Two Poppy Seed Cake Recipes

One Homemade, One That Starts with a Cake Mix,
Both From My Family's Cookbook of Favorite Family Recipes

The first recipe is for a homemade poppy seed cake with stripes of chocolate-cinnamon streusel. (It's the streusel which really makes it special.) The second recipe starts with a cake mix to make a moist and lemony poppy seed cake. (The cake-mix cake is so easy, kids can definitely help pull it together!) Both recipes are keepers!
Homemade Poppy Seed Cake ♥, an old family recipe, moist and flavorful with stripes of chocolate-cinnamon streusel.

  • "... more than delicious." ~ Sara
  • "... the closest to my grandmother's recipe that I have found in 30 years!" ~ Anonymous

What Does "Scratch" Mean?

A "scratch golfer" shoots par or better then jots quick notes onto a "scratch pad". To "scratch the surface" is just the beginning while "scratching a plan" brings one to an end. To "raise some scratch" is to gather cash.

Why then is someone who cooks and bakes with basic ingredients a "scratch cook"? Tis a puzzle!

Scratch cooks like me are taken aback when not-so-scratch recipes taste great. Last spring, my friend Ann sliced a moist, lemony cake as the sweet ending for our book club. We savored each bite, pressing tines to plates to gather the last crumbs.

To my surprise, Ann’s recipe came from the pages of my own family’s cookbook!

Easy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake ♥, moist, great texture, starts with a cake mix.

At home, I checked the cookbook and sure enough, there are two recipes for two entirely different poppy seed cakes. The recipe that Ann chose starts with a cake mix but the other comes from my dear Auntie Gloria, it's made from scratch.

So I've got two poppy seed cake recipes for you. Your choice!

But no puzzle here, both cake recipes are winners!

What Makes the Homemade Poppyseed Cake Special?

Homemade Poppy Seed Cake ♥, an old family recipe, moist and flavorful with stripes of chocolate-cinnamon streusel.

Despite its plain appearance, what makes the Homemade Poppy Seed Cake special is inside the cake. It's the layers of "streusel" – a sweet chocolate-cinnamon mix.

What Makes the Cake-Mix Poppy Seed Cake Special?

Easy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake ♥, moist, great texture, starts with a cake mix.

My favorite seven-year old twinzz made their dad's birthday cake themselves. They were so proud! Sure, I helped. But a cake mix's simplicity gives kids an important sense of accomplishment in the kitchen. (This lesson didn't come easily to this scratch cook, I resisted for a long while. I tell the story with Southern Belle Lemon Layer Cake, yes, it's a cake-mix cake too.)

But this cake-mix cake's moistness and fine crumb are really appealing, it's really really good. That means that this "make-everything-from-scratch cook" has no qualms about making or serving this wonderful cake!

The cake-mix poppy seed cake also uses a lot fewer poppy seeds, making it more affordable if poppy seeds are expensive where you are.


With sweet spiced chocolate
Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 1 full-size Bundt cake, easily halved for a half-size Bundt pan
  • 3/4 cup (120g) poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup (65g) milk
  • 3/4 cup (180g) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 114g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (95g) vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  • 1-1/2 (300g) cups sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional but helps provide "loft")
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

PREP About an hour before starting, get out the butter to soften. Separate the eggs too, just leave them on the counter. When ready to start mixing, heat oven to 350F/175C. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray, preferably Baker’s Joy.

POPPY SEEDS In a small bowl, stir together poppy seeds, milk and sour cream.

WET INGREDIENTS In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and shortening until light and fluffy. With the mixer running on low speed, add the sugar in a slow stream, then the egg yolks one at a time. Increase the speed to medium-high, then beat the batter for 8 to 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the beaters every 2 minutes.

DRY INGREDIENTS In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.

EGG WHITES In a large, clean glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.

COMBINE Reduce mixer speed to low. Alternating, blend flour and poppy seed mixtures into the butter. What's that?! Try this. First mix in 1/3 the flour, then 1/2 the poppy, then 1/3 the flour, then the last 1/2 of the poppy and finally the last 1/3 flour. (Better? Oh good.) Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

CHOCOLATE-CINNAMON STREUSEL In a bowl, stir together streusel ingredients.

