These bright and sunny lemon poppy seed cupcakes are made with light and fluffy sponge, full of fresh and fragrant lemon flavour. Addition of the poppy seeds gives the cakes a fantastic crunch, and there is also a puddle of luscious lemon curd hidden inside!
You can use the Swiss meringue buttercream topping for a luxurious and heavenly treat, or try them with simple lemon icing or lemon cream cheese frosting for a quick, yet irresistible bake that everyone will love!
These lemon poppyseed cupcakes with lemon curd are with no doubt my personal favourite among all of my cupcakes recipes. They are sweet, moist and bursting with bright, zesty and fresh lemon flavour. It is a perfect bake to bring to any summer garden parties, birthdays celebrations or any special occasions.
The fresh lemon flavour is enhanced by the addition of my Homemade Lemon Curd, which is hiding in the middle of each cupcake. That, along with a crunch and a flavour of poppy seeds creates a fantastic combination which is impossible to resist!
To make the basic sponge for these lemon poppy seed cupcakes you will need the following ingredients:
- Self-raising flour - This type of flour already has raising agents and salt added to it. If no self-raising flour is available, you can make your own by combining plain, all purpose flour with baking powder. For every 200g of plain flour, add 2 teaspoon of baking powder and sift them together. It is easier to make a bigger batch and store in the container in your kitchen cupboard.
- Poppy seeds - We are using dried poppy seeds, which will be soaked in water first. Soaking the seeds softens their tough outer coating, so that their unique flavouring can be easily released by baking temperatures.
- Lemons - I recommend using fresh, unwaxed lemons in this recipe. Fresh lemon juice and lemon zest is what gives the cakes that wonderful lemon flavor and fragrance.
The lemon curd filling is optional, but VERY highly recommended. I always use my easy homemade lemon curd, but feel free to use the ready-made shop bought curd.
You will also need an additional ingredients for the frosting, depending on which type of frosting you decide to use.
These lemon and poppyseed cupcakes come together in only few simple steps:
Make the cupcake batter and add poppy seeds to it.
Divide the batter between the cupcake cases and bake for 22-25 minutes.
Allow the cakes to cool, then make a small cavity in the centre of each.
Fill each cupcake with 1-2 teaspoon of lemon curd and top with your choice of frosting/ buttercream.
- Flour - If no self-raising flour is available, use all purpose flour. