Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake


This easy loaf cake is sure to be a household favorite. Rubbing lemon zest into the flour and sugar before adding the other ingredients is a simple trick that allows for the bright lemon oils in the zest to disperse evenly in the batter. This makes the most of the lemon flavor that is packed in the rind of the fruit. We also add poppy seeds to the dry ingredients so that each slice is peppered evenly with specks of dark purple. Sour cream adds richness and tenderness to this already tender cake, and the juice of the zested lemons enhances the lemony quality of the cake and helps keep the interior deliciously soft. Since this loaf cake is an oil-based cake, you don't have to worry about dryness—the cake stays moist for days after it's made as long as it's well wrapped in plastic wrap. The glaze that coats the cake is a simple mixture of powdered sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Immediately after the cake is glazed, we sprinkle more poppy seeds on top for color and texture. As the glaze sits, it hardens and holds the poppy seeds in place.

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs



  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced (about 1/4 cup juice)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 Tbsp. juice)


  1. Make Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9- x- 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and zest of 2 lemons. Whisk aggressively for 1 minute to incorporate the ingredients and to rub the lemon zest into the flour and sugar. Add poppy seeds, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

  2. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, oil, and vanilla until homogenous. Add to dry ingredients and stir until no pockets of dry ingredients remain. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool before inverting out of pan.

  3. Make Glaze: In a bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth. The glaze should be thick enough to make ribbons that slowly dissolve. If icing is too thick, add a little water to loosen; if icing is too thin, add a few more tablespoons of powdered sugar to thicken. Spread icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle immediately with more poppy seed for garnish. Allow the icing to set before slicing.

    Lemon Poppyseed Cake
    Micah A. Leal
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