Poppy Seed Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
When life gives you lemons, ditch the lemonade- make a lemon poppy seed cake instead
The word itself comes as sigh of relief, an exhale that heals the mind, the body and most definitely the spirit.
And while I love those long, lazy days spent watching TV, reading a book or admiring the bright petal hues that group together in clusters of flowers, I will miss this past year.
School may not necessarily be the most positive experience for a lot of people. But for me, especially towards the end, it was. I am lucky to have had such awesome classmates, caring teachers and patient parents. I am lucky to have lived in Poland and completed my schooling here. Next year will be a blank slate. I will have to start anew in a foreign place that I already fear for its unfamiliarity. But there’s plenty of time before things change. Right now, I’m going to enjoy this long pause, this break from reality, and I’m going to share a recipe for lemon cake, my favorite summer dessert.
The cake is fairly simple to put together. It’s got that fruity tang from the lemons- though you may replace the lemon zest with orange or grapefruit zest should you wish. The poppy-speckled batter is rustic, gorgeous to look at- the flavor of poppy is barely noticeable taste wise, but when is, the addition is well worth it.
To me, what makes this cake special is its lemon syrup soak, which adds a more prominent lemon flavor and doesn’t hurt the ‘juiciness’ of the cake either. The pairing of a lemony sweet cake works well with a tangy cream cheese frosting, though a slice of this cake is majestic on its own as well. When the cake is light and warm (or at room temperature), it is at its best. I wouldn’t serve it cold as that compromises its fluffiness and lends a dense, crumbly consistency. So store it in the fridge, but allow the cake to sit at room temperature for an hour or so before serving.
- I like to make this cake in an 8-inch spring form pan but you could easily make it a lemon loaf cake or double the recipe and do a two-layer cake instead.
- When it’s spring or summer, the flowers are so beautiful and make for a great garnish. Cakes are by nature, aesthetically appealing if decorated with flowers!
- In Poland, you can buy poppy seed meal (Mak Mielony) which I used in the video tutorial because I had a full bag at home. Regular poppy seeds are fine.
- Serve at room temperature or serve warm- do not serve cold out of the fridge! The texture won’t be the same.
- USE FRESH LEMONS! The artificial gunk is pure gunk.
Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
- 1 ½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tbsp poppy seed meal/poppy seeds
- ½ (115 g) cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp lemon zest (zest of about 2-3 lemons)
- 1/3 cup (85 mL) milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of 1 large lemon)
For the syrup:
- ¼ cup (63 mL) lemon juice
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
For the frosting:
- ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 100 g (slightly under 4 oz) cream cheese
- 2 cups icing sugar (a.k.a. confectioners' sugar)
- juice of ½ a lemon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
For the garnish (optional):
- Lemon slices
- Poppy seed meal/poppy seeds
- Small (preferably edible) flowers- yellow and white are great
- Butter an 8 inch (20 cm) springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and dust the pan with flour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C.
- In a small bowl, combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour and poppy seed meal/seeds. Set aside.
- Next, combine the lemon juice, milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl or jug.
- In yet another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add lemon zest and eggs, and continue to beat until the mixture is a light, fluffy pale yellow.
- Alternate the milk mixture with the flour mixture in three batches, starting with the milk and ending with the flour.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- In the meantime, prepare the syrup. Combine both ingredients together and place into the microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 20-30 seconds until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture turns clear. Alternatively place the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour the syrup over the cake so that the cake absorbs the lemony liquid and let the cake cool completely.
- To prepare the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Add in the lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat.
- Gradually add in the icing sugar. The icing should be a thick, spreadable consistency but will most likely not hold a stiff peak.
- When the cake has cooled completely (preferably it is chilled), it is ready to frost.
- Decorate the cake with sliced lemons, poppy seeds and fresh flowers.
- This cake is perfect for the summer, best served at room temperature. It should be stored in the refrigerator and can last up to a week.