balanced zesty flavour which was just right. The poppy seeds added  extra taste and desirable crunch to this lovely cake. Well done and thanx for sharing the recipe. 🥰

  10. Nicole

    I made this cake Saturday for my Dad’s birthday. He took one bite and spoke not one word the whole time eating his cake except for mmm. I only got to taste a pinch of his piece and I wanted to take the cake back. It was divine; lemony, moist, tender, delicious. I’m thinking about it right now. I will be making this cake again. Thank you Lindsay.

  11. Christy

    Hi, Thanks for the recipe! I was wondering if you turn any of the layers upside down or are they all placed on top of each other right side up? I also wondered what you would think of replacing mascarpone for the cream cheese? Thanks you so much!

    1. Lindsay

      I typically have the lower layers right side up and the top layer upside down. And yes, mascarpone cheese should be fine.

  12. Donna

    THANK YOU for this terrific recipe!! I love the strength of the lemon flavor throughout.  I made your lemon curd and put a thin layer of it on top of the second layer, then frosting on that too.  I also put a little almond extract in the cake and a dash of vanilla and almond extract in the frosting.  It was a big hit for my mother-in-law’s birthday cake!  I will be trying your lemon raspberry cake soon!

  13. Kris

    I am a novice (at best) baker. I made this cake for my mom’s birthday this weekend, giving myself plenty of time. The cake was absolutely to die for!! I don’t even usually like anything lemon poppyseed but it is very subtle in both the cake and icing. I loved how easy it was to follow and with easy ingredients. I will say that I didn’t like the thinness of the cake baked in my 9″ cake pans. I’ll do 8″ next time as recommended.  Since I wasn’t sure I’d ever ramp up my cake decorating skills, I didn’t run out  to buy any of the tools she talks about in the icing post. I see how they would make my cake go from ok to spectacular! I’m thinking hard about it. Thank you Lindsay so much for taking the time to teach us newbies to bake!

  14. amal

    oh my god i baked this cake, it was so yummy i surprised all my guests!! 

    thank u for a great recipe 😍😍

    1. Lindsay

      Sure. I typically cut it into slices and freeze them individually. I wrap them in clear wrap and foil and then put them in a Ziploc bag. When you’re ready, thaw it in the fridge.

  15. Merlyn

    I have always loved lemon and poppy seed cakes, well anything lemony. Have been looking for a good recipe and when I found this recipe, I had to try it! Boy was I glad I tried it. The best recipe ever. The cake was super moist and yet fluffy and light. My husband and I gobbled most of it. Thank you for sharing the recipe. 

  16. Katy

    Thank you for your recipe! I am baking this cake for my friend’s birthday party tomorrow. I wanted to bake the cake today since the party is in the morning, and I was wondering how I should store it. Should I put the cake in the fridge or keep it at room temperature overnight? Should I ice it now, or should I wait until tomorrow morning to do that? Thanks for your help!

    1. Lindsay

      You can frost it the day of or the day before. If you frost it the day before, I would store it in the fridge because of the cream cheese frosting. If the cake layers aren’t frosted yet, you can store them in airtight container at room temperature.

  17. Amza

    I baked your cake yesterday since I love lemon cake. I was so glad I went with your recipe. I made a few tweaks I added whole milk instead of regular and I also topped it off  with a cream cheese frosting that had lemon curd in it. It was amazing all my fam and friends loved it. Thanks again! Also, I baked it in 3 eight inch pans and it was done at the 20 min mark 🙂 thanks again! 

  18. Rebekah

    I was worried I wouldn’t find the perfect recipe when a customer asked if I could make a lemon poppyseed cake. My worries were gone once I found this! Made this into 3-6” pans and 2-4”’pans. It was absolutely delicious. They stacked perfectly and the taste was just so amazing. The lemon is spot on and everyone was happy. I think I may swap out the poppyseeds for blueberries next time to see how that pairs! The lemon cake is just so good I want to make it with everything. 
    Thanks for sharing such a gem with us. And for those asking about baking in different pan sizes, this will be just fine…just watch the baking times. 

  19. Kayla

    I made this over the weekend… it’s a seriously awesome cake!! I made it into a 4″ cake and cupcakes it was just fine xx

    1. Ani

      Hi…i tried the cake recipe few days back…made the cake without the poppy seed and spread with your lemon curd recipe…for cream cheese frosting, the ratio of cream cheese n powdered sugar 1 : 2.5…it is supposed to be very sweet? since i have leftover frosting, can i add more cream cheese to adjust the sweetness?

