This homemade lemon poppy seed cake is a classic spring and summer dessert! It features a moist and tender lemon cake studded with poppy seeds. The cake is topped with a simple lemon glaze and homemade lemon cream cheese frosting! This single layer cake is light, refreshing, and bursting with lemon flavor. The poppy seeds add a subtle nutty flavor and a beautiful speckled appearance. This cake is perfect for any occasion, from a casual afternoon tea to a formal dinner party!

Lemon poppy seed cake.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • This lemon poppy seed cake is quick and easy to make.
  • The ingredients are simple and the steps are straightforward.
  • It is moist and flavorful. So is this Crepe Cake!
  • The lemon zest and juice give the cake a bright, tangy flavor. In addition, the poppy seeds add a nutty richness.
  • It is versatile. You can serve it plain, frosted, or with a variety of toppings.
  • Perfect for any occasion.
  • This cake is light and refreshing enough for spring and summer, but it is also elegant enough for a special occasion.
  • I love serving this for Easter and summer birthdays!
  • Check out this Coconut Cake for another light and fluffy cake! You will also love this Instant Pot Cake!

Ingredients & Substitutes

Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom for the full lemon poppy seed cake recipe!

Use all-purpose flour for the cake. I have also recipe tested this using King Arthur Flour gluten free flour. It worked well!

Poppy seeds add a slight crunch and nutty flavor. While the cake can be made without poppy seeds, they are the perfect complement to lemon.

Both baking powder and baking soda help leaven this cake.

A pinch of salt helps balance out the tartness and sweetness of the cake.

Softened butter adds a delicious buttery flavor and more moisture. I prefer baking with unsalted butter. That way, I can control how much salt goes into each recipe.

Granulated sugar adds sweetness.

Four eggs help give this cake a light and fluffy texture. Do not replace the eggs in this recipe. I have made this Vegan Lemon Cake before and it was fabulous!

Lemon zest and lemon juice add the perfect lemon flavor.

Buttermilk adds a tangy flavor and additional moisture. If you do not have buttermilk, milk together 1/2 cup of regular milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Mix together and let this sit for 5 minutes.

Vanilla extract adds a cozy flavor.

For the glaze, mix together lemon juice and powdered sugar.

To make the lemon cream cheese frosting, use softened cream cheese and softened butter.

The powdered sugar adds the sweetness.

Both lemon juice and lemon zest flavor the frosting.

Ingredients for lemon poppy seed cake.

Taste & Texture

The taste of lemon poppy seed cake is light and refreshing, with a subtle lemon flavor and a hint of sweetness.

The poppy seeds add a nutty flavor and a beautiful speckled appearance.

The texture of the cake is moist and tender. The frosting is so smooth and creamy!

How to Make

Step 1

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease and flour a 9-inch (23cm) round cake pan.

Step 2

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Step 3

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Step 4

Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.

Step 5

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. Then, mix well.

Step 6

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Step 7

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Raw lemon cake batter.

Step 8

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Baked single layer cake.

Step 9

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Round dessert on wire rack.

Step 10

While the cake is cooling, prepare the lemon glaze by whisking together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside.

Step 11

To make the lemon cream cheese frosting, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, beating until well combined and fluffy.

Step 12

Once the cake has cooled, place it on a serving plate. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

Juice poured onto cake.

Step 13

Spread the lemon cream cheese frosting over the cooled cake, covering the top and sides.

Frosting on cake.

Step 14

Optionally, garnish the cake with additional lemon zest or poppy seeds for decoration.

Frosted lemon cake.

Step 15

Finally, slice and serve this delicious lemon poppy seed cake!

Expert Tips for Success

Follow these tips and tricks to make the best lemon poppy seed cake!

Use fresh lemons. The lemon zest and juice are essential to the flavor of this cake, so make sure to use fresh lemons.

Feel free to use Meyer lemons if desired.

Do not overmix the batter. Overmixing can make the cake tough and dry.

