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. Felicity

      Hi, does this sponge freeze well pre icing considering it’s a nice moist one? Doubling up for my daughters birthday and ideally will make one batch a week in advance as short on time!

  1. Amanda

    I just finished baking this cake and making the frosting and can’t wait to try it. Silly question though….the cakes cool in the pan correct? And if its too late to let them cool tonight…can i put my frosting in the fridge and do it tomorrow after it warms up a little? Thank you for this awesome recipe!

    1. Lindsay

      No, typically the cakes would be turned out onto cooling racks to cool. If you cooled them in the pan, they should still be fine though. And yes, you can refrigerate the frosting overnight, let it come to room temperature the next day and then frost the cake. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Chava

    I just made this recipe and loved it! I doubled the recipe to make two bundt cakes. They were light, fluffy, moist, almost like a sponge cake without all the work. It was easy to make and yummy! I did it dairy free using margarine instead of butter and it was great. Would definitely definitely make again!

  3. Allison

    Hi – can’t wait to try this… would this recipe work in an angel food cake pan? I’m doing it for a birthday and want to decorate with tulips in the middle!

    1. Lindsay

      I honestly have not tried it, so I’m not sure. I would expect it to be more dense in that type of pain though.

  4. Mel

    Hi, I want to make your Lemin Poppyseed Cake, can you please tell me how to find your tutorial on how you make the rosettes on the top with the icing? They are soo pretty! Otherwise, how else could I finish it off on top, maybe just iced flat and sprinkle some poppyseeds and lemon rind?

  5. Barbara Sweet

    Hi, the frosting was DIVINE, but have to share the comments of other reviewers regarding the lack of rise in the cake (and per your response, I was quite meticulous measuring the ingredients, particularly the leavening. What brand of baking powder do you use, and what type of lemons? My thinking is that the recipe is probably very sensitive to the ratio of acid to base. I’m definitely up for another try but would like some idea of how to tweak it.

    1. Lindsay

      I use Argo baking powder and just regular lemons. No doubt that the acidity in lemon recipes can be sensitive, so it’s possible that’s having an affect.

      1. Lindsay

        It’s hard to say from a distance. Are you sure you measured the baking soda/powder correctly? Those can be easily swapped around by mistake.

  6. Angelica

    Amazing!! Such a great delicious recipe! I’m a cake maker and always on the hunt for a good cake recipe and this is so good. Moist and flavoursome. I baked mine in 3 6 inch tins.

    1. Lindsay

      Yes. It adds volume and consistency. Cream cheese frosting especially doesn’t hold shape well without enough powdered sugar. That said, plenty of people reduce it and it works for them. If that’s your preference, feel free to reduce it.

  7. Veronique

    Just made this cake but didn’t make the frosting, maybe i’ll make a lemon icing. i bake it a Bundt cake pan, so i let it bake longer than mentioned in the recipe. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks amazing… i wish i could upload a picture 🙁

  8. Reena Mandora

    Yep I deffo creamed for around 5 mins 🙂

    My skewer came out clean when I checked the cakes. So odd right? 🙁

    1. Lindsay

      So one thing we’ve been realizing lately is that some issue might be coming from over-creaming. Five minutes may actually be a little too long. Try to aim for closer to 3 and look for fluffiness in the creamed mixture. If it starts to get slightly curdled looking, you may have over-creamed it.

  9. Reena Mandora

    Hi Lindsey!

    I followed the recipe to a “T”. When I took the cakes out the oven, they were beuitifully risen etc. When i left them to cool, I came back to them 5 minutes later and they had shrivelled into themsevles and sunk 🙁 I can’t for the life of me figure why 🙁

    1. Melissa @ Life, Love and Sugar

      I’m sorry that happened. Could they have been a little under baked? Are you sure you fully creamed the butter and sugar together?

  10. Ambrealys

    This looks so yummy! I am wondering if you have advice for a fondant covered version… or rather, will this cream work well with fondant ?

    1. Lindsay

      I don’t have a lot of experience covering cakes with fondant, but I don’t think cream cheese frosting would work very well because it’s so soft.

  11. Donna

    I’m interested in trying this recipe but have a question. Can this be baked in a bundt pan instead of layered and if yes how would that affect the baking time and temperature?

  12. Sian Yefet

    I made this cake yesterday for my mum’s birthday today. It was absolutely delicious and everyone that tried it raved about it. I only used half the quantity of buttercream, I’ve frozen the rest and I’ll make the cake again and use it up next time.

  13. Claire Scullin

    Just tried it again, exactly the same, double weighed ingredients. Much less mixing, and they didn’t rise at all. Thrown four sponges in the bin today 😪

  14. Claire Scullin

    While it tasted lovely it didn’t rise at all…was cooked round the edges but almost raw in the middle and thin as a biscuit. Followed the ingredients and recipe to the letter 🙁

    1. Lindsay

      Something was clearly off if it didn’t rise properly. Are you sure your baking soda and baking powder are good and that you used the right amount of each? I ask because my sister in law was baking with me last week and thought she followed everything perfectly, but accidentally used baking powder instead of soda and the cakes didn’t rise properly and looked totally different than normal. It can happen easily. The other possibility is not fully creaming the butter, oil and sugar together or over mixing the batter at the end.

