Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt


One of my inspirations for starting a retro-themed blog was the gigantic, exploding green binder that lives on a shelf in my parents kitchen. It’s stuffed with a collection of crinkled papers from the past, recipes cut from magazines and newspapers, single leafs torn from tattered cookbooks, the odd school report card or holiday to-do list in my mother’s handwriting.


There are as many flop recipes as decent ones in it but I can’t bring myself to organize it by getting rid of the duds or even adjusting the order of the pages too much (a feat for my obnoxiously organized personality). It’s like a time capsule that I don’t want to disturb.



And flipping carefully through the pages a year ago I had a thought about how overwhelmed I sometimes felt with so many cookbook releases and social media food advertising which always seem to be pushing the “new.” I thought how refreshing it was to just have physical recipes in front of me, carefully curated by someone I know. If I went looking for a chocolate chip cookie recipe online I would likely end up with thousands upon thousands of results. There’s not that many ways to make a chocolate chip cookie!


So I decided I would use my blog to explore this, maybe not by using “retro” recipes every single time but by hopefully finding a way to cook with context, and share that process with anyone who might be interested in it, as I know I am. Simply, I’m the kind of person who’s favorite part of cookbooks is reading the little “blurb” section above the recipe. The longer and more convoluted the references, the better for me.


I’m not sure exactly where this recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Cake came from but the mystery is as good of a story as knowing. I think it is in my Aunt’s handwriting but it could be my Grandmother’s or maybe even someone else’s entirely. All I know is whoever wrote it took the time to write it out carefully enough to make me have major handwriting envy. Seriously if I have children one day I apologize in advance for putting them up to the task of deciphering my scribbles. Best of luck to you. It might be easier to get takeout…


Nevertheless, I appreciate the care that goes into sharing recipes like these and the sense of community it fosters. Maybe whoever took the time to write this recipe out did so at the bequest of someone she had served it to. Maybe she was copying it out of a book. What she ultimately did though is preserve something for me to share. And I thank her for that.


Happy Mother’s Day!

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt

For the Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. oil
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 c. poppy seeds
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together sugar and oil for about 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time. Add lemon juice and zest. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients until everything is fully combined. Add poppy seeds. Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with nonstick spray and flour lightly. Pour batter into pan and bake for 40-50 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the syrup.

For the Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons brandy

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, water and brandy over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly. When the syrup is cooled, spoon onto still-warm bundt.

For the Glaze

  • 2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice*

When the cake is completely cool, stir lemon juice into powdered sugar. Place cooled cake on a cooling rack and transfer the glaze into a piping bag. Snip off the top and pipe a single ring on top of the cake, and then another directly on top of that ring and continue until all the glaze is gone. Rap the cooling rack against the counter if you need to help the glaze cascade down.

*This is a thick glaze and creates nice droops along the bundt. If you would prefer a thinner glaze (like translucent-glazed-donut-style), add more lemon juice.


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