Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

One Of The Greats

Afternoon tea, cake sales, summer fetes, the local coffee shop, all of these places have at least one thing in common, alongside the wee fairy cakes & chunks of cheese & pineapple on sticks, you’re guaranteed to find some form of lemon drizzle or poppy seed cake on offer.


No self-respecting baker would be without such a baking classic in their repertoire & I’m no exception. I think it’s one of those cakes though that each of us will not only make time & time again for pure cake pleasure but also to tweak it just a little each time to suit our own tastes. More lemon, more sweetness, softer, lighter, more moisture… whatever it may be, you’d be lying if you said that you’ve only baked this once.


The perfect partner to a cup of tea. Whilst that brief incomparable moment of respite that can only be induced by the custom of tea & cake is achievable by most, there are a select few cakes (a noble collection if you will), that hold that special place in our hearts to accompany our cuppa.


Lemon loaves have an air of nostalgia about them, many have baked them for others (that selfless sort), many have closely guarded family recipes & anyone who owns a cookbook has a recipe for one somewhere in those pages. But what is it about a lemon loaf that makes it such a crowd pleaser? Personally I think it’s the sweet, citrus flavours that remind us Brits of sunnier climes & those happy memories that our brains have intrinsically linked with the taste.


My version of this classic cake is the resulting attempt at using up leftover ingredients (more specifically a set of manky looking lemons). The resulting little loaf is moist with a beautiful crumb, packed full of zesty flavour balanced against the slightly more savoury taste & crunch of poppy seed. If ever there were a prize for the best smelling cake in the oven, then this, my friends, would win hands down.


(makes one 2lb loaf)


  • 200g butter
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 150g yogurt
  • 4 tbsp poppy seeds (toasted)*
  • zest x3 lemons

*to toast the poppy seeds, spread them out onto a lipped baking tray & place into the preheated oven for 10 minutes, allow to cool fully before using

For the syrup:

  • Juice of x3 lemons, reserve 2 tbsp for the icing
  • 50g granulated sugar

For the topping:

  • Juice of x1 lemon
  • Icing sugar
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds


  • Grease & line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment
  • In a large bowl beat together the butter & sugar until light
  • Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time, beating well after each one
  • Sift in the flour & add in the lemon zest, fold this through
  • Add the yogurt & poppy seeds to the bowl & fold through until well combined & no dry pockets of flour remain
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf tin & bake at 180°C for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until it turns a golden brown colour & a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean when removed
  • Whilst the cake is baking, make the syrup by placing the lemon juice (minus the reserved 2 tbsp of juice for the icing) & sugar into a small saucepan set over a low heat until all of the sugar has dissolved
  • Once baked, remove the cake from the oven & use a skewer to poke holes throughout it
  • Carefully spoon the syrup mixture over the cake whilst it’s still warm
  • Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack
  • Once cooled, make the icing by combining the lemon juice & icing sugar, adding enough or more of each to make a pourable consistency
  • Drizzle the icing over the cake before sprinkling over the remaining poppy seeds



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