Bake the cake until just cooked through. An overbaked cake will be dry and crumbly.

To test the cake, insert a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. Frosting a warm cake will make the frosting melt.

Slice of lemon poppy seed cake.

Flavor Variations & Add-Ins

Here are some ways to switch up the flavor of your lemon poppy seed cake.

Add 1/2 cup of blueberries or raspberries to the batter.

Replace the lemon zest with orange zest.

Add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds to the batter.

Frost the cake with a lemon buttercream frosting.

Top the cake with fresh lemon slices or lemon curd.

How to Serve & Store

Lemon poppy seed cake is best served fresh. Allow the cake to fully cool before frosting. Then, slice and serve.

This cake pairs well with coffee, tea, or vanilla ice cream!

Top with some fresh lemon curd if desired.

It can also be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. To store the cake, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil.

Try these Gluten Free Cupcakes too!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I make this cake ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this cake ahead of time. The frosted cake will stay fresh for u to 3 days. It is best served within 24 hours. Or, freeze it. To freeze the cake, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

What if I do not have poppy seeds?

You can omit the poppy seeds from this recipe, but the cake will not have the same nutty flavor.

What if I do not have buttermilk?

You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before using.

Why do you add in poppy seeds?

The poppy seeds are crunchy and nutty. They also add fiber and other nutrients!

Can you use Meyer lemons?

Sure! I love the flavor of Meyer lemons.

Can you make it without poppy seeds?

Yes. Feel free to omit the poppy seeds if desired.

Fork with single layer dessert.

Equipment Needed

Hand Mixer: I love this hand mixer to making batter and frosting. It is easy to use and convenient.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer: This stand mixer is the ultimate kitchen appliance for bakers! I have owned mine for over 20 years.

Pyrex 3 Glass Mixing Bowls: These are my favorite mixing bowls for baking.

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups: These measuring cups are great for baking.

Cake Stand: This is a beautiful stand for displaying the poppy seed lemon cake!

Check out all of my kitchen favorites!

You May Also Like

If you make this lemon poppy seed cake recipe, I would really appreciate a review! You can find me on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest. Join my exclusive Facebook Group for a behind the scenes look. I would love for you to follow along!  For more ideas, check out these Dessert Recipes.

Lemon poppy seed cake.

Get the Recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This homemade lemon poppy seed cake features a moist and fluffy lemon cake, lemon glaze, and lemon cream cheese frosting!  It is bursting with bright and fresh flavors.  This one-layer cake is quick, easy, and perfectly sweet!
5 from 34 votes

Ingredients

Lemon Cake

  • 2 cups flour, gluten free or all purpose
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest, from about 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Instructions 

  • First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease and flour a 9-inch (23cm) round cake pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.
  • Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. Then, mix well.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While the cake is cooling, prepare the lemon glaze by whisking together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside.
  • To make the lemon cream cheese frosting, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, beating until well combined and fluffy.
  • Once the cake has cooled, place it on a serving plate. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
  • Spread the lemon cream cheese frosting over the cooled cake, covering the top and sides.
  • Optionally, garnish the cake with additional lemon zest or poppy seeds for decoration.
  • Finally, slice and serve this delicious lemon poppy seed cake!

Notes

  • Both regular all purpose flour and gluten free 1 to 1 flour can be used.  I am gluten free, so I used King Arthur Flour gluten free flour for these photos.
  • Use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer to mix the cake batter and frosting.  This will not work by hand.
  • Do not overmix the cake batter.
  • The cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to fully cool before adding the glaze and frosting.
  • If the frosting is too thin, add slightly more powdered sugar.
  • If the frosting is too thick, add slightly more lemon juice.
Calories: 593kcal, Carbohydrates: 89g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 19g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 136mg, Sodium: 243mg, Potassium: 114mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 71g, Vitamin A: 1060IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 102mg, Iron: 2mg

Did you enjoy this lemon poppy seed cake? You can sign up here to receive healthy meal plans, exclusive new recipes and updates!