I was craving lemon poppyseed cake last week, partly because I miss California/Los Angeles. When I was there last fall, I went to Sqirl and got lemon poppyseed cake that blew. my. mind. I still think about it often, especially when the temperature drops forty degrees overnight and I have to break out my winter parka again.
To soothe myself, I made a lemon poppyseed cake Saturday night. I was looking for a recipe that would be similar to the one they used at Sqirl, but I had trouble finding one. If you google “Lemon Poppyseed Cake,” most recipes will be for pound cake. I wanted something fluffier and lighter.
Then I saw this recipe for poppyseed cake on Food52. The recipe didn’t call for any butter or flour. I was a little skeptical because what is a cake without butter and flour? Then I decided to take a chance. The cake in the picture at the top of the recipe looked delicious, and so did the mandarin orange garnish. I bought a bag of mandarins, poppy seeds, and lemons, and got cracking.
The recipe is pretty straightforward except for the granny smith apple. Why put a grated granny smith apple in lemon poppyseed? you may ask. I asked myself the same question. The answer is that it makes the cake even more moist and light. It dissolves in the oven while the cake is baking and adds a little more tartness to the batter.
You can top the cake however you’d like but I’d recommend going the mandarin route, especially if you like oranges or you need an extra jolt of vitamin C. I also sprinkled some powdered sugar on top for extra sweetness.
Next time I make the cake I might make two layers, and then put a layer of orange blossom or rose water icing in between. The rose water/lemon combo would resemble the cake I tried at Sqirl, but if I’m going to be honest, I don’t think anything could top that cake.
Here’s a song to get you started on your lemon poppyseed cake-making journey. I found it on NPR’s “H*ckin Good Puppies” playlist, which I would highly recommend checking out if you like dogs or songs about dogs.