If you’re looking for a super easy cake that’s tender, moist, comes together quickly, feeds a crowd and is incredibly delicious, this Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake is IT!
This delightful Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake has been and will be my go-to dessert recipe this summer. It’s super moist with a lemony tender crumb and a matching lemon buttercream icing. The whimsical, poppy seed-dotted cake can be stirred up quickly with just one bowl and a whisk, feeds a (happy) crowd and it’s pretty as a picture!
A match made in heaven
There’s something wonderful about the combination of lemon and poppy seeds. They compliment each other and work together so well and the combination seems to be universally beloved. Some of The Café’s most popular recipes are our Lemon Poppy Seed Scones, our Lemon Curd Poppy Seed Cake and our Lemon Ginger Poppy Seed Dressing. If you haven’t tried this combination of ingredients you’re missing out on something wonderful!
If you’ve been following The Café for a while, just skip down to the next section. But we have lots of new readers each week and I wanted to explain just a bit about our collection of recipes called Ridiculously Easy.
You can read in more detail about them in this post but my condensed definition of our Ridiculously Easy recipes is “recipes that make you look like a kitchen rock star with minimal effort on your part”.
So why is this cake eligible for the RE category? I thought you’d want to know! This is how easy it works:
- Spray a sheet (or jelly roll) pan with baking spray.
- Combine butter and water in a large microwave-safe bowl and cook 1-2 minutes until the butter is melted.
- Add the sugar, yogurt and whisk until well combined.
- Add the eggs and whisk again.
- Next add the poppy seeds, vanilla baking powder, salt, baking soda and lemon zest,
- Lastly, add the flour and whisk until the batter is nice and smooth.
- Transfer the lemony batter to the pan and bake. The most heavenly aroma will greet you from the oven!
- While the cake bakes, you can make the icing:
- Just wash out the batter bowl and use it for the icing. Combine the butter and the milk in the microwave and cook until the butter is melted, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the fresh lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar and stir, stir, stir until creamy and smooth.
- Spread about 1/3 of the icing over the surface of the cake and let it cool.
- After it cools, spread the remaining icing and swirl it to your heart’s content.
- Wipe the drool off of your mouth while you pour tall glasses of cold milk and cut hearty squares of cake for your family, friends and/or wanna-be-friends (I promise they will be lifetime friends after taking the first delicious bite!).
That’s it. See what I mean? Easy. Ridiculously easy!
What size pan should I use for this cake?
I believe I might just be the poster child for disproving the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”! I’ve been making sheet cakes for at least 40 years and was pretty certain that I knew everything there was to know about these super easy, crowd-pleasing cakes. A few weeks ago, I decided to come up with a lemon poppy seed sheet cake recipe and this old dog learned something surprisingly new.
I based this new lemon poppy seed sheet cake on a recipe from Taste of Home for a White Texas Sheet Cake. As I said above, I’ve made tons of sheet cakes before, chocolate, white, peanut butter, pumpkin, brown sugar… but I never realized that most sheet cake recipes call for a 15×10-inch pan. That’s what Taste of Home recommends, as do many other sheet cake recipes I checked online.
I just assumed (for 40 years) that a sheet cake should be baked in a sheet pan which is to me is a shallow 13×18-inch pan, often used for baking cookies. (Technically, a 13×18-inch pan is a half sheet pan, but most of us know that size pan as a sheet pan.)
I thought it might be time to do things properly, so I ordered a 15×10-inch pan (aka jelly roll pan) and tried out my new Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake recipe. I love the results as it makes a thicker cake. The smaller pan is also a little easier to transport. All this to say, both size pans work, so don’t feel like you need to run out and purchase a new pan. But if you prefer a thicker cake, go with the 15×10, it works great!
Pick up a big juicy lemon and some poppy seeds. You probably have everything else you need to make this fabulous Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake. Expect requests for repeat performances, lots of clean plates and rave reviews. They won’t be far off. If you share…
Cafe Tips for making this Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake
- This recipe calls for poppy seeds. You can find poppy seeds in the spice section of most grocery stores. Poppy seeds can be ridiculously expensive though when purchased in the small spice jars, so I like to purchase them in bulk at international stores, Whole Foods or online where they can be purchased quite reasonably. Poppy seeds can get rancid, so it’s best to store them in the freezer where they will keep well for months.
- The zest of a lemon is used in the batter of this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake and the juice in the icing. To zest, a lemon easily, use a microplane zester. A microplane will allow you to zest just the yellow peel of the lemon and will avoid the white pith, which is bitter.
- This recipe calls for Greek yogurt. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, no problem. You can also use an equal amount of regular yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream.
- If you don’t have any of the above, it’s still not a problem. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a measuring cup. Fill the cup to the one half cup mark with milk and stir. Wait 5 minutes and… voila! Homemade buttermilk! Use it in place of the Greek yogurt.
- A whisk is a perfect way to stir up this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. A whisk is an essential kitchen tool that you’ll use over and over and over. If you’re looking to purchase just one whisk, look for one that’s sturdy and medium-size. If you want to add to your collection, it’s also wonderful to have a smaller and a larger whisk.
- As mentioned above, you can use a 15×10-inch pan for a thicker cake or a classic sheet pan (13×18-inches) for a larger, thinner cake. The icing will be thicker with the 15×10-inch pan and thinner (more spread out) with the 13×18-inch pan.
- Be sure to grease the pan well. I like to use baking spray which is a combination of oil and flour when baking a cake. You could also grease the pan with shortening then coat the shortening with a layer of flour.
- Don’t need such a large cake? No problem, as this cake freezes beautifully; so when you need a dessert in a hurry, it will be just a thaw away!
Thought for the day:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
What we’re listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and comment as it’s helpful to other readers. Thanks!
If you're looking for a super easy cake that's tender, moist, comes together quickly, feeds a crowd and is incredibly delicious, this Lemon Poppy Seed Sheet Cake is IT!
- 1 cup butter I used salted butter
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup Greek yogurt see tips above for other options
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup butter
- 4 cups powdered sugar maybe more
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3-4 tablespoons milk or half and half maybe more
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 15x10x1-inch baking pan generously with baking spray. Use a paper towel to spread the spray to all of the edges.
In a medium-large microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and the water. Cook on high power for 1-2 minutes, until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar, eggs and Greek yogurt. Whisk well to combine.
Add the poppy seeds, baking powder, salt, baking soda and lemon zest. Whisk until everything is incorporated.
Add the flour and whisk just until the mixture is smooth and lump-free.
Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack while you make the icing.
Combine butter and 3 tablespoons of milk (or half and half) in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave on high powder for 1 minute or until the butter is melted.
Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, the lemon juice and the vanilla. Stir until well combined then add the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until nice and smooth. Icing should be thick, but spreadable. If it’s too thick add more of the millk, if too thin add a bit more powdered sugar.
Spread about 1 cup of the icing over the warm cake and set aside to cool for at least 45 minutes. When cool, spread the remainder of the icing over the cake with a butter knife or angled spatula, swirling the icing decoratively. Sprinkle lightly with more poppy seeds.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips.
Adapted from Taste of Home.