Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Is My Favorite Way to Use 5 Lemons

published Apr 14, 2021
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slice on a plate in front of lemon poppyseed cake
Credit: Kelli Foster

I would describe Ina Garten’s recipes the same way I’d describe a Bundt cake: classy and elegant, yet surprisingly easy to pull off. So when I came across a recipe for a popular Ina Garten Bundt cake, well, how could I not give it a try? It looked to be the epitome of what Ina Garten does best. Plus, I adore lemon cakes of all varieties — especially lemon poppy seed — and come spring, my love and craving for all things lemon is sky-high.

What makes Ina’s lemon poppy seed Bundt cake really stand out is how much lemon she packs into the recipe. Not only is there zest and juice in the cake, but there’s also a lemon simple syrup that gets spooned over the warm cake and a sweet-tart lemon icing drizzled over the top. Here’s what happened when I gave it a try.

Credit: Kelli Foster

How to Make Ina Garten’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

To get started, you’ll stir poppy seeds into a cup of buttermilk and soak them for at least 2 hours. Then, make the cake batter: Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer, add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Sift together the dry ingredients, then add the lemon juice to the buttermilk mixture. With the mixer on low, alternate between adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape the batter into a greased Bundt pan, smooth the top, and bake in a 350°F oven for 40 to 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a lemon syrup by heating lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan on the stovetop until the sugar dissolves. Cool the cake for 10 minutes, turn it onto a cooling rack set over a large plate, then spoon the lemon syrup over the cake to be absorbed. Cool for at least 30 minutes.

For the glaze, whisk powdered sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the top of the cake so it drips down the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Credit: Kelli Foster

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Between the lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon syrup, and lemon glaze (so much lemon!) I was worried this cake would knock me on the ground with an overpowering lemon flavor. But it didn’t, and that’s exactly what made this beautiful Bundt so fantastic.

Instead, I was met with a soft and delicate lemon flavor that swept through the entire cake and lingered in my mouth long after I finished each bite. And despite the syrup (which keeps the cake wonderfully moist), the cake is just subtly sweet, leaving plenty of room for the punchy sweet-tart glaze.

I’ve never soaked poppy seeds before using them for a cake or muffins (the step is meant to soften the seeds’ outer coating, so the flavor comes through), and I’m not entirely sure I tasted a difference. And while the recipe is straightforward and easy to follow, it did take some time and left me with a pile of dirty dishes. But it was well worth all of it. It’s a cake I’ll reserve for special occasions and will likely make again for Mother’s Day.

Credit: Kelli Foster

A Few Tips for Making Ina Garten’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  1. Plan ahead. Before you start making the batter, Ina calls for soaking the poppy seeds in buttermilk for at least two hours.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together first. To make the process a little more straightforward, whisk together the dry ingredients before you cream the butter and sugar.
  3. Set the cooling rack into a baking sheet rather than over a plate. Ina calls for setting a cooling rack over a plate to catch the excess lemon syrup that’s spooned over the cake. I found this to be a little clunky, and much easier to set the cooling rack inside a baking sheet.

Have you tried Ina Garten’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake? Let us know in the comments!