Skip to Content

Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Cake

Love lemon poppy seed cake? Try this Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Cake for 3Xs the citrus punch. Read on to see if you really need to soak the poppy seeds and to find out how I tweaked the ingredients to get the cake texture just right.

triple citrus poppy seed cake 15a

Not only do do I use 3 different citrus fruits in the recipe, I add the citrus flavor is added in 3 layers. So I guess it’s triple Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Cake. First the zest from a lemon, a lime and an orange are baked into the cake. Then the juice is used to make a citrus syrup to moisten the cake and a citrus glaze for a glossy coating. I couldn’t decide if I wanted the bright burst of flavor from the citrus syrup or the crunchy finish of the glaze. So I did both. Why choose between two good options when you can have both?

poppy seeds for triple citrus poppy seed cake

White and black poppy seeds after soaking

A little Kitchen Experiment is always fun!

I love the crunch of the poppy seeds in this cake. I didn’t have enough black poppy seeds in the house and happened to have some tiny white poppy seeds from the Indian grocery. So I used 1/2 and 1/2 black and white seeds. You can’t really see them in the photos, but I still got the taste and crunch from the seeds.

Poppy seed recipes often start with “soaking the seeds”. Some recipes call for the seeds to be soaked in milk, some have you steep them in boiling water, and some just use them dry. My research into why the poppy seeds are soaked yielded conflicting information. Some articles say that soaking will soften the seeds and bring out the flavor, other claim you soak the seeds to rinse away opiates.

Well, since I’m always looking for an excuse for a kitchen experiment, I decided some original research was in order. I soaked one batch of seeds in milk and one in boiling water for 3 hours.

Now for the taste test: The dry seeds were very crunchy and fairly bland. The seeds steeped in boiling water were dark black, a little softer and more flavorful than the dry seeds. The seeds soaked in cold milk were the softest and had a dark gray color. The milk-soaked seeds had the strongest flavor, with a distinctly peppery aftertaste which I like. So my recipe calls for the seeds to be soaked in milk for several hours. If you want to skip that step the seeds will still add crunch to the cake, but will be less flavorful.

triple citrus poppy seed cake 2a

triple citrus poppy seed cake 3a

triple citrus poppy seed cake 4a

triple citrus poppyseed cake 5a

Creating the recipe for Triple Poppy Seed Cake!

Now that the poppy seed issue is sorted out, it’s on to the cake batter. This recipe is basically a citrus-poppy seed pound cake. The classic pound cake recipe is equal parts (by weight) of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. The flour and eggs give the cake structure and and butter and sugar tenderize the cake. There is a whole science of cake recipes called the “baker’s formula” or “baker’s percentage” which I won’t go into here. I am working on a series of posts that will explore the classic pound cake recipe in detail. Those posts will examine how each ingredient works and how the ingredients can be manipulated to change the recipe to your own taste.

For now I’ll just explain some small changes I made to the basic pound cake for this recipe. There is a little extra sugar in the recipe for a more tender cake. The recipe is a little heavier on eggs than flour because I wanted a slightly spongy texture for the cake. The eggs are separated and the whites are whipped and folded in to lighten the crumb. Of course I used my favorite reverse creaming method as I do for all butter cakes. The result is a light and tender cake that still has the rich buttery flavor of a pound cake.

triple citrus poppy seed cake 6a

triple citrus poppy seed cake 8a


triple citrus poppy seed cake 11a

triple citrus poppy seed cake 10a

triple citrus poppy seed cake 13a

Equipment: I baked this cake in a gorgeous square Bundt pan. There are so many beautiful Bundt shapes available today. Any 10 cup tube pan will work.

triple citrus poppyseed cake 15a
Print Recipe
4.67 from 3 reviews

Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Cake

Love lemon poppy seed cake? Try this Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Cake for 3Xs the citrus punch.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour 5 minutes
16 servings



  • 2 ½ oz poppy seeds (½ cup)
  • 4 oz whole milk (½ cup)
  • 6 ¾ oz cake flour (1 ½ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 9 oz granulated sugar (1 cup + 2 Tblsp)
  • 1 lemon (finely rated zest)
  • 1 lime (finely rated zest)
  • 1 orange (finely rated zest)
  • 8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 6 large eggs (separated, room temperature)

Syrup & Glaze

  • 2 oz orange juice (¼ cup)
  • 1 oz lemon juice (2 Tblsp)
  • 1 oz lime juice (2 Tblsp)
  • 4 oz confectioner's sugar (1 cup)
  • 3 oz granulated sugar (⅓ cup)


  • Soak 2 ½ oz poppy seeds in 4 oz whole milk for at least 3 hours. Drain and rinse. Discard the milk from soaking.


