Want to know a terrible secret of mine?
I’m not a fan of lemon desserts.
Before you gasp and declare, “You heathen! Do you hate the sunshine too? And fresh flowers? Or bright yellow Golden Retrievers???”
The answer is no. For proof, just look at that face.
I’m not crazy about lemon desserts because of the hassle that goes along with making them.
I never seem to have lemons available in my kitchen, and the ones I do have when it comes time to bake with them are moldy or on their way to calcification. It’s a nag to zest them, and juicing them inevitably results in the highly acidic juice seeping into the dozens of cuts on your hands that you didn’t know you had and burning like hell.
Plus, I used to make about 3 lemon meringue pies a day at a restaurant I used to work at, so the burnout is real. Especially since I used a janky juicer that I’m pretty sure the owner bought at a garage sale.
On top of that, the taste has always been meh. I remember growing up with grocery store glazed lemon bundt cakes that came in a fortress of impossible-to-open plastic packaging. It simply never compared to a gooey explosion of chocolate decadence, or a classic vanilla cake covered in gobs of buttercream.
Of course it gets the job done when you have an unrelenting sweet tooth, just like boxed wine will suffice when Game of Thrones is on and there’s nothing else in your pantry and you CANNOT watch a scene with Cersei without holding a goblet of red wine.
Then, one day, the sunshine came out.
We were at Mozart’s, a coffee shop on Lake Austin for an afternoon of caffeine, shorts, and people/dog-watching. In their pretty pastry case among the rows of cinnamon rolls and croissants was the biggest, most beautiful hunk of lemon poppy seed cake I’ve ever seen. It was monstrous, and seemed to whisper sweet nothings in my ear from behind the glass, assuring me one bite could change that meh feeling I’ve had toward lemon for so long.
I had to have it.
Although it was a slab big enough to feed our party of four, I dominated it. It was tender, refreshing, specked with the adorable dots of poppy seeds and topped with a tart, perfectly sweet glaze.
I would love to be a fly on the wall in their bakery when they make it. What on earth does that pan look like? How many gallons of batter are poured in to make it so thick? How many freaking lemons are juiced and zested to make it, and what poor soul is responsible for it?
I may never know how they do it, so I made my own, and it was a suitable second. I chose to bake it in a springform pan because I find them delightful. It comes out a bit more thin with crisp edges for all of you lovers o’ crust and is topped with a tart, sweet glaze. Cut it into wedges and serve with ice cold milk for breakfast, brunch, or that hangry feeling you get right around 5:30, just between the end of work and dinner.
You can bake this recipe as a bundt, in a bread pan, or even in a muffin tin for quick, go-to snacks of sunshine. It’s the perfect cake to welcome summer with open arms.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they completely mix in before adding the next.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. In increments, add to the wet mixture with the mixer running until combined. Add the poppy seeds. Try not to overbeat.
- Butter an 8" spring form pan and pour the batter in, smoothing the top. Place in an oven heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30 minutes, or until the center is set and the edges are slightly golden.
- For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. If you want your glaze to be thicker, add more powdered sugar. To thin it out, add a bit of water or more lemon juice. Drizzle over the top of the slightly cooled cake.