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Lemon and Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake with Crème Fraîche

Renée Robinson

I Now Have the Simple Lemon Cake I’ve Always Wanted.

As with my orange cake, I had a situation where I’ve never been perfectly satisfied with any lemon cake I’ve ever made. Typically, they don’t have enough lemon flavor or they’re a little dry or the crumb is not what I want. I decided it was time to come up with one of my own.

I wanted this cake to be appropriate for a celebration, as well as something to be simply enjoyed by my family, so I chose to make it in a bundt pan because a bundt cake is always pretty and feels festive and homey at the same time. This cake needs to be made in a 10 cup bundt pan, not the large 12 cup model. It would bake up too shallow in the 12 cup pan. I love the combination of lemon and poppy seeds, so that’s how I began. Instead of adding the poppy seeds to the batter, I sprayed my bundt pan with Baker’s Joy and then fully coated the pan with poppy seeds. I’d done this once before for a different cake and thought it would be good here, too. Plus, the coating of poppy seeds helps ensure that the cake will release from the pan. 

I really like what olive oil brings to a cake, in both flavor and texture. I love the crumb of a cake that’s made with oil. I used a medium bodied one here because I didn’t want any peppery or bitter edges. But I also knew I wanted the flavor of butter, so melted butter also went into the mix.

Now, in order to be absolutely sure I would get plenty of lemon flavor, I zested 3 lemons and rubbed the zest into the sugar before whisking in the other ingredients. I used all the juice from those lemons, too – 2/3 cup. I figured this would give me plenty of lemon flavor.

Remembering how much I liked the addition of crème fraîche in a previous cake, I added a full cup to this one. It’s worth mentioning again how easy it is to make your own crème fraiche by stirring together a cup of heavy cream with a couple tablespoons of buttermilk and letting it sit at room temperature until it gets thick and tangy (anywhere from 12 to 36 hours, depending on your exact ingredients, temperature, etc.). 

After mixing all this together with 3 large eggs, I whisked in the dry ingredients. No mixer or electric beater was required. 2 bowls and a whisk got the job done very easily. I carefully spooned the batter into the pan and let it bake for about 45 minutes.

Well, I had a surprise when it came out of the oven. Quite a few of the poppyseeds had risen off the sides of the pan and created a type of crunchy crust on top of the cake (which is actually the bottom once the cake is turned out of the pan). Even though this was unexpected, I couldn’t have been more happy with the result.

We couldn’t wait for it to fully cool before cutting into the cake. I’d already given this cake a couple of tries and was refining the recipe, hoping this would be “the one”. Happily, it is. Now, let me explain. The crust is satisfyingly crunchy from the poppyseeds, while the crumb is both fluffy and so moist as to be almost creamy, due to the crème fraîche. The flavor is fully lemon, but it’s mellowed by the olive oil and butter. And if you can wait until the cake has completely cooled before slicing it, the slices come out nice and clean. This cake tasted as fresh and delicious on the third day as it did on the first. 

This is one of those cakes you can enjoy any time of day. A slice is greatly appreciated mid morning with a cup of tea. Or mid afternoon. Or in the evening with a spoonful of poppy seed topped crème fraîche on the side. It’s my kind of cake.

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Lemon and Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake with Crème Fraîche

Recipe by Renée Robinson



A very moist and fluffy bundt cake made with poppy seeds, plenty of lemon juice and zest, olive oil, melted butter, and crème fraîche. Add a spoonful of more crème fraîche topped with poppy seeds to each serving and you've got one of the best cakes I've ever tasted.

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  • Baker’s Joy baking spray

  • 2 1/2 - 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling on the crème fraîche topping

  • 375 g (1 3/4) cups granulated sugar

  • 3 lemons, zested, 2/3 cup juice

  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons medium bodied extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

  • 2 cups (480g) crème fraîche, divided, 1 cup (240g) for the cake and 1 cup (240g) for the topping

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  • 276 g (2 cups) all purpose unbleached flour

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  • Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack in the center. Spray a 10 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle the poppy seeds into the pan, covering the inside evenly.
  • In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it is fragrant. Add the olive oil, melted butter, 1 cup crème fraiche, eggs, and 2/3 cup lemon juice. Whisk together until well blended.
  • In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the liquid ingredients and whisk until well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack and let completely cool. Serve each slice with a dollop of crème fraîche, sprinkled with a few more poppy seeds, if desired. Enjoy!


  • 10 Cup Bundt Pan

4 Responses

  1. I can’t wait to make this cake. It looks incredible. Can you tell me what would be a good brand of olive oil to use?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Mary! I’m so glad you’ve decided to make this cake. As to the olive oil, there are many different brands you could use. For instance, California Olive Ranch makes a readily available medium extra virgin olive oil. It’s one of their Global Blends and it’s perfect for this cake. Please let me know how you like the cake!

  2. Now comes the hard part. Waiting for it to cool so we can cut into it. Such a beautiful cake. And such an easy to follow recipe.

    1. Sherie, it’s just beautiful!! I’m so happy you made it and of course you did it perfectly. Thank you!!

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