Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Jun 07

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – Tender and light lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.

Hi! I’m back home for a couple days before I have to head out for another work trip (this month has been crazy, you guys! Can’t wait for things to settle down a little in March). The night I got back, I was able to join some of our family and closest friends to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my baby sister. Kenzie is ten years younger than me, so the fact that she’s getting married is a little surreal and is making me feel far older than I feel comfortable with. We’re so excited for Kenzie and Stephen, and I’m particularly eager about their wedding cakes… because I’ll be making them! Stayed tuned for all of that!

The Perfect Shower Cake

For Kenzie’s wedding shower cake, I went with the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Technicolor Kitchen). This is my go-to wedding shower or baby shower cake. It’s light and fluffy and tastes so fresh. The ladies love it and there’s never a single crumb leftover.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I also love that the possible flavor combinations in this cake are so versatile. Instead of raspberries, you could use blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. You could also use a compote filling or even preserves.

I think once you try this cake, it will be on your list of go-to’s as well!



Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Cake
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Author Courtney Rich



  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 g) sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 cup (230 g) lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tbsp (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) salt
  • 3 tbsp (27 g) poppy seeds 27 g, soaked in water for about an hour before hand*


  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 6 ounces cream cheese slightly cold
  • 1 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 1 tsp (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (4.2 g) lemon extract
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.
  • Filling and garnish: fresh raspberries, split in half about one small carton,



  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, lemon zest, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar for two minutes on medium-high speed.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg whites on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between addition.
  5. Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated, about one minute.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 cup of the lemon juice. Repeat the additions, 1/3 cup flour mixture, 1/2 cup juice and the final 1/3 cup flour mixture. Only mix until the flour mixture is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for another 20 to 30 seconds on low.
  7. Pour about 18 ounces of cake batter into each of the three 8-inch cake pans or 12 ounces in each of the 6-inch pans and bake for 28-30 minutes - until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Tip: spray your wire cooling racks with nonstick spray).


  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add in the sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Continue to beat until very fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla and lemon extract extract and beat well.
  5. Before using on your cake, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.


  1. Place one cake layer, bottom side down, on a cake plate or cardboard cake board. Spread about 1 cup of frosting across the top of the cake layer. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure the frosting is even. Cover with fresh raspberries.
  2. Place the next cake layer on top of the raspberries. Gently spread about 1 cup of the lemon cream cheese frosting over it.
  3. Repeat steps one and two for the second cake layer. 
  4. Place the final cake layer, top side down, on top. Give the cake a quick crumb coat and chill for 10 to 15 minutes in the freezer before frosting the entire cake.

Recipe Notes

*Poppy seeds absorb moisture. Make sure to soak the seeds to help keep the cake from becoming dry.

63 thoughts on “Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

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  1. Hi there. This is gorgeous. May I ask what colours you used to get that effect with the icing?
    Thanks so much, Louise

    1. Never mind, I just tried it and they turned out beautiful! I filled the cups up half way and baked them for 15-17 minutes.

  2. Hello! I really want to make this cake for a baby shower for one of my best friends this weekend but I am wondering if this will be enough cake. There will be about 20-25 people, do you think this is enough cake for everyone? Thanks!

  3. Hi Courtney! I know this is an old recipe but I’m looking up ideas for Easter dessert. Do you think it would be ok to skip the poppy seeds? We have kids who won’t touch seeds. Would it affect the texture to leave them out, and if so, what should I replace them with? Thanks!!

  4. I was just wondering if I can freeze the cakes ahead of time. I wasn’t sure with this cake since you poke holes and let the syrup sink in. Have you froze this cake before? I am wanting to decorate it and everything a couple days before a party I am having . Thanks advance for your advice

  5. Beautiful cake! I’m making a lemon wedding cake and I’m wondering if your recipe will double well? The bottom tier will be 12″.

  6. If I wanted to do 3- 6″ layers do you think cutting the recipe in half would work? Or would that not give me enough batter? Can’t wait to make this, thanks!

  7. so i should use bleached cake flour, right? and also, culd i sub the fresh raspberries inside of the cake for jam or homemade preserves? thanks!

  8. So, I have noticed there are amazing food photographers and there are amazing recipes and not always do they go together. As a photographer, I LOVE your photos! As a person who loves to make amazing food for the people I love, I was pretty impressed with this recipe. I think I made a few mistakes my first time making this. I should have used all the lemon simple syrup, I should have added more raspberries (cuz yum!) and I baked at 350 degrees for 21 minutes and still think I over cooked them. It did come out a bit dry and slightly crumbly. Is it the baking or possibly over mixing? Also would love to try these as cupcakes! Can’t wait to try this again and I have started a list of your other recipes to try!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I wonder maybe if you oven runs a little warm too. If you make it again or another recipe, try reducing the time by a few minutes. When you insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, you want a few moist crumbs to come out on it. It’s usually over baking the cake layers that causes the to be dry.

