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Light and Fluffy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – Updated
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – Tender and light lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake has been a favorite for years, but as I worked on my cookbook, I tweaked a few things to make it even better! You’ll see a similar recipe of this cake in my book with the Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake.
Why did I make changes?
You’ll see in the pictures that this cake is meant to be light and fluffy in texture. However, as I talked to many of you, I learned that you struggled to get the same texture I was getting. So, to make it a bit easier, I changed up the creaming method and a few ingredients.
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
To make this cake light in color but incredibly moist, you’ll be using egg whites, lemon juice and some sour cream. Using all egg whites ensures we get a lovely white color, but we need to make sure we have enough fat in the cake to create and retain moisture. That’s where the sour cream comes in. One of the updates I made was reducing the sour cream, as to make sure the texture doesn’t get too dense for you.
Ingredients You Need for Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- Cake flour
- Baking powder
- Poppy seeds
- Lemon zest
- Lemon juice
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Egg whites
- Vanilla extract
- Sour cream
One of the most important elements to the cake making process, to ensure you get light and fluffy cake layers, is to make sure you beat the butter, sugar and eggs long enough. We want the batter at this point to look light and fluffy and to be SUPER smooth.
To obtain a smooth texture, it’s a MUST to use ROOM TEMPERATURE ingredients. Otherwise, these ingredients won’t mix evenly, nor will they be properly absorbed by the dry ingredients – which means: your cake won’t rise well.
What Flavors Can I Pair with Lemon Poppy Seed?
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.
For this cake, I simply cut raspberries in half and placed them into the buttercream.
Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream
For this delicious Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream, make sure to have the following ingredients on hand:
- Unsalted butter
- Powdered sugar
- Cream cheese
- Lemon extract
- Vanilla extract
With the cream cheese, this buttercream is slightly softer, so I don’t recommend piping with it.
More Lemon Cakes You’ll Love
- Lemon Bar Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Lemon Oreo Cake
- Strawberry Lemonade Cake
- Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.
Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
FOR THE CAKE
- 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
- 2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp (6 g) salt
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tbsp (27 g) poppy seeds, 27 g, soaked in water for about an hour before hand*
- 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 (230 g) lemon juice
- ½ cup (120 g) sour cream, at room temperature
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- 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 ½ batch.
- Filling and garnish: fresh raspberries, split in half about one small carton,
FOR THE CAKE
- 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.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
- 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. You should notice the color get lighter and the texture should be smooth.
- 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. Continue to beat the mixture on medium-high speed for an addition 2 to 3 minutes. At this point, you're again looking for the batter to be lighter in color and larger in volume.
- With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by ½ cup of the lemon juice. Repeat the additions, ⅓ flour mixture, ½ cup juice and the final ⅓ 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.
- Gently fold in the sour cream.
- Evenly divide the batter between each pan (about 16 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 25-30 minutes or 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).
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue to beat until very fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and lemon extract extract and beat well.
- Before using on your cake, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.
- 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.
- Place the next cake layer on top of the raspberries. Gently spread about 1 cup of the lemon cream cheese frosting over it.
- Repeat steps one and two for the second cake layer.
- 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.
*Poppy seeds absorb moisture. Make sure to soak the seeds to help keep the cake from becoming dry.
Next time beat the sugar and butter even longer and replace the sour cream with whole milk and see if that comes out better!
Will do! Great idea, thanks.
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.
The only sour you should get should be from the lemon! Weird!
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?
That was part of my old version which is why they commented on it. It’s not apart of this new one.
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.
Hi Aleena, Do you mind sharing what flour you used for the gluten free version of this cake – my husband is gluten free and I would love to make this cake for him. Thank you!
My favorite is cup4cup.
You need to bake it until it’s fully cooked. It won’t be a brick but it is a denser cake!
What cake scraper did you use on this?
Small scalloped from my essential set.
Hi Courtney –
This recipe sounds amazing! Do you think using a egg whites from a carton work VS breaking each egg and separating the yolk?
Yes you can absolutely use egg whites from a carton for this.