      1. Lindsay

        I think sweetness is very subjective. What one person thinks it’s too sweet another person thinks it’s just right. You can certainly adjust to your liking. Just keep in mind with cream cheese frosting that if you reduce the powdered sugar too much, it will be very thin. That may be OK depending on what you are frosting with it.

      2. Frey

        So I’m in the middle of baking the cake now and it’s the first thing I’ve baked since high school which is a good 6/7 years ago and there’s sooooo much of it. I’ve got Siri to help me out with measurements but I’m just hoping it all comes out well 🙂 house smells amazing though 🙂 

  20. Pam

    Cake was great!!  Lemon juice should be fresh, might help the flat cake issue?  Chia seeds could not replace as they expand with moisture so who knows what your cake would be like. Wouldn’t chance it as not the same texture or taste either. Hope that helps. This is an awesome cake!!  Thank you for sharing!!

  21. Gail

    Every time I use lemon juice in my bread or cake it goes flat. I really want to make this beautiful cake, but I would hate for it to go flat. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Lindsay

      It’s hard to say what might have gone wrong with other recipes. Lemon is definitely tricky because of the acid in it, but I tested this one about 7 times and it rose well so hopefully you won’t have a problem.

      1. Lindsay

        One of the most common things that happens to people is that they mix up their baking soda and baking powder. I would check that you used the correct amount of each one.

  22. Jen Fernandez

    So, okay, crazy thing is you cannot buy poppyseeds in Brazil. The opium thing and all. I think they saw that Seinfeld poppyseed episode one too many times. Anyway, can I replace with maybe chia seeds? Or would you hat be disgusting?

    1. Lindsay

      Hmmm, I’ve not ever actually had chia seeds, so I’m not really sure. You can definitely leave them out though and the cake would bake just fine.

      1. Alisa

        Hi for the 2 tablespoons of lemon zest how many medium size lemons is that ?

  23. Lin

    Following up on Sara’s question about making this and your other cakes in a 9×13 pan, I realize that you have done all of your testing with layer cakes and they certainly do provide for a nicer decorating style. But would you consider adding more recipes specifically for that size pan? Not all of us have the time (or skill) to lavishly decorate, not to mention transporting and the ease of serving. Your recipes are divine and deserve to be shared with others at less formal events!

    1. Lindsay

      Thanks for the suggestion Lin! I’ve definitely wanted to do more 9×13 cakes. It’s just been quite a challenge to find a good vanilla cake that doesn’t end up fairly dense. I’m definitely on board with more of that style cake, I just want the recipes to be just as good. Hopefully I’ll find just the right cake soon!

      1. Shani

        I have made this cake 3 times now, it’s a family favorite! I want to make it for a coworker who has Celiac’s disease. Have you ever made it gluten-free? I’m going to try it either way, I was just curious if you have done it.

    1. Maebh

      Hi! This cake looks lovely, but surely there’s a typo in the sugar for the frosting? You can’t really mean 10 cups of sugar, can you?

  24. Sara

    Lindsay,
    As with most recipes you post, i can’t wait to make this. It’s at the top of my list though, and I plan to make it this weekend. With this, and all of your three-layer cake recipes actually, can it be made as is in a 9×13? Or, do the ingredient ratios have to be adjusted at all? I understand the bake time will be different…
    Thank you,
    Sara

    1. Lindsay

      Thanks Sara! For a 9×13 cake, they will bake fine but they usually end up a good bit more dense than the layered versions. There are a few exceptions, but that’s the case for most. I haven’t tried it with this one, but I imagine it would end up quite dense too.

      1. Lindsay

        Yes, I just haven’t made that size to be able to say how to adjust it. I’m guessing you’d want to double the recipe.

  25. Ava M Vivion

    This sounds like the perfect cake to make myself for my birthday this month!! Lemon and poppy seeds go together like bread and butter 💜 Thank you for your fabulous recipes and precise instructions!

    1. Alexia

      Made this cake for my husband’s 40th birthday yesterday and it was a hit with everyone. Will definitely be making it again, and will recommend it to anyone who loves a lemon poppyseed cake.

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12