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.
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?
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.
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
- 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.
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