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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

January 30, 2022

A light and fluffy Meyer lemon poppy seed cake filled with bright, fresh citrus flavor that will keep you coming […]

A light and fluffy Meyer lemon poppy seed cake filled with bright, fresh citrus flavor that will keep you coming back for another slice. Topped with a thick vanilla glaze, this loaf cake is the perfect breakfast treat and a surefire cure for the winter blues! Double the batch and save one for a rainy day.

close-up of cross section of lemon poppy seed cake

Our Meyer lemon trees are bursting with fruit this time of year and nothing makes me happier than a bucket full of lemons. Well, maybe chocolate. But lemons are a close second. Not so long ago when the girls were little, we’d spend most Saturdays in January juicing pounds and pounds of Meyer lemons picked fresh from the backyard orchard. And as any good parent does, we would set up the obligatory lemonade stand on our neighborhood corner.

In between naps, my girls would take turns holding the bright yellow handmade sign, pouring spilling the lemonade, and collecting quarters by the handful which they promptly stashed in their pink plastic Toys-R-Us cash register. The neighbors would of course stop by to chit chat on the curb about this and that and the other thing while the girls tried to talk them into a second cup of freshly squeezed juice. Those were the days.

slice of Meyer lemon poppy seed cake with bite take out of it

The girls are now all too busy, and far too grown up to sell lemonade on the corner. Needless to say, we have no shortage of ripe Meyer lemons this time of year. Lemon bars, breads and cakes are all on repeat in our kitchen at the moment and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Last week I was craving a simple lemon poppy seed something-or-other and ended up trading an extra hour of sleep for a little late night baking. I settled on this Meyer lemon poppy seed cake/loaf/bread. Call it what you will. I call it sunshine on a plate. Not only is this cake recipe easy to throw together, but it’s super moist and perfectly tart and sweet in all the right places. This loaf belongs at the top of your must-make list so let’s get right to it, shall we?

ingredients for lemon and poppy seed loaf on marble countertop

Ingredients you need

This light and lemony loaf comes together in about an hour with just a few pantry staples you likely have on hand. Grab a handful of lemons (Meyers are my favorite) from the farmer’s market or your neighbor’s tree and get baking!

  • Flour – All-purpose flour makes for a light and fluffy, deliciously soft crumb. To prevent a dry, dense cake, be sure to measure the flour accurately. I highly recommend using a digital scale
  • Butter – Cakes made with butter are typically more tender and moist than those made with oil. And they just taste better too. Soften your butter to room temperature before you begin.
  • Eggs – Three whole eggs give this cake a tender crumb. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before mixing the batter. 
  • Sugar – This cake is perfectly sweetened with just the right amount of granulated sugar. 
  • Lemon zest and juice – We’re using both the juice and zest of the lemon to deliver a serious citrus punch. Use real lemons – steer clear of artificial lemon juice. 
  • Greek yogurt – Adding yogurt to loaf cakes adds moisture and helps keep the cake soft for days. If you don’t have Greek yogurt on hand, use sour cream instead.  
  • Baking powder and soda – Just a pinch helps give the cake texture and rise. 
  • Vanilla – Use a good quality vanilla like Rodelle for the best flavor. 
  • Poppy seeds – Did you know that poppy seeds contain fiber, calcium, and magnesium? So basically this is healthy cake. This loaf is the perfect place to use up that half a jar of poppy seeds hiding in your spice cabinet.
  • Confectioners sugar – For a silky smooth frosting, sift the confectioners sugar before mixing with the milk.

How to make lemon poppy seed bread

This loaf cake is so easy to make from scratch and your kitchen will smell just like a bakery. I use a stand mixer to whip up the batter but a hand-held mixer works too. Follow the steps below for the perfect cake every time and save the recipe card below for a detailed ingredient list and instructions. 

making lemon cake batter in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment

Step 1: Mix together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture will be light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Step 2: Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well with each addition. For best results, make sure your eggs are at room temperature. Next, add in the vanilla and mix to combine. 

Step 3: Mix in the lemon zest and juice. If the batter starts to look slightly curdled or lumpy, not to worry. The batter will come back together once you add in the dry ingredients. 

adding dry ingredients to lemon poppy seed cake batter

Step 4: Whisk together the dry ingredients including the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in a medium bowl. 

Step 5: Add the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture, alternating with the Greek yogurt. Begin and end with the flour. Do not over mix the batter.

stirring poppy seeds into lemon cake batter

Step 6: Stir in the poppy seeds by hand using a spatula. Just a few quick stirs is all you need – do not over mix. 

