Lemon Poppyseed Cake

This beautiful old-fashioned lemon poppyseed cake is a favourite of ours for afternoon tea. It is a simple all-in-one recipe that is very easy to make and utterly delicious.

We played with various different recipes, but in the end decided that we like this old-fashioned plain cake. The flavour is delicate and gently lemony. It brings to mind comforting afternoon teas with my grandma.

Although the cake is plain, it is definitely not dry. It has a lemon glaze that soaks into the cake, rather like a lemon drizzle cake. If you prefer, you can use the lemon frosting that we use on our Lemon Layer Cake. This frosting makes the cake more decadent in appearance.

In some recipes, people are more heavy with the glaze, using three times the amount we use. However, I find that the lemon just becomes overwhelming. I like this more subtle flavour with the occasional bursts of lemon. Beautiful.

Poppy seeds are lovely in baking. They have a delicate flavour that goes particularly well with lemon. Soaking the seeds first brings out the flavour more. If you don't soak them, they taste fine, but they are more crunchy and somehow less an integral part of the cake.

Poppy seeds are rich in various minerals including calcium and magnesium. They also contain high levels of vitamin B. So apart from being absolutely delicious, I always feel as though I am eating something approaching good for me. :-)

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

Level: Easy
2 1/2 hours including baking

For the cake:
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
1/4 cup (40g) poppyseeds
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 (270g) cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup (225g) butter, softened
3/4 cup (170g) caster (fine) sugar
2 large eggs

For the glaze:
2 1/2 tablespoons (40g) fine sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Stir the milk and the vanilla essence together in a small bowl.

  • Add the poppy seeds, stirring to make sure they are all covered. Leave to soak for an hour.

  • Take a 7 inch wide, 3 1/2 - 4 inch deep cake tin. Grease thoroughly and line the bottom.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F (gas mark 5).

  • If your butter is not entirely soft, then first put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together using a wooden spoon.

    Then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk together with a hand-held electric mixer.

  • If your butter is soft, then you can literally put all the ingredient together into a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until fully incorporated into a fairly stiff batter.

  • Put into the cake tin and level the batter.

  • Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

  • After 30 minutes, cover loosely with tin foil and continue baking it for another 20 minutes. Check now to see if the cake is cooked. If you insert a wooden skewer, it should come out clean. The top of the cake should be a dark golden-brown. If it is not quite cooked, return it to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

  • Sometimes, we think it's cooked, and it's not. It really doesn't matter too much. The cake is just still slightly moist in the middle and it tends to sink - but it still tastes amazing. So if it has been in for the full time and you're not sure, take it out and don't worry about it.

  • Remove the lemon poppyseed cake to a wire rack and allow to cool.

  • While it is cooling, you can make the lemon glaze.

    Put the sugar and lemon juice into a pan and heat over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.

  • Make holes in the cake with a long thin wooden stick and pour the glaze over the top of the cake so that it soaks down into the cake. Use a pastry brush to help to spread it around evenly.

Serve with

Lemon poppyseed cake is delicious for a simple afternoon tea just on its own with a nice black tea like Earl Grey or English Breakfast.

If you serve it as part of a full spread, try serving it with cucumber sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches and egg mayonnaise sandwiches. English tea scones would work well and it's divine to serve toasted pikelets alongside this spread. Serve with any black tea, or if you prefer herb tea, fresh mint works really well.

If you loved this Lemon Poppyseed Cake recipe, you might also enjoy Lemon Scones!