Poppy Seed Tea Cake Recipe (2024)

By Dorie Greenspan

Poppy Seed Tea Cake Recipe (1)

Total Time
1½ hours, plus cooling
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Poppy seeds belong to the small-but-mighty clan of ingredients: Their flavor is nutty, their aroma earthy, and their color, a gorgeous blue-black, dramatic. Even though they’re minuscule, they crack pleasantly under a light bite. Sprinkle poppy seeds over something sweet or savory and you add interest. Give the seeds a star turn and you add surprise. Although this simple loaf cake includes vanilla extract and lemon juice, it’s the flavor that you get from an abundance of poppy seeds that brings everyone back for more. The cake can be served plain, but it’s pretty spread with white icing and speckled with seeds. Remember that because poppy seeds are oily, they can go rancid — store them in the freezer and taste a few before using them.

Featured in: This Cake Is a Taste of a Vanishing New York

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Yield:10 servings

    For the Cake

    • tablespoons/78 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for the pan
    • cups/192 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
    • 1teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼teaspoon fine sea salt
    • cups/250 grams granulated sugar
    • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 tangerine, plus 2 tablespoons juice
    • 4large eggs, at room temperature
    • teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • ½cup/120 milliliters heavy cream, at room temperature
    • cup/47 grams poppy seeds

    For the Glaze (optional)

    • 1cup/120 grams confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 to 2tablespoons lemon juice
    • ½teaspoon poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (10 servings)

424 calories; 21 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 6 grams monounsaturated fat; 3 grams polyunsaturated fat; 54 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 38 grams sugars; 6 grams protein; 130 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Poppy Seed Tea Cake Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Make the cake: Center a rack in the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8½-inch loaf pan. Place the pan on 2 stacked baking sheets or an insulated baking sheet.

  2. Step


    Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Put the sugar in a large bowl, add the lemon or tangerine zest, and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the eggs, one by one, whisking each vigorously before adding the next. Whisk in the juice and vanilla, and then whisk in the heavy cream until smooth.

  3. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, using the whisk to gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter. When the flour is incorporated, add the butter in 2 additions, again stirring gently with the whisk. You should have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the poppy seeds. Scrape the batter into the pan.

  4. Step


    Bake until the cake has risen and cracked along the center and, most important, a tester inserted deep into the cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Take a look at it after about 45 minutes and tent it loosely with foil if it’s getting too dark too fast.

  5. Step


    Transfer the pan to a rack, cool for 5 minutes, and then run a table knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold the cake, then turn it right side up onto the rack. Cool to room temperature.

  6. Step


    Make the glaze, if you like: Stir together the confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth. If needed, add more juice, a drop at a time, until you have an icing that falls slowly from the tip of a spoon. Spread it over the cooled cake to coat evenly, sprinkle with poppy seeds and let stand until set. Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for about 4 days; unglazed, it can be frozen for up to 1 month.



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Cooking Notes


Sorry, did I miss something? I don't see where the poppy seeds need to be ground?


Try Penzeys for poppy seeds or Nuts. com. They sell so many items for bakers.


It takes very little liquid to moisten confectioners sugar. Start with 1 tablespoon, mix it in, then add the second one. You'll be very close to the consistency you want.


you don't grind the seeds, your teeth do that


From what little I know about poppyseed breads, the seeds in them are not ground. The seeds are ground when they need to be in a paste form, as in babkah or other pastries. If you look at the photo of the bread, it's easy to see individual seeds.


My grandmother (parents from Plzen, Bohemia) made the best kolache. Two fillings were with poppyseed: one mixture was with farm fresh sweet cream & the other mixture was with farm fresh cottage cheese. Her two-layer poppyseed cake was with a creme filling w finely chopped walnuts and two egg yolks. Heaven-sent. She had two coffee grinders; one dedicated for coffee beans and the other specifically for grinding poppy seeds. I recall the unique aroma and glossy blue-black color.


You're right! This recipe doesn't call for grinding poppy seeds.An earlier commenter mentioned it while recalling a family recipe.

Lynda H.