Step 7: Transfer the batter to a parchment lined 9 x 5 ” loaf pan. 

Step 8: Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the top of the cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs remaining. If the cake is browning too much towards the end of the baking cycle, tent the top loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.

Step 9: Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for about 10 to 15 minutes. Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully pull the bread out of the pan. Set the loaf on a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the glaze. 

glaze dripping over sides of Meyer lemon poppy seed cake

How to glaze a loaf cake

Don’t even think about eating this lemon poppy seed loaf without the glaze. Consider it mandatory. And it’s so easy to make with just 3 ingredients. Just sift the powdered sugar and whisk it together with the milk and a dollop of yogurt. For an extra citrus kick, add a splash of lemon juice to the mix. Once you’ve licked the spoon (you know, for quality control), pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cake.

Don’t be tempted to glaze the cake while warm unless you want your icing to end up all over the plate instead of on top of the cake. For a clean cut, leave the glaze to sit for a few minutes before slicing.

slices of lemon poppy seed cake stacked on top of baking sheet

Tips for the best lemon loaf

If you’re new to making homemade quick breads, follow the recipe to a T and take a minute to review the tips and tricks below for the very best loaf cake. 

Use room temperature ingredients. I know, I know. I’m certain I sound like a broken record each and every time I remind you to use room temperature ingredients. It matters folks. To get that light and tender texture you’ll want to have your butter, eggs and yogurt at room temperature before mixing them with the dry ingredients. This helps to ensure that your batter comes out smooth and bakes up fluffy and moist. 

It’s all about the lemons. We’ll use both the zest and juice to give this cake a bright, fresh lemon flavor. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter and a bit more floral than the standard lemons you see at the grocery store. They are also less acidic which means they deliver a more vibrant citrus flavor that makes this cake really shine. January is the height of citrus season so if you see Meyers at the market, buy them. By the dozens!

Do not over bake. Bake this loaf cake as directed, keeping in mind that all ovens run differently. For best results, invest in a simple oven thermometer to be sure your oven is baking at the correct temperature. Do not over bake this loaf or it will be dry and crumbly. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely tent the top with a piece of aluminum foil. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean or with just a few crumbs remaining.

Cool completely. This light and lemony cake is delicious all on it’s own, but the extra thick drizzle of vanilla icing sure doesn’t hurt. Wait to mix up your glaze until the cake is completely cool. The glaze will set within minutes. Slice and serve for breakfast or dessert. Or do as I do and eat it twice a day until it’s gone.

Lemon poppy seed bread cooling on baking tray

How to store loaf cake

For best results, store the cooled cake tightly covered at room temperature. Take it from me, this cake won’t last long so double the batch and stash one in the freezer for a rainy day. To freeze a loaf cake, cool the cake completely and wrap in two layers of plastic wrap. I recommend freezing the cake before glazing.

Defrost the cake at room temperature overnight and then drizzle with icing just before serving.

You can also freeze individual slices of the lemon loaf. They’ll defrost faster than the whole loaf making them the perfect grab-and-go breakfast for busy mornings. 

vanilla glaze dripping over top of lemon loaf cake

FAQ’s

Do I have to use Meyer lemons?

Nope. I love the flavor of Meyer lemons but regular lemons will work too. You can use any citrus you like in fact. Limes, oranges, or grapefruit would all be delicious!

Can I make this cake in a bundt pan?

This cake was created for a 9 x 5 ” loaf pan but if you double the recipe, it should bake up nicely in a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan. This recipe also makes great muffins!

Can I make this cake without poppy seeds?

I love the added flavor and crunch from the poppy seeds but you can absolutely make it with fewer poppy seeds or omit them altogether.

Can I make this ahead?

Yes! This cake keeps well and is the perfect make-ahead treat. Once the cake is baked, let it cool completely and then store it tightly covered in a cool, dry place. Wait to glaze the cake until just a few minutes before serving.

Can I add a simple syrup for extra flavor?

Absolutely. I adore this cake as is, but if you are a fan of a simple syrup glaze I suggest boiling 1/4 cup of water with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Once boiling, remove the pot from the stovetop and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Brush the syrup on top of the warm loaf and allow the cake to cool completely before adding the vanilla glaze.

Happy baking lemon lovers!

Love baking with citrus?? Try these easy and delicious recipes….

Meyer Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

Easy Lemon Bundt Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Blood Orange Bundt Cake

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

  • Author: Heather Mubarak
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 65 minutes
  • Yield: 10 slices 1x
  • Category: Breads & Muffins
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A light and fluffy Meyer lemon poppy seed cake filled with fresh citrus flavor that will keep you coming back for another slice. Topped with a thick vanilla glaze, this quick bread is the perfect breakfast treat!


