Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Poppy seeds have a natural nuttiness that compliment a citrus flavour such as lemon or orange. Using lemon in this cake and a high amount of milk and oil makes for a cake with a very tender and moist crumb structure that lends itself to contrast with the poppy seeds inside. The long bake time puts people off, myself included. The recipe is very versatile: it can be put into multiple tins to reduce the baking time or put into paper cases and baked as muffins (these bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, although check at 18 and 20 – if not done at 20, extend to 22).

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

325g P flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

400g sugar

25g poppy seeds

225ml vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

325ml milk

Zest of 1 lemon

200g icing sugar

3 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 23cm bundt tin with vegetable oil and dust with flour. Tilt the tin so the whole tin is covered with flour. If you don’t have a bundt tin, a 25cm (10 inch) springform tin will work; just line the base of the tin with parchment.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the sugar, zest and seeds and whisk together until combined. This just ensures that the ingredients are evenly dispersed in the cake mix after. Make a well in the middle.
  3. In a separate larger bowl, whisk all the liquid ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix together gently until just mixed. If there are visible lumps in the batter, use a whisk to get rid of them.
  4. Pour the mix into the tin. With the bundt tin, there is no need to level out the mixture; it naturally spreads. Test the cake’s or cakes’ doneness by inserting a skewer into the cake and it should come out clean. Allow to sit for two minutes and loosen the edges with a palette knife. Tip out and cool on a wire rack [see baking times below]
  5. Make a simple lemon glace icing. Tip the icing sugar into a bowl and beat with the lemon juice until smooth. Move the cake to the serving plate and using a spoon or a piping bag, drizzle over the icing over the sponge and sprinkle with either poppy seeds or strands of lemon zest.
    • If using one bundt tin, bake for 50 – 60 minutes.
    • If using one 25cm tin, bake for 60 – 70 minutes.
    • If using two 25cm tins, bake for 30 – 35 minutes (this is my preferred option but needs lemon whipped cream in the centre so it isn’t dry – drizzle the glace icing over the top of the cake)

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