Citrus Poppy Seed Cake

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I’ve been looking for a great dessert for Easter and I do believe I’ve found it! I spotted this recipe on the Anna Magazine website. It checks all the boxes for a special event dessert – easy, tasty and pretty. And it can be made (mostly) ahead.

A delicious citrus poppy seed cake recipe, flavoured with both orange and lemon zest and topped with a cream cheese icing.

I took the recipe for a test spin this weekend and it did not disappoint. Even my “citrus dessert hating” daughter ate it all up. Other than finding the portion size a tad large, everyone agreed it was a keeper and it will be on my Easter 2011 menu.

Citrus Poppy Seed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Cook’s Notes: You can adjust the size of the cut circles or do 2 or 3 layers to extend the number of servings you can get from this recipe. See my notes below for some ideas. Mine shown used a 3-inch cutter with just two layers. If doing only two layers, don’t skimp on the icing in between as there is only one chance to use it and it’s a great sweet complement to the tart glaze.

Citrus Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
An orange and lemon flavoured white cake with poppy seeds and cream cheese frosting.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4

  • For the cake:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 1⁄4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional, but recommended)

  • Citrus Glaze:
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Cream cheese frosting:
  • 3⁄4 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

  • Optional: Orange Peel for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9 x 12 (or 13)-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add juice, vanilla, zest and eggs and continue beating. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In another bowl combine milk and yogurt. Add milk mixture and flour mixture alternately to butter mixture and beat well to combine. Fold in poppy seeds. Pour batter evenly onto pan and bake for 35 minutes. Remove and cool. (*Tip: If you cake is domed, take a clean tea towel and press down the middle gently but firmly, to level the cake. This will make your rounds more level when you cut them). Allow cake to cool completely. Can be made ahead and left at room temperature or frozen. Do not cut rounds until closer to serving to prevent cake from drying out.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare frosting and glaze. For frosting, in a medium bowl cream butter and cream cheese by hand (or mixer/stand mixer), then add lemon juice and vanilla and incorporate. Sift icing sugar into butter mixture a cup at a time. Mix until smooth. For glaze, simply combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Cover and set aside.
  5. Cut round sizing options: If you use a 4-inch cutter, you will get just the three rounds out of the baked cake. This is enough to make a small, 3-layer, 4-inch round cake that will provide 3 or 4 small slice servings. If you use a 3-inch cutter, you will get twelve 3-inch rounds (but cuts must be adjoining with little space between). This will allow you to make four 3-layer cakes (4 servings) or six 2-layer cakes (6 servings). If you use a 2-inch cutter, you will get as many as 24 rounds, which will be enough for eight 3-layer cakes or twelve 2-layer cakes.
  6. I think the choice really depends on when you're serving it. For entertaining, it is often nice to have individual servings and if following a large meal, the smaller size may be appreciated by many. For family or casual entertaining, the one large cake is pretty and easy. I split the difference and did four individual 2-layer cakes for my family using a 3-inch cutter. As noted above, the serving size seemed a tad large to us, so I could have gone smaller and still satisfied. Bottom line ... you'll not go wrong any way you go. Just cut carefully (no space between) if trying to stretch the cake.
  7. Once cake is cooled, place on cutting board and peel back parchment paper from sides. Cut into rounds using 2, 3 or 4-inch cookie cutter (see notes on sizing above). Set aside.
  8. To frost the cake(s), place one cake round on serving plate, top with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting and layer each round, leaving the top without frosting. Pour glaze over top of cake until it begins to run down the sides. Garnish with orange peel strips, if desired or a bit of grated orange or lemon zest. Serves 4-6 people (or possibly more).
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I love hearing from you, so if you have a question or something isn't quite clear, I'm happy to help. If you made this recipe, I'd love to know how you liked it ~ Jennifer

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