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tbsp (213 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest, loosely packed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (205 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup (123 g) plain greek yogurt, room temperature

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 23 TBSP whole milk
  • 12 TBSP full fat greek yogurt (to thicken the glaze)

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Spray a 9 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with a piece of parchment paper that covers the bottom and extends past the short sides of the pan. You will use these as handles to pull the loaf out of the pan once it has cooled slightly
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes)
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg is added
  6. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed
  7. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix until combined
  8. With the mixer on low, add some of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and then alternate with the greek yogurt, ending with the flour mixture
  9. Remove from mixer and stir in poppyseeds with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula
  10. Mix until barely incorporated. Do not over mix
  11. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean
  12. If cake is browned too quickly towards the end of the baking time, cover the top with a piece of aluminum foil
  13. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes
  14. Using the parchment paper handles, carefully lift the cake from the pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack

For the Glaze

  1. Once the cake is cool to the touch, whisk together the confectioners sugar and milk in a small bowl
  2. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake allowing some to drizzle down the sides
  3. Sprinkle top with an additional 1/2 tsp poppy seeds if desired

Notes

If more lemon flavor is desired, replace whole milk with fresh lemon juice in the glaze.
Store cake tightly wrapped in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days.
May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Keywords: lemon poppy seed cake, lemon poppy seed loaf

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 14, 2023 at 10:44 pm

    I love lemon poppy seed anything. This was amazing. My icing wasn’t as thick but still so good!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 14, 2023 at 7:36 am

    Absolutely love this cake! Great directions so a junior baker like me can look pro! Froze a couple slices so I have my stash ready when the craving hits.

  • Reply
    Nyx
    January 3, 2023 at 10:27 pm

    Hello I’ve returned two years later to add another comment about how wonderful this recipe is! The last comment I made was just over 2 years ago in 2020. I had forgotten to add the Greek yogurt. I don’t remember now how long it stayed fresh, but I’m guessing it didn’t last long enough to find out!

    I wanted to let future bakers know that this also works great in MINI BREAD PANS. I used 3 mini pans that were about 5.25”x3”, arranged them on a silicone mat on a cookie sheet for easy transfer in and out of the oven, and baked at the same temperature, but for less time. For me it was about 27 minutes.

    Also, I want to report GLUTEN FREE success: I made this recipe today with Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 gluten free flour (which is also nut free and dairy free) and it turned out PERFECTLY. Texturally identical! I’m so pleased! I have several family members with gluten sensitivity, celiacs, and several other allergies. This is a breakthrough for the gluten intolerant crowd!

    Perhaps in another two-ish years I will return to report on whether or not I was able to make this vegan as well. I have found that plant butter is usually a successful swap for real butter, so it would be easy enough to make this dairy free …but eggs can be tricky to replace without dramatic texture differences. ❓ Maybe someday! ✨✨

    Thanks again for the awesome recipe!! I’m keeping it forever!

    • Reply
      Avlon R.
      January 11, 2023 at 11:53 pm

      This cake is absolutely amazing!!! The most perfect texture and taste. It is light and fluffy yet moist and buttery. Not to mention the fantastic lemony flavour. Definitely a keeper for me. Can’t wait to make it again!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    October 14, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Hi…want to try out this recipe soon looks absolutely yummm….but cld I plz get the measurements in grams…it’s just easier for me to make

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      October 14, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      Yes, I’ve been steadily going back to old posts and updating them, including process shots and adding measurements in grams. Just updated this one with metrics for you. Enjoy!

      • Jas
        December 13, 2022 at 10:15 am

        Hi. Would like to ask i try baking this. But the bottom of the loaf seems to come out dense. Any idea what can I improve on?

  • Reply
    Cassidy
    April 20, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    This recipe was so easy and quick to achieve and tasted so good. ! I didn’t have poppy seeds on hand so I didn’t use any so if you don’t have any— don’t let that hold you back from making this! I also used sour cream instead of Greek yogurt and it worked great! Highly suggest! Perfect for spring -Cassidym_bakes

  • Reply
    May
    April 3, 2021 at 7:02 am

    Heather-

    I am at 8,000 feet altitude. Can you recommend how can I adjust the recipe? I made it yesterday and something is not right. I know it is the altitude but not sure how to adjust it.

