Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (VIDEO)

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is soft, moist, simple to make and loaded with fresh lemon flavor. The lemon buttercream had me licking the spatula, the bowl, the piping bag…

Our love of poppy seed desserts is obvious, from our Poppy Seed Cake to Mom’s Poppy Seed Roll. And the fresh flavor of lemon really amps up desserts, like these lemon-glazed blueberry muffins. The combination of poppy seeds and lemon is pure bliss.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Slice cut out

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe:

Lemon cakes are challenging because they tend to be dry. We made cake after cake until we landed on this combination which produced a moist cake with a soft crumb studded with poppy seeds and subtle and lovely lemon flavor. The softened butter and buttermilk were the key to adding moisture and great flavor to the cake.

Decorated top of Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

Can I Substitute the Fresh Lemon Juice?

Fresh lemon juice is critical in this lemon cake and all you need is a total of 2 large lemons for the cake and frosting. Using both the zest and the juice will give you the best lemon flavor. Lemon juice from concentrate just won’t be the same. We haven’t tried lime but it’s worth experimenting for a lime flavored cake.

Ingredients for lemon cake with flour, eggs, buttermilk, butter, sugar, poppy seeds and fresh lemon

Can I Make this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Ahead?

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake refrigerates well and we actually prefer it chilled for an hour or so for easier slicing. The little bit of cream cheese in the frosting keeps it from firming up too much in the fridge so you can serve it chilled or at room temperature.

How to Store A Cake:

  • Plain cake layers – cool completely to room temperature then wrap fully in several layers of plastic wrap and keep at room temperature up to 2 days, refrigerate up to 5 days, or freeze up to 3 months.
  • Frosted cakes – cover with a cake keeper (here’s ours) or use a large overturned bowl or even pot (just be sure it has enough clearance for the width and height of the cake. Refrigerate cakes covered to keep them from drying out or absorbing refrigerator odors.
  • Sliced Cake – once a cake has been cut, it starts to lose moisture. To keep it fresh, lay a piece of plastic wrap against the cut side then cover as you would whole frosted cakes (see above).

Slice of lemon cake on a plate

How to Make Lemon Buttercream:

The secret to the best lemon buttercream frosting is adding just a little bit of softened cream cheese. It balances the flavor, enhances the lemon and makes the texture luxuriously whipped, velvety smooth and perfect for piping onto cakes. A pop of fresh lemon flavor cuts the sweetness and makes it irresistible. This lemon frosting couldn’t get any easier:

  1. Cream butter then beat in cream cheese until smooth
  2. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and fresh lemon juice
  3. Beat 5 minutes on high speed until whipped and fluffy

Step by step photos of how to make lemon buttercream

Pro Cake Baking Tips:

  1. Have all of your moist ingredients at room temperature. Butter, eggs, lemons and buttermilk should be at room temperature before using. Room temperature ingredients incorporate much easier for an even-textured batter and improved rise. When to take ingredients out? Timing depends on your room temperature so take ingredients out at least 1 hour before or 2 hours before to be sure.
  2. Read through the recipe before starting so you know what tools are needed for a recipe and aren’t frantically looking for that whisk when you need it.
  3. Pre-measure everything so it’s ready to add as you follow the recipe.
  4. Measure ingredients correctly – use the correct measuring cups and spoons for wet or dry ingredients. The way you fill matters, i.e. for flour, use the spoon and scrape method instead of plunging your measuring cup into a bin which can give you 25% more flour, resulting in a dense cake.
  5. Keep the oven door closed, opening it only to test for doneness at the end.

side profile of assembled lemon poppy seed naked cake

More Lip-Smacking Good Lemon Desserts:

Watch Natasha Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:

This lemon poppy seed cake recipe is simple to make and satisfies that craving for tangy sweetness and poppy seeds. I hope this becomes a new favorite for you!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cake Cooling: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Lemon Poppy seed cake with a cut slice of cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is soft, moist, easy to make and has wonderful fresh lemon flavor. The whipped Lemon Buttercream Frosting is incredible!

Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Skill Level: Easy/Medium
Cost to Make: $8-$12
Keyword: lemon poppy seed cake
Calories: 514 kcal
Servings: 14 slices

Ingredients

For the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:

  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter (3/4 cup), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp poppy seeds sifted to remove any debris
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk room temperature

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter the sides and base of two 9" cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a ring parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream together 12 Tbsp softened butter and 1 cup sugar for 2 minutes on high speed. Add eggs one at a time mixing just until incorporated.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 Tbsp poppy seeds. Add half of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
  4. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp lemon zest and 1 tsp vanilla, mixing just to combine. With mixer on low speed, add 1/2 cup buttermilk then mix in remaining half of the flour mixture, mixing until no lumps remain. Divide between 2 prepared pans and spread evenly. 

  5. Bake at 350˚F for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cake cook in pans 10 minutes then transfer to wire racks, remove backing and and cool to room temperature.

To Assemble and Frost the Cake:

  1. Once completely cooled, place the first cake layer on a cake platter and spread a generous 1/3 of the buttercream frosting over the top. Place the second layer of the top (flat-side-up) and spread 1/3 of the frosting over the top and sides.

  2. Sprinkle the edges of the cake with poppy seeds if desired. Pipe remaining 1/3 of the frosting as desired over the top and place a slice of fresh lemon over each puff of frosting.

How to Make Lemon Buttercream Frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat 1 cup butter on high speed until smooth and creamy (2 min). Add 4 oz softened cream cheese and beat until completely smooth. Add 4 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla and beat on high speed until whipped and fluffy (5 min).
Nutrition Facts
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 514 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 42%
Saturated Fat 16g 80%
Cholesterol 105mg 35%
Sodium 53mg 2%
Potassium 164mg 5%
Total Carbohydrates 64g 21%
Sugars 48g
Protein 4g 8%
Vitamin A 17.7%
Vitamin C 3%
Calcium 8.9%
Iron 6.9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen

The lemon cake base was adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction lemon cake. Sally is an incredibly talented baker and great resources on all things baking!

Must-Try Poppy Seed Recipes:

Poppy seed cake sliced to show center of the cake

natashaskitchen

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Sema
    April 18, 2019

    Hi Natasha,
    I have tried most of your cakes with success but with this one I’m having few issues. My cake didn’t rise as much as yours , also just made the icing and it’s not thick enough to pipe I think, turned out bit runny. Should I add more butter or icing sugar to fix it? I measured everything correctly and not made any changes.
    Thank u Reply

    • Natasha
      April 18, 2019

      Hi Sema, with buttercream, the main culprit of a loose frosting is if it is overly warm (if the butter or cream cheese are partially melted or overly soft, or if your room temperature is too warm). I would suggest cooling it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes at a time and then continue beating on high speed until the frosting forms to a pipe-able consistency. Here is another great tip on how to fix a runny or soupy buttercream. With rising, it could be a number of things; make sure to measure the ingredients correctly (as stated in the recipe) so you aren’t using too much flour, check your baking powder to make sure it isn’t expired, use room temperature ingredients and do not over-mix. I hope that helps to troubleshoot.  Reply

      • Sema
        April 19, 2019

        After I assembled the cake i refrigerated and it was fine when i took it out. Thank u !
        By the way it was delicious as always. Reply

  • Tanya
    April 17, 2019

    Would this recipe work with almond flour? Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 17, 2019

      Hi Tanya, I honestly have not tried this recipe with almond flour so I cannot advise. If you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe Reply

  • Sara
    April 17, 2019

    Would it be possible to make this exact cake in a taller version as in 3 or 4 layers instead of 2? Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 17, 2019

      Hi Sara, I haven’t tested it that way but you would probably need a smaller round, tall-walled (3″ at least) springform pan so it doesn’t overflow. Also, without testing it, I can’t give specific instructions for bake time but it would need more time in the oven. If you experiment, please let me know how it goes. Reply

  • Daniela
    April 16, 2019

    Have you tried substituting sugar for a diabetic? Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 16, 2019

      Hi Daniela, I haven’t tested that. If you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe. Reply