Like Dorie Greenspan (see the recipe introduction), I always freeze poppy seeds. They freeze beautifully--and come to room temperature quickly (don't toss still-frozen poppy seeds in the cake). I buy them from Penzey's.

R Johnson

In the cookbook Memories: Vintage Cake Recipes, lemon poppy seed cake starts by soaking the poppy seeds in milk. Also, separate the eggs and whisk the whites into stiff peaks, then fold into the batter for extra loft. I love using a Bundt pan, and try adding a little rum to the glaze.


I tend to use envelope vanilla sugar from Dr. Oetker or similar. It perfumes the cake wonderfully.


I cut the flour by half, 82g. Made it too soupy, like a crepe. I'll double the flour next time to 192g to see if following the instructions makes it better.


thank you Dorie for the heads up for the heads up about possibly rancid poppyseed. Indeed mine were. Saved me a "fools errand" using them but inspired me to buy more, make your lovely tea cake and store the remainder in the freezer!

Marikyn B

The cake recipe on the SOLO poppy seed can has been my go to for years. Results in a moist, versatile cake which can be toasted for breakfast or glazed for dessert. Keeps a long time - but is usually eaten quickly!


I adore poppy seeds, there was a small Bohemian bakery in my hometown and the poppy seed strudels haunts the edges of my memory, that strudel and a chocolate walnut tart I had in the Dordogne region of France are two pastries I wish I could recreate. I look forward to making this cake.I have one wish for NYT recipe developers: if you call for a technique that is off the beaten track, a little explainer off why would be so nice, i.e. why are we putting the loaf pan on double baking sheets?


You could easily grind poppy seeds yourself, with a mortar and pestle or simple grinder.


Love, love this recipe! I’ve made it several times and it turns out perfectly- delicious and moist. I like that it doesn’t stint on the poppy seeds. That’s the point, right? I like it with the glaze. Add additional lemon zest if you want a more intense lemon flavor. I’ve also made it using an orange and it’s delish. Easy to make, no mixer needed. Weigh flour for best results as in all baked goods, neater and accurate. Too much flour makes a heavy dry cake. I keep poppy seeds in the freezer.


I love this recipe. It is super easy to make. But the results taste as if I worked really hard. The teacake is perfect - light, not too sweet and the poppy seeds really shine. Take a few minutes to make the glaze, which is excellent and also really pretty.


I liked the poppy seeds and the overall flavor but found it too dense. i mixed it with a whisk as directed. Perhaps someone has an idea why?


This was delicious without the glaze for breakfast. I subbed in almond extract instead of vanilla.

Kace S.

I assembled everything as written, but baked it in a 9" springform pan that I had prepared (buttered and floured, for another recipe before realizing I didn't have flaked almonds) for ~45min and it turned out well.


Fabulous! Will make again.

Frank P

There is one problem with this recipe. It disappears faster than I can make it. My family LOVES this cake. We like it w/o the icing.


This poppy seed tea cake is absolutely delicious and flavorful. I’ve made it several times and it has become one of my favorites. Nice amount of poppy seeds, sparky citrus note and easy to make. It’s tender and moist with a lovely texture. Sometimes I use orange zest and may add 1/2 tsp of almond extract. I keep my poppy seeds in the freezer. It won’t be dry if you measure flour correctly and don’t over bake.


I used a five cup Bundt pan for this recipe and it was delish! I’d been searching for recipes for the smaller Bundt cake without any success until I came across a recipe somewhere that suggested using a loaf cake recipe. Otherwise I could spilt a regular recipe in half for the smaller Bundt cake. This method is so much better!


Followed the recipe exactly except I used hazelnut 'milk' instead of heavy cream. Cake was fully baked at about 45 minutes. Looks good. Cake turned out to rise to half height of bread pan. Haven't tasted yet.

Courtney B

Great cake and great choice in silverware - I have the same!

lemon poppyseed cake

Really good. Think about a little more zest


What kind of container to bake this in? Is it a pound cake?


Has anyone used GF flour in this recipe?I usually use Bob's Red Mill 1:1.


Love this cake. This time I substituted a pint of blueberries (dusted with flour) for the poppy seeds, because they’re in season. Delish!

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Poppy Seed Tea Cake Recipe (2024)


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