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      April 9, 2021 at 12:21 am

      Hi May. I have not experimented with this loaf at high altitudes but you might try increasing the oven temperature by 25 degrees and at the same time decrease the baking time by 5-7 minutes. You could also try adding an extra egg. Check out this post for more ideas on how to adjust for high altitude. https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking

  • Reply
    Jen
    March 23, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    Hi! Just wondering if this would work well as muffins? Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      March 25, 2021 at 8:45 pm

      Definitely! I use this batter to make muffins often. Just be sure to adjust the baking time.

  • Reply
    Tish Amborn
    January 30, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    This lemon poppyseed cake is AMAZING. I am glad I tented during the last 10 minutes. Easy AND delicious. I got so many compliments!!

  • Reply
    Natalie
    January 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    Can this recipe be doubled?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      January 25, 2021 at 7:51 pm

      It can but I always prefer to make each batch on it’s own and then bake the two loaves simultaneously.

  • Reply
    Mia
    January 25, 2021 at 12:41 am

    Hello! Can this cake be made without the poppy seeds?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      January 25, 2021 at 3:13 pm

      Absolutely! I love the added bit of crunch that you get with the poppy seeds but you can certainly leave them out. One reader substituted chia seeds which is another great idea!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    January 18, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Lovely! Made this twice already, and it came out so delicious! The texture is crumbly and tender. I didn’t have poppy seeds, so I did a 1:1 substitution with chia seeds. It works perfectly! The glaze adds a perfect zing of lemon. My dad says this cake is so much better than store bought -it’s not overwhelmingly sweet or sour. Will be making this soon again, thanks for the recipe Heather!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      January 20, 2021 at 6:40 am

      Thanks for trying my recipe Kelly! Love that chia seed swap… great idea!!

  • Reply
    Jazmine
    September 20, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Hi I’m just curious where did you get the wire paddle use used in your pictures?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      September 21, 2020 at 1:19 am

      Hi! I found it on Etsy!!

  • Reply
    Meyer Lemon Poppyseed Cake | janeaustenrunsmylife
    April 3, 2020 at 12:11 am

    […] This recipe comes from Browned Butter Blondie. […]

  • Reply
    Nannymed
    March 25, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Whether you call it cake or quick bread, this loaf from Browned Butter Blondie is bursting with Meyer lemon flavor. The poppy seeds give it an exciting texture and also bring attention to the tender crumb.

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      March 26, 2020 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad to hear you loved this lemon cake!!

  • Reply
    E
    January 22, 2020 at 3:22 am

    The recipe calls for a 9×4 loaf pan. I have 9×5 and 8×4 loaf pans. Which one should be used?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      January 22, 2020 at 4:23 am

      Hi! You can use either pan, just keep an eye on the loaf as the baking time may vary slightly. Enjoy!!

  • Reply
    Mili
    October 1, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    I will never not say this: BEST RECIPE OUT THERE FOR LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      October 2, 2019 at 3:45 am

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. So glad you love this lemon cake!!

  • Reply
    Amber
    June 14, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    I just made this, added extra lemon and made the glaze from lemon too lol it turned out AMAZING! Im definitely putting this in my archives! Thanks!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      June 17, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      So glad to hear you loved it!! Thanks for following along here!

      • Nyx
        January 27, 2020 at 12:07 am

        I totally spaced putting the Greek yogurt in, but fresh out of the oven it was still very nice cake/loaf without it. Time will tell how moist it’ll stay, as I imagine that was part of the benefit of adding the yogurt. I put off trying this recipe for a long time because I lament recipes that say you need a paddle or other attachment for a standing mixer. I don’t have tons of money to drop on a standing mixer and I don’t have the luck to have inherited one from either. So I used my hand mixer hoping for the best and it worked fine. Turned out very tasty with the lemon juice instead of milk in the glaze. Will for sure make again (and try to remember the Greek yogurt next time!)

      • Heather Mubarak
        January 27, 2020 at 7:40 pm

        I’m so glad you enjoyed this cake! It’s one of my all time favorites and adding lemon to the glaze sounds like a great idea for even more delicious lemon flavor!

  • Reply
    Raschelle
    May 14, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Does it need to be Greek yogurt? Or could I use plain “regular” yogurt?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      May 15, 2019 at 4:56 am

      Hi Raschelle! Regular yogurt should work just fine too!

  • Reply
    Kathy
    February 2, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Sounds and looks so YUMMY!!! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      February 4, 2019 at 5:16 am

      Thank you, hope you enjoy this cake as much a my family does!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      March 1, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for following along! Hope you get chance to try this recipe soon!

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