Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This lemon poppy seed cake strikes the perfect balance between tart and sweet! Made with homemade lemon curd, a moist poppy seed cake and a rich, creamy vanilla buttercream frosting, this delicious cake is sure to brighten your day!

  • Author: The Simple, Sweet Life
  • Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: One 6" Cake - 16 slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American


Units Scale

For the lemon curd:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about half of a large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

For the lemon poppy seed cake:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (about half of a large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

For the vanilla buttercream frosting:

  • 10 egg whites
  • 2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tbsp water
  • 1.25 lb unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yellow food coloring (optional)

For the ganache drip:

  • 4 oz yellow candy melts
  • 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream


  1. For the lemon curd, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and egg yolks in a bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  2. Cook the mixture until it thickens considerably, stirring occasionally (it should reach an almost pudding like consistency).
  3. Once the lemon curd has thickened, remove the bowl from the pot of boiling water and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cube the butter and whisk it into the slightly cooled curd mixture. Cover and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator before use.
  5. In a bowl, combine the milk and butter for the cake, and microwave using 20 second increments until you can stir the mixture smooth.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Pour into three 6″ parchment paper-lined and greased cake pans. Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. In a small saucepan, combine the water and granulated sugar for the frosting over high heat and bring to a boil, cooking until the sugar becomes clear. While the syrup cooks, whip your egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites (with the mixer on high) and whip until cooled to room temperature.
  10. Decrease the mixer to low, add the butter and vanilla extract, and continue beating on high until the frosting is thick and smooth.
  11. Level your cakes (if necessary) and spread a layer of frosting between each. Use your offset spatula to carve out an indent in the frosting and fill with lemon curd.
  12. Coat the outside with a thin layer (crumb coat) and allow to set up in the refrigerator.
  13. Cover the cake with frosting, using an offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the frosting and remove any excess.
  14. Tint the remaining frosting a shade or two of yellow.
  15. Dab on the yellow frosting on the lower half of the cake and use your offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth it.
  16. In the microwave, heat the candy melts and heavy whipping cream using 10 second increments until it stirs smooth.
  17. Pour the ganache into a piping bag and drip down the sides.
  18. Spoon the remaining frosting into a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe a crown of frosting around the top. Optional: Garnish with sprinkles.


  • Make the lemon curd in advance: If you're looking to save some time, you can make the lemon curd a week and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Measure your batter: Making even layers of cake start with measuring your batter. For this recipe, that means about roughly 9.3oz of batter per pan (for three pans).
  • Chill your cake: Cool cake is easier to cut and handle, so chilling your cake for a short while before use will make this process easier.
  • Saving time with store-bought frosting: If you don't want to make your own frosting for this recipe, you can substitute about 2.5lb (or 2.5 containers) of store-bought frosting.
  • Crumb coat: Spreading a thin layer of frosting around the sides and top of the cake, and then refrigerating it will lock in any crumbs and keep them from reaching the surface of your frosted cake.
  • The trick for smooth frosting: You’ll need a rotating cake stand and a bench scraper. Place the small end of the bench scraper on the cake stand, long end against the frosting and turn the table. Once excess frosting is removed, heat the scraper in hot water, wipe and drag around the outside of the cake.
  • Storage: This cake will keep at room temperature, uncut, for 3-4 days. For best results, cover it with a plastic lid, bowl or place it in a cardboard box.
  • Storing cut cake: Once your cake is cut, you’ll want to protect the exposed cake area. The easiest way to do this is with a piece of plastic wrap or two.

Cake recipe adapted from Miette's Hot Milk Cake recipe
Lemon curd recipe adapted from Miette's Lemon Curd recipe


Keywords: easy lemon cake recipe, how to make lemon cake, lemon poppy seed cake