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F. Thoroughly butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.
  • Combine 6 ¾ oz cake flour, ½ teaspoon table salt, 1 cup (8 oz) sugar and finely grated zest from 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange in a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed to combine the ingredients. Add 8 oz unsalted butter and mix until combined, scrape the bowl thoroughly.
  • Increase the speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes until the mixture lightens. Scrape the bowl and beater blade. Mix 6 egg yolks and the drained poppy seeds into the batter and set it aside.
  • Whisk 6 egg whites to soft peak. Slowly add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Increase the speed to medium high and whisk to medium peak.
  • Fold the whites into the base in 3 batches, mix just until no more steaks of white are visible.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched or when a toothpick inserted in the cake comes away clean.


  • While the cake is baking, combine 2 oz orange juice, 1 oz lemon juice and 1 oz lime juice. Remove 2 tablespoons of the juice and mix it with 4 oz confectioner's sugar until smooth.
  • Combine the remaining juice with the 3 oz granulated sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.


  • As soon as the cake comes out of the oven pour ½ the syrup over the top of the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
  • Invert the cake onto a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Pour the remaining syrup over the cake and allow it to absorb. You can poke the cake with a toothpick to help the syrup absorb.
  • As soon as the syrup is absorbed, pour the glaze over the cake and smooth it to go over the edges. The glaze will dry as the cake cools. Transfer the cake to a serving platter.


My Book
Kitchen Scale
KA Stand Mixer
Bundt Pan
Cooling Rack

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.


The cake will keep at room temperature for several days.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 283kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 102mg | Potassium: 106mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 467IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 1mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
You might also like:
Honey pound cake

Honey pound cake

Perfect Pound Cake

Perfect Pound Cake

Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Buttermilk Bundt Cake

meyer lemon olive oil cake 3a

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

The perfect pound cake

Sour Cream Pound Cake

golden beet orange cake

Golden Beet Orange Cake

Recipe Rating


Saturday 8th of February 2020

Is there no leavening agent?

Eileen Gray

Saturday 8th of February 2020

Creaming the butter and sugar adds air to the batter and whipping the egg whites does also. There is no chemical leavening in the recipe.


Saturday 8th of February 2020

Could this be made into a layer cake?

Eileen Gray

Saturday 8th of February 2020

I haven't done it, but I imagine it could be baked in two 8" pans to make a layer cake.


Saturday 11th of August 2018

Would the cake turn out just as great if it was baked into muffins? Curious. I don’t have a bundt pan so I will experiment with muffin and loaf. I’m excited and soaking my poppy seeds tonight!


Saturday 11th of August 2018

I would think it would bake just fine as muffins. As you can see in the photos, I baked some batter in small bundt pans with good results. Let me know how it works out.

Mary Ellen

Sunday 24th of April 2016

Could you please resend me your latest blog listing that long list of foods and chef's websites? Love every posting you send...amazing recipes and amazing photography.

Eileen Gray

Sunday 24th of April 2016

Do you mean the list of recipes and blogs at the end of my Asparagus Tart post? If you go to the home page of the blog and scroll down you can click on that post and you'll see the list of other blogs at the bottom of the post. It's a group of bloggers who get together every Sunday to have a virtual "Sunday Supper" that follows a theme. If that's not what you are looking for let me know.

Eileen Gray

Sunday 24th of April 2016

Hi Mary Ellen! I'm not sure which list you're asking for. Do you get emails from Baking Sense?


Tuesday 12th of April 2016

I baked this cake because I was intrigued with the soaking method plus the citrus! It was amazing!! Everyone loved it! Thank you for sharing!!!

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

Hi Sharon. I'm so glad everyone enjoyed the cake. I love an excuse for a kitchen experiment and to test if all the steps in a recipe are necessary. The reverse creaming method also makes a difference in the cake texture. Thanks for reading!