Soured by Cookies, Saved by Lemon Cake

Soured by Cookies, Saved by Lemon Cake

I tried a couple of new cookie recipes recently and as the saying goes, you win some you lose some.  The first recipe Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies came from a book I received to review, Holiday Cookies.  Decidedly MEH.  The malt flavor was barely discernible and the milk chocolate did not stand out.  Oh well, back to the proverbial drawing board.  A few days later with the fall season in full swing, a recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles popped up on my feed. I should know better than to get swept up by fall pumpkin fever but they looked delicious so I baked a batch.  Coming out of the oven, they looked good-a tinge of orange from the pumpkin, and a little cake-ier than I like but that was okay.  I waited for the first batch to cool, grabbed one off the rack and took a bite…MEH.  Noooo, another cookie bust.  Little pumpkin or spice flavor, very nondescript.  I lamented to a friend and decided I should bake something tried and true to restore my confidence, maybe Momofuku’s corn cookies, love em’ plus the Hubster was decidedly in favor of a batch.

But once again a new recipe caught my eye, not a cookie but a cake recipe.  Food52 posted a lovely lemon poppy seed cake from Ottolenghi.  I am a sucker for lemon and poppy seeds.  Hoping my luck would change and having the utmost confidence in Food52 and Ottolenghi I decided to make the cake.  After all, I can’t have three lemons in a row, even if the last recipe actually calls for lemons.

The cake is quick and easy. The recipe starts with beating eggs and sugar together until thick and frothy. Heavy cream is then added to the egg and sugar blend. I took the heavy whipping cream straight out of the fridge and with the mixer running, added it in a steady stream to the egg mixture. Beat until it has the consistency of pancake batter. The flour is then folded in along with the melted butter, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. The recipe calls for 3 lemons to make 1 tablespoon lemon zest but I only needed two good sized lemons and that’s with really packing the measuring spoon (because I LOVE lemon). The lemon was not overpowering. While the cake was baking, I made the lemon icing.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

As soon as the cake is removed from the oven spread the icing over the top.  Do not even think of forgoing the icing.  It adds that sweet-tart lemony oomph and creates a beautiful glossy sheen.  The cake has a nice crumb and is denser than say a sponge cake but lighter than a traditional pound cake. If you are a poppy seed addict you could increase the amount as you like. Thankfully this cake saved my week of baking.  From cookie bust to cake champ. Sweet success.

Bookmark this cake and make it soon, you’ll thank me.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (National Trust)


  • From Ottolenghi's Sweet by way of Food52
  • Makes 1 standard loaf 9x5 loaf pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 -1.5 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 1/3 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  • Heat the oven to 350° (180° C).
  • Grease the loaf pan(s) and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
  • Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale and frothy.
  • Add the cream and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture has combined, thickened a little, and turned pale.
  • In the meantime, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stir in the poppy seeds and lemon zest, and set aside.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl, then use a rubber spatula to fold this into the egg mixture before folding in the butter, poppy seeds, and zest.
  • Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan(s) so that it rises three-quarters of the way up the sides.
  • Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • To make the glaze, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the lemon juice in a bowl. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, spreading it over the top so that it sinks in and creates a nice coating.
  • Set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.
  • Let it come to room temperature before serving.
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