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A light and fluffy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake paired with a classic cream cheese frosting. Lemony-sweet and perfect for any special occasion! Very similar to my lovely Lemon Poppy Seed Bread recipe and Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins too!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Basics
As you can imagine, this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake was a pretty dreamy treat. The combination of sweet lemon with the slightly crunchy, nutty poppy seeds is probably one of my favorite flavors ever. This recipe is loosely based on this really moist pound cake that I’m head over heels in love with. Even though it’s a pound cake it’s still light and fluffy (as you can see from the pictures).
You get all of the lemony flavor from both lemon juice and zest plus amazing moisture from a buttermilk substitute and a “healthy” helping of melted butter. The whole thing is topped off with a simple cream cheese frosting. So good!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Troubleshooting
Cakes like this one are known for issues like being too dense or too dry. Well, friends, I’m here to help you before that happens!
- Measure Your Flour Correctly: The first culprit is too much flour in the batter. To fix this, you’re going to fluff your flour. As flour sits in the bag, or whatever container it’s in, it settles. Fluffing reintroduces air into the mix. Next take a spoon and spoon the flour into your measuring cup then level. Voila, properly measured flour!
- Oven Temperature: The second issue could be your oven! Every oven is different, but one way to absolutely make sure it’s preheated to the correct temperature is to use an internal oven thermometer like this one.
- Baking Pan: I always, always recommend using lighter baking pans versus darker colored ones. This is simply because darker pans create a crunchy dark crust on the outside of the cake.
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
For full recipe details, including ingredients and measurements, see the printable recipe card down below. Here is step by step what you can expect when making this cake:
Preheat and Prep
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Batter
In a large bowl, stir granulated sugar and lemon zest together to create a mixture that resembles damp sand. Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract until smooth.
In a liquid measuring cup, stir milk, vinegar, and fresh lemon juice together. Set aside.
Pro Tip: If you want to use real buttermilk instead of making your own, substitute 1/2 cup buttermilk in place of milk and white vinegar mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together to combine.
Alternate stirring in wet and dry ingredients until everything is added into the cake batter. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and melted butter.
Bake and Cool
Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-55 minutes or until baked thoroughly and a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted. While the cake is baking, make the cream cheese frosting.
Cool 15 minutes in the cake pan before removing to a rack to cool completely.
Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the frosting, whip all frosting ingredients together until light and fluffy. Spread over cooled cake and serve.
Storing Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Wrap cake (without frosting) in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. If the cake is frosted with cream cheese frosting you’ll have to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
If you wish to freeze the cake (without frosting), it will store well for up to 3 months. I would wrap it in plastic freezer wrap or in a heavy-duty zip top bag. Let it thaw overnight before frosting and serving.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake FAQ
If you don’t like poppy seeds you can simply omit them and still have a very yummy cake.
I baked this cake in a regular round 9-inch cake pan but you could easily fit it in a loaf pan or a cupcake tin.
If you’d like to use a 9×13, a standard-sized bundt pan, or make this into a two-tiered cake simply double the recipe! You may have to bake it a little longer so be sure to watch it and test with a toothpick for doneness.
Be sure to grease your pans well, especially if you’re using a detailed bundt pan.
More Lemon Desserts to Try!
- Classic Lemon Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake
- Lemon Raspberry Cake
- Lemon Pound Cake
- Lemon Crumb Cake
- Lemon Icebox Cake
- Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Mousse Frosting
If you’re a lemon lover, I hope you love this cake as much as I do! The printable recipe card is below. Have a great day, friends! 🙂
If you make this recipe, I would really appreciate it if you would give it a star rating and leave your review in the comments! If you have a picture of your finished dish, post it on Instagram using the hashtag #laurenslatest and tagging me @laurens_latest.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
for the lemon poppy seed cake-
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest about two whole lemons zested
- 3 whole eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar* or lemon juice
- 1/2 cup milk*
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup salted butter melted
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir sugar and lemon zest together to create a damp mixture that resembles damp sand. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until smooth.
- In a liquid measuring cup, stir milk, vinegar, and lemon juice together. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together to combine.
- Alternate stirring in wet and dry ingredients until everything is added into the cake batter. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and melted butter.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-55 minutes or until baked thoroughly and a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted. Cool 15 minutes in the cake pan before removing to a rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, whip all ingredients together until light and fluffy. Spread over cooled cake and serve.