Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

This cake is dreamy: soft, fluffy, buttery, lemon-y and it melts in your mouth. It is amazing on its own, but the lemon syrup gives it an extra kick and fresh citrus aroma.


We just finished a family feast of roasted spare ribs, cheese-filled pasta shells, and peanut butter brownies with vanilla ice cream, all inhaled dutifully. Yum. Sit-down meals on the weekends with the family is something I look forward to and I think it’s something we appreciate more now as adults. Are you the same way? Or is my age just showing? :)

This cake wasn’t served on the table today, but will make its way there again in the near future. I made this back in March and featured it in our monthly newsletter (that I have yet to resuscitate), so I apologize for those of you who are subscribed there and have seen it. It’s Autumn, the scent of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are on high demand, and I may be in the minority for someone yearning for my citrus, but I’m a summer child and I welcome it at any season. If you’re like me who need a break from all the usual Fall flavors, here’s my treat for you.

Beginning today, I will begin putting that massive copyright watermark on the photos on this site. I’ve resisted and battled with it because it’s distracting, but our photos have been blatantly used by other sites with the copyright information cut from either the top or bottom of the photo — I mean, are those people for real? Although I don’t do this professionally, they’re still my work, hope you understand. Sorry we have to stare at these. If you have a better solution, let me know.

I hope your weekend is lovely, and if it’s Monday where you are, enjoy a good start of the week.




This cake is dreamy: soft, fluffy, buttery, lemon-y and it melts in your mouth. It is amazing on its own, but the lemon syrup gives it an extra kick and fresh citrus aroma.

This recipe was adapted from the book “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum (2009, Wiley).


For the Cake:

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4  cups and 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups (250 grams) cake flour (or bleached all purpose flour)
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 teaspoons (10 grams) loosely packed lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons or 200 grams) unsalted butter at 65°-75°F (19°-23°C)

For the Lemon Syrup:

  • ¼ cup and ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a large lemon)


  • Metal fluted tube pan, coated with baking spray then dusted with flour


1.    For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F  (325°F if using a dark pan) at least 20 minutes before baking, with the rack on the lower third of the oven.

2.    Whisk together whole eggs, yolk, ¼ cup sour cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl until just combined.


3.    Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, on low speed for 30 seconds. Add butter and remaining sour cream and continue to mix on low speed until just blended. Increase to medium speed and beat for another 1 ½ minutes. The batter will have a lighter color.

4.    Scrape down the sides of the bowl and re-start the mixer on low speed. Add half of the egg mixture from Step 2 and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, do the same for the remainder of the mixture. Transfer the batter into the prepared tube pan and level the surface with a small spatula.

5.    Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the lowest of the tube comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly.

6.    For the Lemon Syrup: While the cake is baking, combine sugar and lemon juice in a small microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

7.    Once the cake is done, place the pan on a wire rack. Poke the cake all over using a thin skewer and brush it with a third of the syrup. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Brush the entire surface of the cake with the remaining syrup.

8.    Cool completely and wrap airtight.

Notes: The original recipe called for double the amount of the lemon syrup, which I found a little too much for the cake. The bottom of the cake ended up being soaked in syrup.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  • September 26, 2010 5:08 pm

    You’ve changed the look of your site! Very nice!
    This recipe looks great. I love anything lemon.
    Sorry you have to put the copyright on your photos, what a drag.

    • joy
      September 28, 2010 7:58 am

      Yes, it was long overdue for a change. Thanks! I know, any excuse to have lemon, I’ll take it. :) The photo thing sucks and I just don’t know what to do about it anymore.

  • Poppy
    September 27, 2010 5:28 am

    This sounds amazing! I am always looking for new poppy seed recipes and I can hardly wait to try this one. The addition of the sour cream is new for me. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • joy
      September 28, 2010 7:59 am

      That’s one cute avatar you have! I think the sour cream make it moist.

  • September 27, 2010 11:35 am

    Lovely cake! I will be making this one for sure!

    • joy
      September 28, 2010 8:00 am

      Thanks, Maria! Let me know if you like it. :)

  • September 27, 2010 2:03 pm


    I am struggling with the same thing about copyrights and watermarks as well …. UGH! Hate hearing when your stuff gets lifted!!! Eat cake, you will feel better!

    • joy
      September 28, 2010 8:03 am

      Me, too, lady, me, too! I can’t get enough of it. If it wasn’t for the fact that poppy seeds lodge themselves into uncomfortable social situations, I would have them in my cakes everyday. LOL. Gah, it just irks me more these days to see my photos cut so people can use it as theirs. I don’t get that at all. I’m making brownies right now, which will definitely make me feel better. :D

  • October 4, 2010 11:30 pm

    Oh man I haven’t had lemon poppy seed cake in ages! And now you’ve flung a craving that can’t be satisfied because sour cream is pretty hard to find here in Kuching.

    Your watermark isn’t too distracting. It’s a necessary evil these days, to combat the greater evil of content scrapers. What program are you using to add the watermarks?

  • Qing
    January 3, 2011 7:55 pm

    I was searching for a lemon poppy seed cake recipe that uses sour cream and came across this recipe. I tried it and it turned out so good! I love how lemony it is. Thank you for sharing!

  • Michelle
    August 21, 2011 1:17 am

    I just made the sour cream poppy seed cake recipe on the back of the solo poppy seed can, but added about 2 tablespoons of lemon zest. I used your method to moisten the cake with a lemon syrup. Will know tomorrow how it all turned out!

    • joy
      September 13, 2011 1:09 am

      Hi Michelle, how did it turn out?

  • October 4, 2011 8:55 am

    I love lemon poppy seed cake but have never made it. This sounds and looks wonderful. I’ll definitely make this.

  • April 1, 2012 5:53 pm

    Joy, I stumbled upon your website looking for lemon poppy seed cake. Do you think it would work in cupcakes form?

  • August 20, 2012 10:24 pm

    I just made this recipe “EGGLESS”… WOW. What a great find. I usually sub pudding or yogurt or cream chz for egg. This time used a lemon pudding and a few tablespoons of soy protein and came out great!!!! Thanks for the great idea. I made cupcakes and they only took about 30 minutes.

  • Nicola
    October 2, 2012 3:08 am

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday and it was a huge hit with the entire family. Served it with vanilla ice cream, although it didn’t really need it as it was moist enough without. Next time will add slightly more lemon syrup. Agree that double would be too much, but it could have benefited from a little more… Will definitely make it again!

  • Ling Ling
    December 27, 2015 12:08 am

    I just baked this cake with your recipe and ate it warm. It was amazingly good! Soft and melt in the mouth indeed. I added a bit more lemon juice to the syrup for a greater tang. This is a keeper. Thanks a lot for sharing :) My 2 year old son loves it too.

    • joy
      January 11, 2016 11:41 am

      I’m so glad to hear that! You’re welcome. You reminded me that I have to make this again, especially during Meyer Lemon season.

Leave A Comment