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lemon poppy seed cake on a cake stand with a slice taken out

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American


A delightfully tart and sweet cake with lemon curd and cream cheese buttercream frosting between layers of soft lemon-poppy seed cake.



For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 container (10 oz) lemon curd

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 16 ounces (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 810 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 12 tablespoons poppy seeds


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray bottoms and sides with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until well mixed.
  3. In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat granulated sugar, 1/2 cup butter, vegetable oil and vanilla on medium-high speed 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time on medium-high speed until well combined.
  4. Add half of flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir together on low speed until well combined. Stir in milk and 1/2 cup lemon juice until combined. Stir in remaining flour mixture until just combined. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 2 tablespoons poppy seeds until just combined.
  5. Divide batter evenly among three prepared pans. Bake on center rack of oven 23-27 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool cakes in pans 2-3 minutes, then carefully transfer cakes to cooling racks to cool completely.
  7. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup butter on medium-high speed 1-2 minutes until smooth, light and fluffy. Add 5 cups powdered sugar; stir on low speed until just incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed to fully combine. Beat in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Stir, then beat in just enough of remaining powdered sugar until a smooth, creamy and sturdy frosting forms. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds (if you want a cleaner, whiter look, add 1 tablespoon; if you want a highly speckled look, add 2 tablespoons) until just combined.
  8. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with half of container of lemon curd (about 5 ounces); spread in an even layer to within a 1/2-inch of edges. Top with 1 cup of cream cheese frosting, in dollops; gently spread over curd to cover entire top of cake layer.
  9. Top with second cake layer. Repeat process, topping and spreading with remaining lemon curd and another 1 cup frosting.
  10. Top with third cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting (you might not use all the frosting; just use as much as you want to cover the cake). Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.


  • If the tops of your cakes are domed, use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the domes before stacking in layers. OR, use bake-even strips like I did (they’re seriously magical).
  • For best results, use a large offset spatula to frost cake. For those clean, smooth sides, I used a bench scraper and gently rotated the cake stand while holding the bench scraper along the sides for a smooth finish.
  • Generally speaking, buttercream-frosted cakes can be stored covered at room temperature. But because this cake has a layer of lemon curd, it needs to be stored covered in the refrigerator (it tastes better cold anyway, IMHO).
  • This recipe is adapted from Lindsay of Life, Love and Sugar, the queen of cakes.