Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is a light and fluffy cake flavored with lemon juice, lemon zest, and poppy seeds and topped with a whipped cream cheese frosting. It is a perfect spring or summer cake recipe!
If you're a lemon lover this cake is for you! (I suggest you also check out Lemon Lavender Cookies and Lemon Souffles) The lemon poppy seed cake is a fluffy cake flavored with lemon with a slight crunch from the poppy seeds. The whipped cream cheese frosting complements the tanginess of the lemon perfectly.
I love making sheet cakes because they are pretty simple, but don't lack any flavor. This cake is no exception. I also have recipes for S'mores Sheet Cake and Devil's Food Sheet Cake that are delicious!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- There is a perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors.
- The lemon brings a refreshing and zesty taste while the poppy seeds add a slight crunch.
- The whipped cream cheese frosting is light, and fluffy, and has a rich and creamy flavor.
- This lemon poppy seed cake is so beautiful and perfect for spring or summer.
Fluffy Lemon Cake
- Granulated Sugar will add flavor and sweetness to the cake.
- Lemon zest adds flavor to the cake.
- The eggs will be easier to incorporate the eggs into the batter if they are at room temperature.
- Vanilla is a must in baked goods just like salt. Real vanilla adds a better flavor than imitation vanilla.
- Buttermilk will help make the cake fluffy and moist.
- Lemon juice will add flavor to the cake.
- Poppy seeds add flavor and texture to the cake.
- I always make sure to use unsalted butter when baking because there is no “standard” for the amount of salt they can add to butter. So if you add salt to a recipe and then use salted butter you could end up with a very salty end product.
- Measuring the all-purpose flour correctly is very important. I suggest weighing your flour out. If you want to use a measuring cup, make sure you spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a knife. Don’t use the cup to scoop directly from the flour.
- Baking soda helps the cake to rise.
- Baking powder also helps the cake to rise.
- Salt is a must in baked goods. It will help to balance out the sweetness and improve the overall flavor.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese will be the base of the frosting.
- Granulated Sugar. See the above note.
- Vanilla. See the above note.
- Salt. See the above note.
- Heavy Cream. This will be folded into the cream cheese to make it extra light and fluffy.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Substitutions and Variations
- You can leave the poppy seeds out if you'd like, you'll just be left with a delicious lemon cake.
- The lemon juice and zest can be replaced with any other citrus fruit.
- If you don't like cream cheese you can replace it with equal parts unsalted butter.
This recipe has not been tested with other substitutions or variations. If you replace or add any ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below!
STEP 1: In a large bowl combine the granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Whisk well to help release the oils in the zest. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, lemon juice, and melted butter until combined.
STEP 2: In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Whisk to remove any lumps.
STEP 3: Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees (F) or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
STEP 4: In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt. In a separate medium bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add about ¼ of the whipped cream to the cream cheese. Add the rest of the whipped cream and gently fold.
- Use an oven thermometer. Most ovens run either hot or cold. Using an oven thermometer ensures that you are baking your cake at the perfect temperature.
- Don’t use cold ingredients. Ensure that all of your cold ingredients are at room temperature before making your cake batter. The ingredients will combine much easier and you won’t have chunks of cold butter in your batter.
- Weigh your ingredients. One of the most common baking mistakes that I see is measuring incorrectly, especially with flour. The best way to get accurate measurements every time is to weigh them with a kitchen scale.
- Don't overmix. You need to mix your batter until all of the ingredients are JUST combined, otherwise, you will make too much gluten and your cake will be tough instead of fluffy.
I know lemon zest isn't the most convenient ingredient to use but it really does add to the overall flavor. You can leave it out but expect a lesser lemon flavor overall.
Poppy seeds add texture with their crunch. They are also very visually appealing!
The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.
If stored correctly in an airtight container this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake will last up to 1 week in the fridge.
If stored correctly in an airtight container the cake will last up to a month in the freezer.
More Recipes You'll Love
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
- zest of 2 lemons
- 3 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup (113 grams) buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 1 ¾ cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ block (113 grams) cream cheese
- ½ cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- ¾ cup (170 grams) heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray a 9-inch square cake pan with non-stick spray and lay 2 strips of parchment paper in a cross shape across the bottom. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Whisk well to help release the oils in the zest.
- Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, lemon juice, and melted butter until combined.
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- In a medium bowl combine the room temperature cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix until fully combined.
- In a separate medium bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Be sure not to over whip.
- Add about ¼ of the whipped cream into the cream cheese and mix until completely combined. Add the rest of the whipped cream and gently fold into the cream cheese mixture.
- You can replace the lemon zest and juice with any other citrus fruit.
- The provided nutrition information is an estimate for the entire cake, the calorie accuracy is not guaranteed.
Loved this recipe. Great flavor and I love that its in a cute square pan. Square beats rectangle IMHO 😅😂
Looks so yummy! How do I make this gluten and dairy free? 🙂