Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

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This moist Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is speckled with poppy seeds and topped with rich cream cheese frosting. Fresh flavor from real lemon zest makes this cake irresistible to lemon lovers! Made in a 13×9 baking dish for easy assembly!

Can’t get enough lemon desserts? Bake up a batch of these Lemon Crunch Cookies next! Or whip up a delicious loaf of our Starbucks Lemon Pound Cake!

Slice of lemon poppy seed cake on a white plate.
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Why this Recipe Works

Everyone who knows me knows that lemon is one of my all time favorite flavors. This lemon cake recipe showcases lemon at its finest: paired with poppy seeds and a decadent frosting.

  • Delicious lemon flavor. We use both fresh lemon and lemon extract in this lemon poppy seed cake recipe.
  • Perfect balance of sweet and zesty.
  • Made in a single layer for easy frosting.
  • Cream cheese icing with a hint of lemon for more rich flavor.
  • Poppy Seeds make lemon cake look even prettier!

You’ll fall head over heels for this easy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake! Try our lemon poppy seed bread recipe next!

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make a 13x9 pan of lemon poppy seed cake.
  • Cake flour. This kind of flour is finer than all-purpose and gives the cake its light consistency. Be sure to measure the flour properly too!
  • Buttermilk. Use my buttermilk substitute or store bought to make the cake super moist.
  • Lemon zest. Use a zesting tool or grater to remove the outer most layer of a lemon’s rind.
  • Lemon extract. Highly concentrated, the extract enhances the lemon flavor in every bite of the cake.
  • Poppy seeds. These get baked into the lemon cake adding a touch of nuttiness to the sweet lemon treat.
  • Egg Whites. Much like my lemon layer cake you’ll be left with a handful of egg yolks. Save them and whip up a batch homemade lemon curd (would even be lovely on this cake when cooled, under the layer of frosting)!
  • FROSTING. The lemon frosting is made using my cream cheese frosting recipe as a starting point!

Easy Instructions

Step by step photos showing how to make lemon poppy seed cake from scratch.

Prep the pan.

Preheat your oven and spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients.

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder and kosher salt together in a bowl.

Combine wet ingredients.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a separate large bowl. Beat in egg whites, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the eggs and butter mixture in batches. Beat well. Fold in the poppy seeds.


Pour the lemon poppy seed cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 35-40 minutes).

Let the cake cool completely while you make the frosting.


Use an electric mixer to cream together butter and cream cheese. Beat in lemon zest and powdered sugar. Spread the frosting all over the top of the cooled cake with an offset spatula. Slice, serve and enjoy.

Slice of lemon poppyseed cake on spatula being lifted out of baking pan.

Tips and Tricks

  • What to do with leftover egg yolks. You’ll have leftover yolks after removing the whites for this recipe. Put them to use with this Easy Homemade Lemon Curd Recipe!
  • Use room temperature ingredients. Plan ahead and let chilled ingredients like buttermilk, eggs and butter come to room temperature. This makes them easier to blend evenly.
  • Lemon frosting variation. Swap the cream cheese frosting with half a batch of my Lemon Buttercream Frosting for more intense lemon flavor!
  • More substitutions. You could also use our sour cream frosting as a finishing touch on today’s cake recipe. Or skip the frosting alltogether and sprinkle with a dusting of powdered sugar instead!

Recipe FAQs

I don’t have cake flour. Can I still make this recipe?

Yes, you can make a cake flour substitute to use in the lemon poppy seed cake. Measure 2 1/2 cups of flour into a bowl. Remove 5 tablespoons of flour from the bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of corn starch to the bowl. Mix to combine and use in the recipe as directed.

Can I make this cake without poppy seeds?

Feel free to leave out the poppy seeds for a simple lemon sheet cake.

How do you store this cake?

Keep the cake covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Can you freeze lemon poppy seed cake?

Yes, this cake can be stored in the freezer for about 1 month. I would freeze it before adding the frosting for best results.

Forkful of lemon cake being taken from slice.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

5 from 5 votes
By: Aimee
This moist Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is speckled with poppy seeds and topped with rich cream cheese frosting. Fresh flavor from real lemon zest makes this cake irresistible to lemon lovers! Made in a 13×9 baking dish for easy assembly!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 20 servings


For the Cake

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 lemon zested
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

For the Frosting

  • cup butter softened
  • 1 package cream cheese softened (8 oz. package)
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
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  • Preheat oven to 350 degres F. Grease and flour a 13×9 baking dish, or use baking spray (or use my homemade cake release). Set pan aside.
  • In a bowl, combine cake flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter with granulated sugar for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the butter and sugar are combined. Add in egg whites, vanilla extract with lemon extract and lemon zest. Beat for 2 more minutes.
  • Add in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Beat just until blended. Fold in poppy seeds.
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Place on middle rack of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just crumbs.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.
  • Cream butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar and lemon zest and beat until smooth.
  • With an offset spatula, spread icing all over cooled cake. ENJOY.


  • Egg Yolks. You’ll have leftover egg yolks after making Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. Don’t let them go to waste! Put them to use with this Easy Homemade Lemon Curd Recipe.
  • Cake flour substitute: If you don’t have cake flour, you can make a substitute with all purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 2 ½ cups of all purpose flour into a bowl. Remove 5 tablespoons of the flour. Replace with 5 tablespoons of cornstarch and combine. Use in the recipe as desired.
  • Bring ingredients to room temperature. Any chilled ingredients should be allowed to come to room temperature for best results. Room temperature butter, eggs and milk blend together more easily and evenly.
  • Lemon Frosting: Use my lemon frosting recipe instead for a burst of more citrus flavor (You’ll need a half batch).
  • LEMONS: 1 zested lemon is about 1 Tablespoon of loose zest.
  • STORAGE: Store cake at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months.


Serving: 1slice, Calories: 290kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 31mg, Sodium: 175mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 29g
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!

Bring more sunshine to your life with this picture perfect Lemon Poppy Seed Cake!

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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on July 29, 2021

Comments & Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    My oven went out about a week ago, and I’ve been seeking out ways to bake. Made this today in an air fryer using an oven safe ceramic pan. I skipped the lemon extract cause I didn’t have it. The buttermilk makes the cake moist, combined with the nutty taste of the poppy seeds. I added some fresh lemon juice in the frosting to accentuate the lemon flavor and I’m glad I did. This is my second recipe from shugary sweets and I haven’t been disappointed. Keep the recipes coming pls

  2. It tasted amazing! Thanks a bunch for sharing this recipe! Will surely make this again, fam really loves it! Well done!

  3. The recipe says 5 egg whites. I don’t see where the recipe has you add egg yolks, but notes say there will be 2 leftover yolks. Do we add three whole eggs and 2 egg whites?

    1. Sorry, it should not have said two, it should have said 5. THanks for catching that 🙂 The recipe is 5 egg whites.

5 from 5 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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