TRANSFER With two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, scoop 1/3 batter into the Bundt pan, gently leveling the batter to fill the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 streusel mixture onto the batter. Scoop another 1/3 of the batter into the pan, then the remaining streusel and finally the remaining batter.

BAKE Bake for an hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes, turn the cake onto a rack to cool completely.

TO SERVE In today's visual-rich world (think of the gorgeous lifestyle photography from cooking magazines and food blogs that probably fills up your Instagram and Facebook feeds), a plain cake looks really-really-REALLY plain. So for a birthday one year, I added an icing to one of these poppy seed cakes to "jazz up" the appearance. But really, icing isn't necessary and detracts from the clean poppy seed flavors. I suppose you could sprinkle powdered sugar over top, though. My favorite way to "enhance" this cake? A scoop of vanilla ice cream!

ALANNA's TIPS In grocery stores, poppy seeds are priced like black pearls. Instead, buy bags of poppy seeds for a couple dollars at an international grocery. You don't "have" to own a standing mixer to make the Homemade Poppy Seed Cake but it does help. To use a hand mixer, as I have many times, it does help to "mise en place" (that means to get all the bowls together, that is the poppy seeds, the dry ingredients, the streusel, the egg whites) before starting to mix. To save washing the beaters, whip the egg whites before mixing anything else. In fact, even when using the standing mixer to make the cake, I switch to a hand mixer to whip the egg whites. Experienced bakers will tell you there's a specific technique for "folding" egg whites into a batter. There is, of course, but don't stress about technique. Just use a flat spatula or my favorite "spoon-spatula" to gently – the key word is "gently" – incorporate the egg whites into the heavier batter. The goal is to deflate the egg whites as little as possible while "loosening" the heavy batter. Work slowly and yes, again, gently. Once I tried using with half almond flour, the center fell, more time was needed to finish baking, not yet a perfect substitution but has potential.
NUTRITION ESTIMATE 16 slices, per slice: 341 Calories; 18g Tot Fat; 8g Sat Fat; 39g Carb; 1g Fiber; 245mg Sodium; 76mg Cholesterol; 24g Sugar; 5g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 8 & WW PointsPlus 9 & WW SmartPoints 15 & WW Freestyle 15 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/3 slice.


Great convenience + great texture & taste = win
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes: 1 full-size Bundt cake

Heat the oven to 350F/175C. In a large bowl, “dump and mix” a box of lemon or yellow cake mix, a small box of instant vanilla pudding, four large eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup warm water, 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup poppy seeds. Pour into a well-greased Bundt pan and bake for an hour. Cool 10 for minutes, then turn onto a cake plate. While the cake is still warm, if you like, drizzle the cake with a glaze of 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice mixed with 6 tablespoons powdered sugar. Yes, it's really that easy! No wonder we like cake-mix cakes!

NUTRITION INFORMATION 16 slices, per slice: 262 Calories; 12g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 37g Carb; 0g Fiber; 311mg Sodium; 53mg Cholesterol; 26g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 6, WW PointsPlus 7 & WW SmartPoints 11 & WW Freestyle 11 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/3 slice.

More Family Cake Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Apple Pudding Cake with Cinnamon Butter Sauce Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake Mom's Blueberry Coffeecake
~ more dessert recipes ~

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ poppy seeds ~
~ sour cream ~
~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Simply Amazing Recipe. I tried it & it was way too great. Infact more than delicious.
    Thanks alot!!

  2. To be a "scratch cook" is a great thing. Being intimate with the measurement and chemistry of a recipe brings a little more of ourselves into what we cook and share. Even so, convenience is a great blessing to many. And isn't it wonderful when convenience sacrifices little in quality and fully pleases those who partake?

    I think balance is the key. There are many things I regularly cook from scratch but I have yet to find a brownie recipe that makes brownies as economically and as predictably delicious as a store-bought mix! This "easy" cake recipe is another staple in my baking repertoire. It is hard to mess up when busy or distracted and can be dressed up so many different ways. It is definitely a keeper!

  3. Anonymous12/03/2011

    I just wanted to say thanks for the poppy seed cake recipe. This one is the closest to my grandmother's recipe that I have found in 30 years! Keep up the great work.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna