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.