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Let's Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake!

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Next week, many Jews around the world will celebrate Purim, a festive holiday celebrating God's miraculous rescue of the Jewish people years ago through the bravery of one young Jewish woman: Esther.

Esther was married to the king of Persia, and while Esther was Jewish, the king was not. When Esther came to live in the king’s palace, tradition says she became a vegetarian in order to avoid eating food that was not kosher. She got her protein from nutrient-rich seeds, nuts, and legumes - so today, many people celebrate Purim by eating vegetarian meals. Some say that poppy seeds were her favorite, and poppy seed cake has become a popular Purim treat.


  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk (full fat recommended)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil - canola and coconut work well
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs separated (room temperature)
  • 3 tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream (full fat recommended)
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Lemon Icing Glaze (optional)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 or 10-inch Bundt cake pan (12-cup capacity) and set aside.

If you like a less crunchy cake with a more pronounced poppy seed flavor, grind the seeds in a coffee grinder. If you prefer a crunchier texture, leave the seeds whole.

In a small saucepan, combine poppy seeds (whole or ground), milk, and honey. Stir till combined and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.

Place poppy seed mixture into a mixing bowl along with butter and sugar. Beat on high until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add egg yolks to the mixture and beat again on high. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and sour cream and beat until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add wet ingredients to dry, using an electric mixer to beat everything together until well combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

In a separate clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the poppy seed batter. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bundt pan depths vary, so make sure the batter fills the pan three-quarters full or less. Do not fill beyond three-quarters full or your cake might overflow during baking. Use a spatula to gently push the batter to the outside of the pan, pushing slightly up the walls. This will help to get rid of any air pockets that might interfere with the pretty details of the pan. Smooth the batter on the top so it is flat and even all the way around the pan.

Bake cake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes. When the edges darken and pull fully away from the sides of the pan and the cake browns all the way across the surface, it’s ready. You should be able to insert a toothpick into the thickest part of the cake and have it come out clean. The top of the cake might be a bit domed. If it bothers you, you can trim it down with a knife to flatten (and snack on the freshly baked trimmings). Yum!

Let the cake cool for exactly 10 minutes, and then invert it onto a flat plate. Tap the Bundt pan gently to release the cake. If your cake sticks, use a plastic knife to carefully loosen the cake around the center tube and sides. Allow cake to cool completely.

Note: For the icing glaze, mix together powdered sugar and fresh lemon juice in a small mixing bowl to form a tangy frosting with the texture of thick honey. Pour the icing into a Ziploc bag, guiding the icing towards one of the lower corners of the bag. Cut the very tip of that corner off the bag. Drizzle the icing onto the cake in a zig-zag pattern by squeezing the Ziploc bag gently to release the glaze. Allow icing to dry completely before serving — this usually takes about 30 minutes.

Tags: Recipes

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