  • Ira
    April 16, 2019

    Hi Natasha,
    Can I bake in one pan instead of 2? I don’t have 2 round pans.
    Happy Easter!
    Ira Reply

    • Natasha
      April 16, 2019

      Hi Ira, I haven’t tested it that way but you would probably need a tall-walled (3″ at least) springform pan so it doesn’t overflow. Also, without testing it, I can’t give specific instructions for bake time but it would need more time in the oven. If you experiment, please let me know how it goes. Thanks Ira! Reply

  • Sefora
    April 15, 2019

    Hi! Can substitute the buttermilk with regular milk? Reply

    • Natasha
      April 15, 2019

      Hi Sefora, I haven’t tested that substitution but I have found that using buttermilk adds a good amount of moisture and flavor to the cake. I think it could work, I just haven’t tested it to be able to make that recommendation. Reply

  • Sasha
    April 15, 2019

    This looks delicious! How long will the buttercream keep outside the fridge? I would love to make it for a dessert table at a party but I have heard that buttercream needs to be refrigerated right up until serving. Reply

    • Natasha
      April 15, 2019

      Hi Sasha, buttercream is stable and can be left at room temperature for several hours on a dessert table, (just not in the sun or very warm environment). I would refrigerate overnight if making ahead and then bring it to the dessert table for your party and it will be fine. Reply

  • Mary
    April 15, 2019

    Love your recipes. Is there anyway to save favorites in a recipe box on your site? Reply

    • Natasha
      April 15, 2019

      Hi Mary, I wish there was! We don’t have that functionality but I will definitely keep that in mind and look into it when we do another site redesign. Reply

  • Nancy Tillman
    April 14, 2019

    Would this work in a bundt pan? Reply

    • Natasha
      April 15, 2019

      Hi Nancy, I honestly haven’t tried this in a bundt pan so I can’t speak to that or give specific baking instructions. I think it’s worth experimenting and if you test it out, please let me know how it goes. Reply

  • Denise
    April 13, 2019

    This cake looks delicious and lovely! I’d love to bake it for my lemon-loving son. Is there a way to make the lemon buttercream without cream cheese? Reply

    • Natasha
      April 15, 2019

      Hi Denise, just omit the cream cheese but you can’t really taste it in the frosting and it does balance the overall frosting. Reply

  • Anna
    April 13, 2019

    This cake is a showstopper! Perfect dessert for Easter! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 13, 2019

      Thank you, Anna! I have to agree this is so perfect for Easter. Thank you for sharing that with us! Reply

  • Mallory Lanz
    April 13, 2019

    So simple, but so pretty and yummy! Thanks for a great recipe! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 13, 2019

      You’re so welcome Mallory! Thank you for that awesome review! Reply

  • April 12, 2019

    I love spring for all the wonderful lemon desserts, and this is no exception! Excited to make this over spring break! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 13, 2019

      Thank you for sharing that with me Beth! We love our spring fresh lemon recipes! Reply

  • Oksana
    April 12, 2019

    This cake looks so simple yet so elegant? I will be on my next-thing-to-do list. Thank you for sharing )) Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 12, 2019

      You’re welcome! I’m so happy you enjoyed this video! Reply

  • Carmen Viner
    April 12, 2019

    Can this be made in a 9 x 13 pan? Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 12, 2019

      I haven’t tested that but I think it could work. If you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe Carmen! Reply

  • Sommer
    April 12, 2019

    I love lemon poppy seed bread so I know I’m going to love this cake! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 12, 2019

      I hope you get to try that soon Sommer! Thank you for that awesome review! Reply

  • Jessica
    April 12, 2019

    Oh my gosh this looks amazing! Yummmmm Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 12, 2019

      I’m so happy to hear that! Reply

  • 2pots2cook
    April 12, 2019

    So good to be back to find this beauty ! Happy Easter to you and your loved ones dear Natasha ! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 12, 2019

      Thank you!! Happy Easter! Reply

Add comment/review

Leave a comment

As Featured On

Get the Latest Recipes in your inbox:

Never Go "Hangry" Again!

Get weekly updates on new recipes, exclusive giveaways plus behind the scenes photos.