Poppy Seed Cake

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This poppy seed cake is moist, and sweet and easy to make in one bowl! It’s an old, tried and tested recipe – and topped with a simple glaze – it is the best poppyseed cake ever. 

front view of a Poppy Seed Cake with 3 slices cut


Some recipes are special because of the memories they evoke – and such is the case for me and this Poppy Seed Cake. Not only is this the best poppyseed cake ever because it’s moist and flavorful with a delicious glaze, but one bite transports me back to my childhood. 

When I was growing up a wonderful, sweet elderly woman named Bee lived in the house across the street. Her husband passed away, leaving her to live on her own until age 92. She was the kindest, most gentle woman I have ever met, and my dad often removed the snow from her driveway and sidewalks during the harsh Chicago winters. Bee always made this Poppy Seed Cake for us to thank my dad for taking care of her, and it was my favorite treat to receive. 

She shared her recipe with me, and I have since made this poppyseed cake often. Not only is it incredibly delicious, but it’s easy to mix together in one bowl in 5 minutes. A great dessert to feed a crowd, give as a gift, or enjoy as part of a special brunch. 

overhead view of a slice of Poppy Seed Cake with a fork taking a bite

Poppy Seed Cake Recipe: Ingredients & Substitutions

I don’t recommend making many substitutions in this poppyseed cake recipe but we’ll discuss the ingredients below. 

overhead photo of the ingredients in this Poppy Seed Cake Recipe
  • All-purpose flour. Cake flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour, but that’s the only substitution I have tried and can recommend. 
  • Fine sea salt. If using iodized salt, reduce the amount by half. 
  • Granulated sugar. regular white sugar or organic cane sugar are great choices in this poppy seed cake. 
  • Canola oil. I don’t recommend making substitutions for the canola oil. It keeps the cake moist. 
  • Evaporated milk. Another ingredient for which I do not recommend making substitutions. However, if you must, here is an article about the 5 best substitutes. 
  • Eggs. Use large eggs at room temperature for the best results. 
  • Poppy Seeds. No substitutes here – or else it’s not a poppy seed cake! 😉 
  • Vanilla extract. In both the cake and the glaze you can use almond extract in place of some or all of the vanilla extract if you want a slightly almond flavor. 
  • Whole milk. In the glaze you can use 2% milk, half and half or heavy cream in place of whole milk if necessary. 

How to make poppy seed cake

As I stated above, this poppy seed cake recipe only takes 5 minutes to mix together in one bowl (or two depending on your preference). 

Combine wet ingredients

Begin by whisking together sugar, canola oil, evaporated milk, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth. 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Poppy Seed Cake

Add dry ingredients

Next, you can either mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, or add them to the combined wet ingredients. Then whisk until the mixture is smooth. 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Poppy Seed Cake

Whisk in poppy seeds

Next, add the poppy seeds and whisk until they are evenly distributed throughout the cake batter. 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Poppy Seed Cake

Bake

Pour the poppy seed cake batter into a prepared angel food cake pan and bake it in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes , or until the top is just barely set and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few wet crumbs (it will look wet, test the cake at 30 minutes to ensure you don’t over-bake).

You can use a different cake pan like a bundt cake pan if you’d prefer! Just be sure to grease it very well. 

Cool

Set the poppyseed cake in the pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and the inside (all parts touching the pan) to release.

After 30 minutes carefully remove cake and let cool completely on the wire cooling rack.

two overhead photos showing How to Make Poppy Seed Cake

Make the glaze

In a small bowl whisk together glaze ingredients. Transfer the cooled poppy seed cake to a serving plate and then pour the glaze over the cake. 

Let the glazed cake sit at room temperature until the glaze is hardened (about 30-60 minutes).

Serve

Slice and serve the poppyseed cake at room temperature! 

Store

Store any leftover poppyseed cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Freeze

You can also freeze individual slices, or the entire cake, for up to 2 months. Just be sure to wrap it well and store it in an airtight container or plastic bag.

overhead photo of a Poppy Seed Cake on a serving plate with 3 slices cut

FAQs about Poppy Seed Cake

Do you have to soak poppy seeds before baking?

Nope! Measure them straight from the jar and use to bake your favorite goodies.

How do I know when my cake is done?

Insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake and if it comes out with a few wet crumbs and the top is set, the cake is done.

Can I make this lemon poppy seed cake?

This cake is perfect as it is. If you’re looking to make it lemon, try one of these recipes: lemon poppy seed cake or lemon poppy seed bread.

front photo fo a slice of Poppy Seed Cake

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Poppy Seed Cake

Laura
This poppy seed cake is moist, and sweet and easy to make in one bowl! It's an old, tried and tested recipe – and topped with a simple glaze – it is the best poppyseed cake ever. 
5 from 16 votes
Course cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Servings
Calories 291
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time40 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Poppy Seed Cake

Glaze

Instructions 

Make the Poppy Seed Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Very lightly grease an angel food cake pan, set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder, set aside
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, canola oil, evaporated milk, vanilla and eggs until mixture is smooth.
  • Add dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Add poppy seeds and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Pour mixture into prepared angel food cake pan and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes , or until the top is just barely set and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few wet crumbs (it will look wet, test the cake at 30 minutes to ensure you don’t overbake).
  • Set the poppyseed cake in the pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and the inside (all parts touching the pan) to release.
  • After 30 minutes carefully remove cake and let cool completely on the wire rack.

Make the glaze:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth.
  • Immediately pour it over the cooled cake.
  • Let sit at room temperature until hardened (about 30-60 minutes).
  • Serve at room temperature.

Video

Notes

Store

Store any leftover poppyseed cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Freeze

You can also freeze individual slices, or the entire cake, for up to 2 months. Just be sure to wrap it well and store it in an airtight container or plastic bag.

Ingredients & Substitutions 

  • All-purpose flour. Cake flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour, but that’s the only substitution I have tried and can recommend. 
  • Fine sea salt. If using iodized salt, reduce the amount by half. 
  • Granulated sugar. regular white sugar or organic cane sugar are great choices in this poppy seed cake. 
  • Canola oil. I don’t recommend making substitutions for the canola oil. It keeps the cake moist. 
  • Evaporated milk. Another ingredient for which I do not recommend making substitutions.
  • Eggs. Use large eggs at room temperature for the best results. 
  • Poppy Seeds. No substitutes here – or else it’s not a poppy seed cake! 😉 
  • Vanilla extract. In both the cake and the glaze you can use almond extract in place of some or all of the vanilla extract if you want a slightly almond flavor. 
  • Whole milk. In the glaze you can use 2% milk, half and half or heavy cream in place of whole milk if necessary. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 178mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 81IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question? Leave a comment below!

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5 Comments

  1. I’ve never done this before but I actually left the sugar out of the cake. I was hoping that after I iced it, it would still be edible. However, I decided to try a piece without any icing but just a little salted butter instead. It was fabulous. It tasted exactly like cornbread. The crunch of the poppy seeds mimicked the texture of cornmeal. If you ate this with your eyes closed you’d have no idea this was poppy seed cake. I will make this the right way, but will also make it again without any sugar. What a happy accident.

    1. This is not a Lemon Poppyseed Cake (there is no lemon in the recipe at all). It’s just a regular poppyseed cake. I have a recipe for lemon poppyseed cake coming this spring though.