  9. Quick question. I am making this and soaked my poppy seeds. But after soaking I only have 1 tablespoon. Not sure if I should soak more or if that’s normal?

  10. I have a question abt sugar, the recipe mentions 2 cups of sugar divided: 1 3/4 to be added to the cake, and 1/4 to be added to egg whites and then it says remaining sugar to be added to lemon syrup but 1 3/4 + 1/4 =2 cups there is no sugar left. So how much sugar should be added to the lemon syrup?
    Thanks, Antonina.

  11. Hi! I am hoping to make try this out in the next few days–looks delicious! So I am not sure if I am missing something, but I don’t see instructions for making a lemon syrup and adding it to the cake. How much lemon juice to sugar do you use for this recipe? And do I add the syrup when the cake is cooling on the racks? Thanks!

  12. Hi Courtney! I tried this cake, and it was really yummy and beautiful. You mentioned this cake being really light and fluffy, but mine came out more dense like a pound cake consistently and someone else who made it said the same thing. Can I add anything to help with the moisture? I also saw you mentioned a simple syrup? I looked over the recipe and I didn’t see ingredients/instructions on what to do. Thank you, and I’ll try and make this again!

    1. Mine came out really dense and moist too. Still tasted okay, but I was sad it wasn’t light and fluffy. I’ve gone through the recipe and instructions like 50 times, and I can’t find where I went wrong. They definitely weren’t over cooked… any idea on what went wrong? Also, while I was mixing in the sour cream to the butter/sugar/egg whites, it looked separated for a long time. The batter didn’t look right until after I added all the flour and beat on med/high for a minute. Could my sour cream have been too warm/room temperature-y? I’m such a perfectionist, this is eating at me 😂🤦🏽‍♀️

  13. Hi! Do you have any thoughts on refrigeration of this cake? I’ve found that with most of your cakes, they get better with time sitting out at room temp, but with cream cheese frosting, I wondered if it was safe to do so? Should I only flash freeze the cakes for frosting them?

    1. I always freeze my leftovers so they stay fresh! I wrap them individually in saran and keep them in the freezer. Take them out a bit before you want to eat them!

  14. Where is the lemon syrup element? I made my own, but would like to see your recipe, and how you apply it! I also used white poppyseeds from the Indian grocery, which give an invisible crunch. I lightly toast them in a small, dry cast iron skillet, then soak. Turned out totally delicious, and you’re right, narya crumb left over!

  15. This recipe really confused me and I bake a lot!
    1. What is the amount of raspberries for the filling and how are they prepared? Yours looks like you smashed them first. If you used whole raspberries they would make a large space between the layers!
    2. No mention in the recipe or assembly directions of using a lemon syrup.
    3. Some comments said they added 1/4 sugar to the egg whites….do you beat the egg whites first and fold them in? Recipe states just adding them?
    I wanted to love this cake but mine was dry, crumbly, and the one cup of lemon juice in the recipe I felt overwhelmed it.

    1. You cut the raspberries in half. You use however many you need to cover your cake layer. I took the simple syrup out. You don’t beat the egg whites. You just add them in.

  16. court, your recipe is missing! any ideas on a timeline for when it can be restored?

    – a slightly panicked huge fan

  17. I am new to your recipes. I just made the pumpkin Bundt cake and loved it!! I tried this cake tonight and I was wondering if it is supposed to have quite a bit of a sour taste from the sour cream. My husband noticed it too so I know it wasn’t just me. 🤗 I use a kitchen scale so I know the measurements were correct.

  18. I’m sorry… but this recipe completely confused me after reading the comments. I have made many many cakes (a few of them yours), and they have always come out great. I actually made this recipe and the cake, like others have stated here, came out dense and very lemony. So, I started all over again and decided to check out the comments. There were several that mention a lemon syrup, but no where in the recipe do I see a lemon syrup (lemon and sugar together). Am I missing something?

  19. 5 stars
    Loved the recipe! I am gluten free and dairy free, had to make changes to the recipe but still turned out great! It was a little wetter and less fluffier than I expected, I am sure it’s from replacing some of the ingredients. Cake tastes really good, the only advice I’d give to change is to do less powdered sugar for the frosting especially if you’re dairy free and are using a cream cheese replacement and Irish butter. I’m not a big sugary person, the frosting was very rich on the cake but very good with just fruit.

  20. These photos look so delicious but sadly my cake came out really dense and chewy!! 🙁 It was partly underbaked, but I feel like if I’d baked it more it would have just been a brick – the toothpick was coming out clean when I took it out! Any troubleshooting ideas? I don’t think I replaced anything in the recipe at all!

  21. The cake was moist and fluffy and the frosting was scrumptious, but the 1 C of lemon juice was waaaay too lemony. I’d make this again but cut the lemon juice way back.