      1. Claire Scullin

        Yep I make cakes regularly (including a perfect coffee cake last weekend) so ingredients are all good, I used exact amount of baking powder and bicarbonate specified. Fully creamed the butter, oil and sugar, that all looked fine. It did look very wet and sloppy before putting in the tins so I may try adding more flower and less mixing. Very disappointed though 🙁

    1. Lindsay

      I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say for sure. But if it’s a 1 to 1 cup version of gluten free flour, I’d think it’d be ok.

  15. Zanele

    I would like to know if the measurement for the all purpose flour is 2 cups plus half a cup. I actually don’t want to make a mistake.

    Looking forward to your response

  16. Su

    Hiya, 

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m planning to try it out today for my mom’s birthday tomorrow. I’m just wondering whether you used caster or granulated sugar? Also, would the recipe still turn out okay if I halved it, as I’m only planing on making little finger cakes. 

    Your response would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  17. Marcia

    Hi dear, thanks for your lovely recipes. Its the second time im trying this and it rises so well in the oven but deflates as soon as i take it out the oven. Could it be because im creaming the sugar and  butter way too much at the beginning of the recipe? I mix for about 7-10 minutes. Or its something else different 

  18. Megan

    Very yummy. And the zest plus lemon juice makes it refreshing in a sense. Things I would do different next time are dye some frosting yellow to decorate with, and make half the amount of frosting called for because unless you’re putting roses over the whole thing you’ll have an entire Tupperware leftover like me 🙂

    1. Poonam Prajapati

      Hi Lindsay. Three questions. 1. Can you used a lemon curd as the filling? 2. Can you do a SMBC (vanilla or lemon flavoured? 3. Baking these with cake strips, will it still rise and how do you adjust the baking time?

      1. Lindsay

        Lemon curd would be fine for a filling. SMBC should be fine as well. I haven’t used cake strips on it, but I can’t imagine it’d be an issue.

  19. Lily Hancock

    This cake was delicious! The sponge was so fluffy and moist and the cream cheese frosting really gave the cake such a nice tang. Everyone loved it. Will definitely make again! 

  20. Nora

    I’ve mase this cake half a dosen times by now, it’s that good! So I figured I finally needed to leave a review. Everyone I’ve served this to has been all over it, and it has become a staple for me. I looove lemon cake, and this is a really nice fancier version of it.
    The only changes I’ve adapted are that I use only baking soda, not baking powder (I ran out of BP once and liked the cake even better with double the BS instead), and WAY less sugar in the frosting – probably half of the recipe amount at max. I’m not from the US so I’ve learned that most US recipes can easily do with a lot less sugar for us. 
    I also always make a bitter lemon peel topping for this. Once the lemons are zested and squeezed, I cut the “shell” into as thin as possible strips, and carefully boil them with sugar and any leftover juice. This turns into a sweet and slightly bitter topping that (IMO) really compliments the cake. 

  21. Ryan

    Hi Lindsay!

    This cake looks amazing but I think a three layer cake is too much for us. Is it possible to divide the whole recipe by 1/3 so I can just bake a two layer cake? I know baking needs to be precise so I wanted to check. I’m looking forward to baking this Cake for my wife’s birthday this weekend! 

    1. Lindsay

      It’s so hard to say because some ingredients just won’t divide evenly by 3. Without trying it, I’m not sure if it’ll work well to have to adjust some ingredients or not. You might be best to make all three layers and freeze one for later.

  22. Adelina Skera

    Hi Lindsay,
    I did this recipe last night and it was the first time for me making a homemade cake (now i appreciate a lot more the cakes i see on the stores)!
    I think i did a lot of mistakes but at the end it taste delicious.
    A question for you: did you put the icing in the fridge before decorating the cake?
    My cake looked like it was about to melt, and i had cold sponges. I waited for them to get cold.

    I promise i will try this again because I love lemon and poppy seeds. 🙂

    All the best,
    Adelina

  23. Roseanne

    hey i tried making this cake and after combining the mixture it came out watery is that how it’s supposed to be? x

  24. Rose

    Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for the recipe Im about to try this. Could I use the same frosting to pipe sunflower petals and leaves on the cake?

    Thank you!  

    1. Lindsay

      You could give it a try. Cream cheese frosting does tend to be on the softer side. While you can do some piping with it, it doesn’t always hold too elaborate of a shape well. If you’re really want it to hold up, a buttercream would really be better.

  25. Sander

    Excellent recipe! For my taste buds and those of my family, I made half the amount of frosting that the recipe called for, and for that I used 1/3 the amount of powdered sugar (3 cups instead of 10). It was still too sweet so next time I will try just one cup of powdered sugar. I also doubled the lemon zest for both the cake and the frosting, and doubled the amount of poppy seeds, all with excellent results. The lemon flavor was perfectly featured without being over the top. I will definitely make this recipe again, with the modifications I mentioned.

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