Just pulled these out of the oven and they didn’t rise even the slightest. 🙁 I used liquid egg whites and i’m wondering if thats why (my baking powder is brand new). I followed the conversion chart on the carton for each egg white but it seemed like a LOT. Well over a cup…maybe even 2 cups and super watery. For 6 egg whites it was supposed to be 276 grams. I’m curious what 6 actual egg whites would be. When I combined them with the butter it was just sloshing around and definitely didn’t increase in volume. So beware with the liquid egg whites!
*the cake still tastes AMAZING, FYI. 🙂
Totally could have been the liquid egg whites. Sorry to hear that. As you’ll see in my pictures, this cake will rise to about 1.25″ per layer. If you want really thick layers, you can always 1.5x or 2x a recipe.
How much water do you soak the poppy seeds in and do you drain or toast after?
Just to cover them and yes drain.
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.
I want to start off by prefacing that I am a huge fan and have baked tons of Courtney’s cakes (all been outstanding!), but I feel like I need to share my experience baking this lemon poppy seed cake so that others don’t waste their time baking this. I would say I am an advanced baker, so I wasn’t expecting any challenges in baking this cake. I always follow all directions and ingredients to the tea. I have an oven thermometer as well. This cake is awful. It is extremely dense, rubbery, and way too sour. I think this recipe needs to be taken off the site and revamped. I did not listen to the rest of the comments, because every cake I bake by Courtney is perfection, but this time I should have. I have never written a comment on any recipe before but I felt like this was necessary!
It’s been revamped.
Can you use frozen raspberries? Or raspberry compote for the filling?
The frozen raspberries might be too juicy when they thaw. But a compote would be wonderful!
I just finished your cake and the layers didn’t seem to rise at all while baking. All my ingredients were fresh and room temperature. Is that normal for this cake? Thanks so much!
These cake layers rise to about 1.25″ tall. For taller layers, you can always double the recipe – but let’s also make sure you covered a few more things 🙂 When you mixed the butter, sugar and eggs, did the batter come together smoothly and nearly double in size by the time you were done mixing for 3 to 5 minutes? You also mixed slowly once you added the dry ingredients?
I followed the recipe exactly and used a rectangular springform pan. What came out of the oven was. 1” high piece of rubber. My baking powder was not old. No idea what could have gone wrong but wondered if soda should have been added because of the sour cream and a whole cup of lemon juice seems like a lot in retrospect.
Looks beautiful and delicious!
May I please ask would it work with oil instead of butter.
I have just purchased your book and will be using your great recipes soon.
Hi Courtney, I’m in the UK and haven’t seen cake flour in the supermarket, is there anything I can sub this with?
Yes, you can make your own cake flour. I have a blog post on how to make it. Just search cake flour on my blog.
Brilliant thank you so much.
This turned out perfectly, light, fluffy and the right balance of tangy and sweet.
Could you use the lemon curd between the layers or is this icing not firm enough to hold it in?
I’ve made probably a dozen cakes from this website and really enjoy Courtney’s flavor combinations, they’re brilliant! This one is still my favorite, but I prefer the original recipe before it was reworked—I think it used the reverse creaming method and the layers turned out lighter and taller for me. Is there a place I can access the original recipe??
No but you can use same ingredients in reverse creaming method. you can find it on google.
I have the honor to make my cousins wedding cake next month and lemon poppyseed is her flavor of choice!
I’m making a trial cake in a few days. Will this frosting hold up a few hours at an outdoor wedding? If I add lemon curd to the filling, will it still stand strong when stacked? I’m planning for a 3-tier cake I do have tier supports to use.
Thanks for any tips!
It will hold up for a couple hours but try to keep it inside as long as possible. Use support when stacking.
What is the best way to store this cake? Or the rule of thumb for cakes in general? I was hoping to make it Saturday afternoon or evening for Mothers Day on Sunday. I don’t think I should leave it just sitting on the counter but will the fridge dry it out? Box it up in the fridge? Thanks for all your great recipes. Yours are always my go-to recipes.
correct, don’t just leave it on the counter and don’t put it in the fridge either. I find that dries out cakes so quickly. Instead, freeze the cake in an airtight container until sunday morning and then let it sit at room temperature to thaw.
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