This lemon poppy seed cake is the perfect dessert for any lemon lover! It’s bursting with fresh lemon flavor with a zesty lemon poppy seed sheet cake smothered in lemon curd cream cheese frosting. It’s bright, moist, and so fun to make!
How to make a lemon poppy seed cake
The key to any good lemon cake is to use FRESH lemons! And this lemon poppy seed cake is no exception.
The cake itself is so flavorful using both lemon zest and lemon juice. The combination of the two adds so much zesty and bright flavor that just cannot be replicated with artificial flavorings.
Outside of the lemon, this cake is built around my fresh strawberry cake recipe. It is so fluffy, so moist, and so delicious that I knew it would be the perfect bake for this recipe as well.
Using a combination of all purpose and cake flour, this cake has a light and tender consistency. Paired with the perfect amount of milk, sour cream, eggs, oil, and butter, this lemon cake is deliciously moist as well!
Of course it wouldn’t be a lemon poppy seed cake WITHOUT the poppy seeds! Just two tablespoons is enough to add that nutty poppy seed flavor without overpowering the cake.
Once the batter is hand mixed, it’s poured into a 9×13 baking pan and baked into moist perfection.
Tips for baking lemon cake with poppy seeds
This cake is incredibly easy to make, but here are a few tips to ensure yours turns out just right:
- Flour – I say this in every post, and for good reason. It’s the number one reason why most recipes fail. If there’s too much flour, this cake will turn dry. If possible, measure the flour with a food scale. Otherwise, to ensure the exact amount, gently spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with a flat edge. If scooped directly into the flour container, the flour becomes packed down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added flour.
- Room Temperature Ingredients – The eggs, milk, and sour cream all make up a large portion of this batter. Because of this, it’s important that they are at room temperature before mixing in. If the batter is too cold, the cake has the potential to bake uneven. In a pinch, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes before use. Then once the milk and sour cream are combined, microwave for about 30 seconds or until just barely warm.
- Fresh Lemons – I highly recommend using fresh lemons for this recipe. The flavor is much stronger than bottled lemon juice.
- Mixing – Mix as much as needed for the wet ingredients, but mix gently once the dry ingredients are added. If the batter is over worked, the cake can deflate in the center and turn out too dense and tough.
- Baking – For the best results, use a light metal baking pan (my favorite is linked at the bottom of the recipe card). Metal conducts heat much better than glass. It’s not a deal breaker, but the right baking pan lends a much more even and tender cake.
Lemon curd cream cheese frosting
Not only is the cake bursting with lemon flavor, but it’s also topped with cream cheese frosting swirled with lemon curd! So if you absolutely love lemon, this is the cake for you.
First, the lemon curd. I’ve included my very simple homemade recipe but store bought lemon curd will also do the trick here. The biggest tip here is to make sure the curd is chilled before use. Otherwise, it can cause the frosting to melt if it’s too warm.
But arguably the best part about this lemon poppy seed cake (or any cake) is the cream cheese frosting.
It’s also so easy to make and consists of just 4 ingredients:
- Cream Cheese
- Powdered Sugar
First and foremost, make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature to get the perfect silky consistency. Cream the two together using an electric mixer then mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
Once combined, mix in the vanilla.
After the cake is completely cool to the touch, smear on the entirety of the frosting on top. Don’t swoop in any swirls just yet.
With an even layer of frosting, spoon small dollops of curd all throughout the frosting. Then go back in and swirl the curd and frosting together. Less is more here, so only do a handful of swirls. Otherwise, the two will completely mix together.
Top with an even sprinkle of poppy seeds and this gorgeous cake is finished!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake FAQs
If you don’t have cake flour on hand, sub in with a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure out 3/4 cup of all purpose flour and then remove 2 tablespoons. Replace those 2 tablespoons with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Whisk to combine and use in place of the cake flour.
Absolutely! Feel free to use any curd you prefer.
If you prefer not to use vegetable oil, use any oil that you like as long as it has a mild flavor. I actually think olive oil could work well here because lemon and olive oil is a great flavor combination.
Yes, bake and cool the cake before storing in the refrigerator. If it’s well covered, it will keep for about 2 days before you can frost and serve.
Yes, the curd can be made about 5 days in advance. Just make sure to store it in the refrigerator.
Keep the frosted cake in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator. It will keep moist for about 4 days.
If you are looking for just a lemon cake, feel free to leave out the poppy seeds!
For more lemon desserts, check out my:
- Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Iced Lemon Loaf Cake
- Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
- Lemon Bar Butter Cookies
- Gooey Lemon Butter Cake
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and leave a review below if you make this lemon poppy seed cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print