Light and Fluffy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – Updated

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – Tender and light lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake has been a favorite for years, but as I worked on my cookbook, I tweaked a few things to make it even better! You’ll see a similar recipe of this cake in my book with the Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake. 

Why did I make changes? 

You’ll see in the pictures that this cake is meant to be light and fluffy in texture. However, as I talked to many of you, I learned that you struggled to get the same texture I was getting. So, to make it a bit easier, I changed up the creaming method and a few ingredients. 

How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

To make this cake light in color but incredibly moist, you’ll be using egg whites, lemon juice and some sour cream. Using all egg whites ensures we get a lovely white color, but we need to make sure we have enough fat in the cake to create and retain moisture. That’s where the sour cream comes in. One of the updates I made was reducing the sour cream, as to make sure the texture doesn’t get too dense for you. 

Ingredients You Need for Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  • Cake flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Poppy seeds
  • Lemon zest 
  • Lemon juice
  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg whites
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sour cream

One of the most important elements to the cake making process, to ensure you get light and fluffy cake layers, is to make sure you beat the butter, sugar and eggs long enough. We want the batter at this point to look light and fluffy and to be SUPER smooth. 

To obtain a smooth texture, it’s a MUST to use ROOM TEMPERATURE ingredients. Otherwise, these ingredients won’t mix evenly, nor will they be properly absorbed by the dry ingredients – which means: your cake won’t rise well. 

What Flavors Can I Pair with Lemon Poppy Seed?

I also love that the possible flavor combinations in this cake are so versatile. Instead of raspberries, you could use blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. You could also use a compote filling or even preserves.

For this cake, I simply cut raspberries in half and placed them into the buttercream.

Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

For this delicious Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream, make sure to have the following ingredients on hand:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream cheese
  • Lemon extract
  • Vanilla extract

With the cream cheese, this buttercream is slightly softer, so I don’t recommend piping with it.

More Lemon Cakes You’ll Love

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

4.69 from 38 votes
Lemon poppy seed cake layers with lemon cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries.
Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins



  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (6 g) salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp (27 g) poppy seeds, 27 g, soaked in water for about an hour before hand*
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (230 g) lemon juice
  • ½ cup (120 g) sour cream, at room temperature


  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 6 ounces cream cheese slightly cold
  • 1 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 1 tsp (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (4.2 g) lemon extract
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.
  • Filling and garnish: fresh raspberries, split in half about one small carton,



  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar for two minutes on medium-high speed. You should notice the color get lighter and the texture should be smooth.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg whites on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between addition. Continue to beat the mixture on medium-high speed for an addition 2 to 3 minutes. At this point, you're again looking for the batter to be lighter in color and larger in volume.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by ½ cup of the lemon juice. Repeat the additions, ⅓ flour mixture, ½ cup juice and the final ⅓ flour mixture. Only mix until the flour mixture is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for another 20 to 30 seconds on low.
  • Gently fold in the sour cream.
  • Evenly divide the batter between each pan (about 16 ounces of cake batter into each of the three 8-inch cake pans or 12 ounces in each of the 6-inch pans) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Tip: spray your wire cooling racks with nonstick spray).


  • In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add in the sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  • Continue to beat until very fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla and lemon extract extract and beat well.
  • Before using on your cake, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.


  • Place one cake layer, bottom side down, on a cake plate or cardboard cake board. Spread about 1 cup of frosting across the top of the cake layer. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure the frosting is even. Cover with fresh raspberries.
  • Place the next cake layer on top of the raspberries. Gently spread about 1 cup of the lemon cream cheese frosting over it.
  • Repeat steps one and two for the second cake layer. 
  • Place the final cake layer, top side down, on top. Give the cake a quick crumb coat and chill for 10 to 15 minutes in the freezer before frosting the entire cake.


*Poppy seeds absorb moisture. Make sure to soak the seeds to help keep the cake from becoming dry.
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate cream cheese frosting, cream cheese buttercream, Lemon, Lemon Cake, Lemon Poppy Seed, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 1 star
    Unfortunately I just finished the cake (just the cake, not frosting) and I’m going to have to find a new recipe. The cake wasn’t sweet at all and had a weird flour taste. The texture was horrible, stuck to the top of my mouth. I usually stick to the Biscoff cake but my daughter asked for a lemon cake for her birthday so hopefully I like the other ones better.
    Side note, I’m not familiar working with poppy seed. It would be appreciated if it was added to the recipe how much water to add and I didn’t know I was supposed to drain it. Mine soaked up all the water I was confused if I was doing it right.

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