This recipe has been a long time coming. I have had a crush on all things lemon, and all things poppy seed for most of my adult life. I have enjoyed lemon poppy seed cakes and muffins at more places than I care to admit. I have also made many a box mix and I wasn’t even ashamed because they were good. Then…I made this, and I swear I will never go back. While zesting lemons is a bit tedious, that’s the only even remotely hard part about this recipe. This recipe comes from Joy the Baker, one of my go to sources for delicious baking related recipes. I have made many things from her blog and they have all been absolutely fantastic. I did make a few modifications to this; the most major was adding the poppy seeds. The other thing I omitted was the lemon syrup brushed over the cake at the end. When I made these, I made 8 loaves at once, I tried the lemon syrup on the first round of 2 and I just didn’t love it. The syrup is made with lemon juice, water, and sugar that is cooked down- when lemon juice is cooked down I think it has a tendency to taste a little bit too much like minute-made lemonade from concentrate and a little bit less like fresh bright delicious lemon. I opted to not include brush the remaining loaves with the syrup and I still think they were fantastic and amazingly moist and lemony. If you decide you want to use the syrup, check out joy’s site for instructions.
I should also divulge that this is not actually a pound cake at all. A pound cake is literally made from a pound of butter, a pound of flour, and a pound of sugar. This doesn’t have anywhere near that much butter in it, but don’t worry there are still plenty of other fatty delicious things. In my mind I define a pound cake as a loaf of dense, super moist, cake; which is exactly what this is. Low fat? No. Delicious? Yes!
Modified from Joy the Baker’s Lemon Cake
2 2/3 cups flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (*see note)
6 large eggs (*see note)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Zest of two lemons, finely grated
1 stick plus 7 Tbs (15 Tbs) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp. Poppy Seeds
Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 8 ½- 4 ½ inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess.
Sift together, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Zest the lemons. Combine the lemon zest with the sugar in a large bowl and working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and full of lemon fragrance.
Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in vanilla extract. Then whisk in the cream. Continue with the whisk and gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or four additions. Fold in the melted butter in 3 or 4 additions until it is completely combined. Last but not least, fold in the poppy seeds.
Fill two buttered and floured loaf pans 2/3 full.
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. You can tent them lightly with foil if the tops are becoming too browned; I did this at about 35 minutes.
A few notes:
Note on the vanilla- I know I have mentioned it before, but my absolutely favorite vanilla extract is Sonoma syrup companies’ vanilla bean crush extract. It has amazing flavor and lovely little specks of vanilla bean in it. The only thing better would be actual vanilla bean, which if you do choose to use, use ½ of a bean and add the caviar from the bean into the recipe along with the lemon zest to infuse the sugar.
Note on the eggs- You should always use large eggs when you are following a recipe. Eggs are graded and weighed before they are distributed. Large eggs weigh 2 to 2.25 oz, extra large are 2.25 to 2.5, and jumbo are 2.5 oz. and above. Almost all test kitchens and restaurants will be using large eggs, not jumbo or extra large. While it may or may not make a major difference, baking is very scientific and little things like this can alter the outcome.
I had a thought after completing this recipe. While I didn’t like the syrup with the cooked lemon juice, If you do decide to try the syrup method I would recommend making the simple syrup and THEN adding the lemon juice, to preserve the true lemon flavor.
Another note, even if you have nonstick loaf pans, you still should butter and flour them. This may seem excessive, but I swear once you do it, you will be amazed at how easily those loaves pop out. This is also my preferred method with cake making as well.
Are you wondering why I made 8 loaves at a time? I offered to make these for my parent’s upcoming church coffee hour. One of the main reasons I chose this recipe is because it freezes easily. Carefully wrap each loaf and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, just place on a counter at room temperature.