There’s magic in every single slice of this lemon poppy seed cake. The magic of tangy lemon zest, a handful of poppy seeds, a cake that’s equal parts moist and fluffy, and a refreshing lemon icing that ties it all together. Even better, it couldn’t be easier to make.
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Some dessert are here to make you smile. And if there’s one dessert that tastes like sunshine and happiness – it’s this simple lemon poppy seed cake.
The recipe is largely based on my lemon drizzle cake (because it’s perfect and how can you possibly improve perfection?), with added poppy seeds that take it to a whole new level. So although this is not quite a 100% new recipe, it deserves to be shared and loved.
Such is the way of baking. Once you have your collection of fool-proof, works-every-time recipes, you can start adding flavours and textures and colours… or, sometimes, just a handful of poppy seeds.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
How do you make a lemon poppy seed cake?
I know I say this for most of my recipes… but this cake honestly couldn’t be easier to make.
- Sift together the dry ingredients (gluten free flour, almond flour, xanthan gum, baking powder), then add the sugar, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds.
- Whisk softened unsalted butter into the dry ingredients (this is the so-called reverse creaming method, which gives a wonderful velvety cake crumb that melts on your tongue) until it resembles coarse sand.
- Add the wet ingredients (milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla paste), and whisk it all together until you get a smooth cake batter with no flour clumps.
- Transfer to a lined square/rectangular baking tin, and bake until risen, all golden brown and caramelised on top… and just plain beautiful. Your kitchen will smell amazing and waiting for the cake to cool will feel a bit like torture.
How do you make the lemon icing?
Once the cake is warm (because, yes, you should technically wait for it to be completely cool – but let’s be realistic here, who’s got the time – or patience – for that?!), mix together powdered sugar with lemon juice until you get the perfect icing consistency.
The perfect consistency is runny enough to drizzle on top of the cake, but thick enough so that it forms a generous layer on top of it.
Because we’re using lemon juice rather than water in the icing, it’s not too sweet. Instead, the tangy freshness of the lemons is tempered by the sweetness of the sugar, resulting in a flavour explosion that will make your tastebuds very happy indeed.
The icing reaches ultimate perfection an hour or so after being drizzled on top of the lemon poppy seed cake – when it’s had time to dry out slightly, and forms a crackly lemony crust.
Just before it dries completely, sprinkle it with extra poppy seeds. This makes it prettier… and even more delicious.
That’s it, friends. A simple recipe, with delicious results. A wonderful flavour combination, that works every single time.
And a cake that’s sure to bring a smile to your face. Enjoy.
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Simple Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
For lemon poppy seed cake:
- 1 2/3 cups (200 g) plain gluten free flour blend (I've used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour, which doesn't contain xanthan gum)
- 3/4 cup (65 g) almond flour
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (omit if your GF flour blend already contains xanthan)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- zest of 3 lemons
- 2 tbsp poppy seeds
- 2 sticks (226 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 medium eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) milk, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 6 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For lemon icing:
- 1 cup (120 g) powdered/icing sugar, sifted
- ~6 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- poppy seeds for sprinkling
For lemon poppy seed cake:
- Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC) and line an 8x8 inch (20x20 cm) square baking tin with baking/greaseproof paper.
- In a large bowl, sift together the gluten free flour blend, almond flour, xanthan gum and baking powder. Add the sugar, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds, and mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry+butter mixture, and whisk/mix well until no flour clumps remain and everything is evenly distributed.
- Transfer the cake batter into the lined baking tin, smooth out the top, and bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for about 50 minutes or until risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.If the cake starts browning too quickly or too much, cover it with aluminium foil and continue baking until done.
- Allow to cool in the baking tin for about 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
For lemon icing:
- Stir the powdered sugar and 6 tsp of lemon juice together until you get a thick even mixture. (You can add more lemon juice to make it runnier, or more powdered sugar to make it thicker, as required.)
- Drizzle the lemon icing over the cooled cake, spreading it evenly across the top with the back of a spoon, and letting it drip down the sides.
- When the icing is half-dry, sprinkle the cake with poppy seeds.
- The lemon poppy seed cake keeps well in a closed container in a cool dry place for 3 - 4 days.