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Lemon-Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

Now then. That was fun, wasn’t it?

I’m imagining you all with bellies full of turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce and cornbread and maybe too much pie. As for me, this past week was fulfilling in other ways. Time in Israel, time with family, a wedding, a weekend, and plenty of food (though none of it Thanksgiving-worthy; I’m craving some pumpkin right about now).

But it’s back to work, so around here, it’s back to business. And by business, I mean lemon poppy seed sour cream cake.

This cake is a vague riff on one I made a while back, with lots of maple and plenty of yogurt and, surprisingly, not a trace of butter.

That was a good cake. This one is, too. It’s fragrant from lemon and crunchy from those beautiful blue poppy seeds. It’s plenty moist, just like its predecessor, but slightly lighter, because I swapped out the maple for plain old sugar. If you’re a demerara kind of person, this cake would be just lovely with half regular, half demerara sugar.

Post-Thanksgiving blues can overwhelm, especially when there’s work involved. Take a piece of this to the office. While you’re at it, bake up a second loaf for a friend. It’s guiltless enough to count as an only-slightly-indulgent breakfast, and perfect with afternoon tea, which we’ve been drinking professionally these last couple of weeks. It’s light enough to make even these increasingly cold days lighter and brighter. Before winter comes around, I’d like to keep soaking up this autumn sun. And eat more of this cake.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

1 stick (4 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon zest, juice, and vanilla, and continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Add sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry mix to the batter and mix on low speed just until flour mixture disappears. Add poppy seeds and mix for a few more seconds until distributed.

Butter and flour a loaf pan. Pour batter into pan, smooth the top of the batter, and transfer pan into the oven. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide a knife around the perimeter of the cake and carefully invert onto a rack.

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  • Marty L. November 27, 2012,

    Sure looks tempting . . . hmm, that or the rooibos tea cookies?
    As an aside, can you save me the trouble of hours of research and just tell me what the best stand mixer is? Need to bite the bullet but overwhelmed by too many choices . . . thanks.

    • rivka November 29, 2012,

      Rooibos tea cooked AND pound cake. Why not both?

      Stand mixer: I’m loyal to Kitchenaid. Strong motor, large bowl, great attachments. ‘Nuff said.

  • Ilene November 28, 2012,

    Looks amazing, Rivka! I immediately thought of the maple yogurt cake, which I love and gave as many a holiday gift last year! Maybe I have new one to start with this season…

    • rivka November 29, 2012,

      I do love that maple yogurt cake, and I also have given it as a gift to countless new parents. Such a great thing afternoon tea (or late-night snacking… :))

  • Lainey December 8, 2012,

    I was making this lemon poppy seed cake….it calls for the zest & juice of 2 lemons. It only states to put the ZEST in but not the juice but there is no where else in the recipe to add the juice. I did & the entire thing curdled….DAMN!

    Comments please! What a waste of 6 eggs as I was doubling the recipe!!! Not happy!

    • rivka December 25, 2012,


      So sorry to hear you had problems with this recipe. (Also sorry for the delay – I’ve been out of the country for a couple weeks.)

      When did you add the juice? I added mine to the wet ingredients (and have updated the recipe to reflect this – apologies for the omission!) and had no problems. Let me know and I’ll try to troubleshoot this with you.