lemon poppyseed pound cake

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term “pound cake”?  For me, I immediately think of the countless Sara Lee pound cakes I stuffed into my mouth as a child.  Little did I know that the pound cake was the original butter cake, and was made of 1/4 flour, 1/4 butter, 1/4 eggs and 1/4 sugar.  This simple yet effective recipe earned it the French name “quatres-quarts” (or four fourths).

The pound cake recipe I chose to follow comes once again from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Cake Bible“, and contains a few changes from the original structure.  The milk adds moisture and structure, the butter tenderizes the crumb (giving the cake a silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture that I always got from Sara Lee poundcakes), and the addition of leavening agents (baking powder) gives the cake a bit more rise to make the cake tender.

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake

Rose also gives instructions on how to create a dense, chewier version of a pound cake (similar to somewhat-old Sara Lee cakes), which I shall also provide.  At the last minute, I decided to make a lemon poppyseed variation, since it took me back to my childhood when I would pop a big chunk of the stuff in my mouth and then chug a full glass of milk right before school… good times 🙂  No wonder I was so round…  Poppyseeds can be found in the spice aisle normally in case you’re wondering.  The addition of the lemon syrup has the side benefit of keeping the cake fresh for a few days longer than usual.

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake

from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum


  • 3 Tablespoons milk (I used 3 TBSP + 2 tsp skim milk, since I never drink whole milk, then added 1 tsp of heavy cream, since 3 tsp = 1 TBSP)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups sifted cake flour (5.25 oz)
  • 1 Tablespoon loosely packed grated lemon zest (6 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds (1 oz or 28 grams)
  • ¾ cup sugar (5.25 oz)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 13 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • for the lemon syrup:
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar (2.75 oz)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 oz)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl lightly combine the milk, eggs and vanilla.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients, lemon zest and poppyseeds and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.



3. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Mixing the butter and egg mixture

Mixing the butter and egg mixture

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. The batter will be almost a ½-inch from the top of a 4-cup loaf pan. (If pan is smaller, use excess batter for cupcakes.)

Batter in loaf pan

Batter in loaf pan

5. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover loosely with buttered foil after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. (tip: Remember not to overbake!  Overbaking is one of the most common mistakes resulting in dry cakes.  I would start checking for doneness after about 45 minutes, mine was done at around the 45 min mark)

6. When the cake is almost done, prepare the syrup.  In a small pan over medium heat, stir the sugar and lemon juice until dissolved.

7. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a cooling rack, poke the cake all over with a wire tester or toothpick, and brush it with 1/2 the syrup.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and invert it onto a greased wire rack.  Poke the bottom of the cake with a wire tester, brush it with some syrup, and reinvert onto a greased wire rack.

Brush with syrup

Brush with syrup

8. Brush the sides with the remaining syrup and allowt o cool before wrapping airtight.  Store 24 hours before eating to give the syrup a chance to distribute evenly.  The syrup will keep the cake fresh a few days longer than a cake without syrup.


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