Every now and then I want to bake a show stopper – something that isn’t easy, and it shows. I was asked to bring a dessert to a church event and now that I have a pretty well established rep I decided to up my game – and I have to say, this gorgeous Citrus Poppy Seed Cake was greeted with loads of ooh’s and aaah’s, but the real satisfaction came when people tasted it, OUTSTANDING! I love when a cake is even better than you want it to be. All the fresh citrus made for such an amazing bright flavor and the cake itself was the perfect texture which is sometimes elusive with from scratch cakes. Martha’s cream cheese frosting is the ideal combination of sweet and tart and the lemon glaze adds even more incredible flavor and texture. Yes, it will take you a minute, but TRUST ME, it’s so totally worth it. I can’t wait to make it again!
For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature – plus more for pans
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon each finely grated lemon, orange and lime zests
1/4 cup poppy seeds
For the Filling:
12 ounces cream cheese room temperature
6 tablespoons butter room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
For the Toppings:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 small lemons)
poppy seeds for sprinkling
lemon and orange peel, cut into thin strips for garnish
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside. I didn’t have 8 inch pans so I used 9 inch which meant my bake time was reduced to 25-30 minutes.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until lightened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until color has lightened, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until batter is no longer slick but is smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop to scrape down bowl once or twice so batter will combine well. Beat in vanilla on medium-low speed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Alternately add reserved flour mixture and milk, a little of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl once or twice. Beat in lemon zest, orange zest, lime zest, and 1/3 cup poppy seeds.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes (less if your using 9 inch pans like I did), rotating pans often for even browning. My oven is the pits so I set my timer and switched them around every 7 minutes or the cake on bottom would have burned. If you have a double oven that’s the best way to go so you don’t have one cake baking so close to the heat – or use convection. I have neither of those things 😦 Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks to cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and set on racks, tops up. Cool completely.
Remove parchment from bottom of each layer. Save best-looking layer for the top. Place one layer on the serving platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups cream-cheese frosting over the top. Place second cake layer on top, and spread remaining 1 1/2 cups frosting over top. Place reserved layer on top. Chill cake, loosely covered with plastic wrap, 1 hour.
- To make the lemon glaze whisk together the 2 cups powdered sugar with the 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.
To serve, stir lemon glaze well, then pour onto center of top layer of cake, letting it run down the sides. Using a single-hole zester, cut long strips of zest from orange and lemon, if desired. Arrange zest in loose spirals on the top of cake, and sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.
Recipe from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook