The ultimate lemon cake recipe! My Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with cream cheese frosting is bursting with incredible lemon flavor in every single bite! This incredible cake recipe is made with lemon poppy seed cake layers, my Homemade Lemon Curd filling, and creamy lemon and poppy seed cream cheese frosting! You’ll love this easy and delicious lemon dessert recipe! It’s perfect for spring and summer, and for spring holidays such as Easter and Mother’s Day!
Watch My Lemon Cake Video Tutorial
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Ingredients for Cake Recipe
Here are the main ingredients you’ll need to make this beautiful and delicious lemon poppy seed cake!
- Buttermilk: using a soured milk for this cake recipe makes the layers extra moist and soft! Make your own buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of whole milk.
- Eggs, Oil, Sugar: for making the lemon cake layers. You can also use melted, unsalted butter in place of the oil. And for best results, have the eggs at room temperature.
- Lemon Extract: a great way to add even more lemon flavor to the cake and the frosting! If you don’t have this extract, simply add more lemon zest.
- Lemon Zest: the best way to add great lemon flavor! Use extra lemons for even more flavor.
- Flour, Baking Soda & Baking Powder
- Poppy Seeds: most grocery stores will sell poppy seeds in the spice aisle. I buy mine from a local Russian store, where they sell the seeds in bulk. You can also try ordering them online.
- Cream Cheese: soften the cheese for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before using it to make the cream cheese frosting.
- Butter: soften the butter at room temperature. The butter needs to be just soft, not melted!
- Confectioner’s Sugar: use a fresh bag of icing sugar to make a smooth frosting.
- Lemon Juice: use freshly squeezed lemon juice for making the lemon curd filling.
- Eggs, Egg Yolks & Sugar: for making the lemon curd.
Supplies & Tools for the Recipe
Need some supplies to make this recipe? Shop my Amazon Affiliate links for the tools I use in my kitchen. Using these links won’t cost you extra and I’ll earn a small commission.
- Ateco Turn Table – every cake baker needs this handy cake decorating table. It makes assembling and decorating a breeze!
- Cake Spatulas – I use a variety of spatulas for decorating my cakes, including these offset spatulas, a cake scraper, and these small offset spatulas.
- 8-inch Fat Daddios Cake Pans – these are my favorite cake pans! They bake evenly and also clean easily!
- KitchenAid Hand Mixer – I love this small but powerful mixer for small jobs when I don’t require my heavy duty stand mixer!
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Layers
This lemon cake is made with the best, moist and lemony lemon poppy seed cake layers! They’re super easy to make and so delicious!
- I start preparing the cake batter with the liquid ingredients first: oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugar and lemon and vanilla extracts. Using lemon extract is a great way to add even more lemon flavor. You can also use lemon oil for this lemon cake recipe.
- Next, I combine the dry ingredients and then mix them into the wet ingredients. It’s important to not overmix the cake batter once the dry ingredients have been added. Overmixed cake batter will cause the cake to be heavy and even gummy.
- I add the zest of 2 lemons and the poppy seeds last. If you want even more lemon flavor, add the zest from 3 lemons!
- I divide the cake batter among three pans and then my cake layers are off to the oven. It’s really important to cool the cake layers completely before assembling the cake. Warm cake layers will melt the frosting and cause a huge mess! Try placing the cake layers into the refrigerator to cool faster!
Easy, Homemade Lemon Curd Filling
My easy, 5-ingredient lemon curd recipe is the perfect complement to this lemon poppy seed cake recipe! It’s the perfect filling – creamy, zesty, lemony and so delicious! Plus, it’s super easy to make! I have a separate video recipe for this lemon curd so make sure to check it out.
I like to make my lemon curd the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. You can make it the same day, too. Just make sure it’s completely cooled before using it to fill the cake. My recipe makes about 2 cups of lemon curd, while this cake requires approximately 1 cup. You either cut my original recipe in half, or serve the extra lemon curd on the side, which is what I do!
Making Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Lemon poppy seed cake and cream cheese frosting are a marriage made in heaven!! For this lemon cake, I’m using my easy Cream Cheese Frosting recipe and adding a few extra ingredients. I have a separate video recipe for this frosting so make sure to check it out! In addition to my original recipe, I add a teaspoon of lemon extract and a tablespoon of poppy seeds. You can also add the zest for 1 lemon in place of the extract.
This frosting can be a bit soft when you first make. My solution is to refrigerate the frosting for a couple of hours, which will make the frosting thicker and easier to work with. You can even make the frosting the night before, cover it and chill it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, remove the frosting from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for an hour to soften.
Assembling the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
I love all the different parts of making a cake but assembling one is the most fun for me! This lemon poppy seed cake is so easy and straight forward to put together.
- First, I level the tops of each cake layer, then I spread about 1 ½ tablespoons of the lemon curd on top. This will help moisten the cakes and add more flavor.
- Next, I add a generous layer of frosting on top. In order to keep the lemon curd filling from seeping out the edges, I pipe a barrier ring of frosting around the edge of the cake to keep it inside. I fill the inside with more lemon curd.
- Once I’ve put together the cake, I apply a thin, crumb coat layer of frosting on the outside, to seal in all the crumbs. The cake then needs to be refrigerated for 15 to 30 minutes before it’s ready for the final frosting coat.
- I garnished the cake simply with lemon wedges and wax flowers for a light springtime look! I recommend adding the lemon wedges right before serving to ensure they don’t dry out.
- Keep the cake refrigerated if you’re not serving it right away. You can even make it 2 to 3 days ahead of time.
Perfect for Spring & Summer!
This incredible lemon cake is so perfect for spring and summertime! The light lemon flavors with the creamy frosting are not overwhelming or heavy. It’s the perfect cake for spring holidays, such as Easter or Mother’s Day! If you’re planning anything special for these holidays, you can make my lemon poppy seed cake up to 3 days ahead of time and just keep it stored in the refrigerator! And feel free to garnish the top of the cake with your favorite edible/safe flowers or roses. If you’re not sure if a flower is edible or safe to use as a garnish, I recommend using Google search to find out.
Enjoyed this lemon cake recipe? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!
- Lemon Pound Cake – this super easy and delicious lemony cake is topped with a lemon glaze and can be made in a Bundt pan or in loaf pans!
- Lemon Mousse Cake – stunning lemon cake with lemon cake layers, fluffy lemon mousse and lemon jell-o topping!
- Lemon Meringue Cake – this lemon cake is made with fluffy meringue frosting and lemon curd filling!
- Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins – this easy muffin recipe is always a huge hit with everyone! Extra moist, delicious and lemony!
- Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls – perfect for spring and summer! Lemon rolls filled with poppy seeds, topped with a lemon cream cheese icing!
- Strawberry Lemonade Cake – fruity, zesty and sour cake with strawberry lemon cake layers, lemon buttercream and lemon curd!
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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe (video)
For Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:
- ¾ cup light cooking oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp EACH: baking powder, baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- Zest from 2 to 3 lemons
- 3 tbsp poppy seeds
For Lemon Curd:
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 16 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temp
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
For the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Layers:
- Preheat the oven to 350F/177C. Line three, 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray.
- Prepare the lemon poppy seed cake first. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugar and extracts. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the eggs are well beaten. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Next, add the lemon zest and poppy seeds and mix again for about 20 seconds, just until combined. Divide the cake batter evenly between the three pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake layers out of the pans and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Making the Lemon Curd:
- While the cake layers are cooling, prepare the lemon curd and cream cheese frosting. For the lemon curd, place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into a small, stainless-steel pot. Whisk the eggs and sugar vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale, then pour in the lemon juice. Cook the lemon curd over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens into a pudding-like consistency. Do not boil the lemon curd. Remove it from the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract. Allow the butter to melt, then whisk until the lemon curd is smooth. Cover the lemon curd with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming on the top, then refrigerate until completely cooled.
- NOTE: my original lemon curd recipe makes approximately 2 cups; you’ll need 1 cup for this cake recipe. You can serve the extra lemon curd with each slice and keep the extras stored in the refrigerator for 1 week. You can also cut the recipe in half if you don’t want the extra filling.
Making the Frosting:
- For the cream cheese frosting: place the softened butter into a mixer bowl and beat on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until the butter is fluffy. Next, add in the softened cream cheese and continue beating on high speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Add in the confectioner’s sugar and mix again for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the frosting is smooth. Add the lemon extract and poppy seeds last and mix for about 30 seconds, just until combined. Place the frosting into the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, to thicken the frosting.
Assembling the Cake:
- To assemble the cake, first ensure that the cake layers and lemon curd are completely cooled. Watch my video recipe to see how I put this cake together. Using a long-serrated knife, carefully level the tops of each cake layer. Spread approximately 1 ½ tablespoons (22 ml) of the lemon curd onto each cake layers and spread it evenly with an off-set spatula. Next, add a generous amount of the cream cheese frosting and spread it evenly to the edges.
- Transfer about 1 cup of frosting into a pastry bag tipped with a large round or star tip; I used Ateco tip #847. Pipe a barrier ring of frosting around the edge of the cake, this will keep the lemon curd inside and prevent it from seeping out. Add approximately 1/3 cup (80 ml) of lemon curd into the center, then top with the next cake layer and repeat the process.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin, crumb coat layer of frosting, then refrigerate the cake for 15 to 30 minutes. Once the cake has chilled, use the remaining frosting to cover the cake. Garnish the top with lemon wedges and edible/safe flowers, if desired. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour prior to serving. Keep the cake refrigerated when not enjoying.