Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is for anyone looking for some real lemon love. Whenever I come across a recipe with “Lemon” slap dab in the beginning of the name, I have to take a look. And this recipe really layers in the lemon – first in the batter, then in the sugar syrup and finally in the light glaze. For other truly memorable and very lemony cakes, also try:

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Tarte Citron Mama

While I am admittedly not a mega-fan of most celebrity chefs, I decided to try this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, an Ina Garten recipe. The problem I have with so many of these celebrity chefs is that because they have to produce so much content in this digital age, many of their recipes are simply not that special. And worse, they are not accurate. My oven is calibrated and bakes as I expect. However, while Ina’s recipe said that the cake takes 40-50 minutes to bake, mine actually took almost 75 minutes. Small differences I expect but that is pretty major, especially for novice cooks.

Other than that glaring difference, this cake was not difficult to make. But I wouldn’t attempt it unless you have an electric mixer. And I wouldn’t eat it right before a mandatory drug test!

Except for the poppy seeds and the large number of lemons, most of the ingredients should already be in your pantry. And while I always have buttermilk in my fridge, there are acceptable alternatives. You could easily swap it out with a non-Greek style whole milk yogurt. Or take any milk (dairy or non) and “sour” it with a teaspoon of distilled vinegar or lemon juice.

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake should hold up for a week if covered or wrapped well. Just wait until the glaze has hardened before wrapping.

Recipe

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/3 cup poppy seeds (1.75 ounces) [I went by weight with the seeds]

Nonstick baking spray with flour, such as Baker’s Joy 

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 

2.5 cups granulated sugar, divided 

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1/3 cup grated lemon zest, loosely packed (4 to 5 large lemons) 

2.75 cups all-purpose flour 

1/4 cup cornstarch 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided 

For the glaze:

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1.5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Directions

  1. Pour the buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir in the poppy seeds, and set aside at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly spray the inside of a large Bundt pan with the baking spray and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the lemon juice to the buttermilk mixture. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. [My cake took almost 75 minutes, which is what I imagined a cake of this size and density to take.]

5. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a baking rack set over a large plate or baking pan. Spoon the warm lemon syrup slowly over the cake, allowing it to be absorbed into the cake. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.

6. For the glaze, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl, adding a little more sugar or lemon juice to make a smooth, thick, but pourable glaze. Let your inner Jackson Pollock out! Drizzle over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. You can garnish with some additional lemon zest or poppy seeds, if desired.

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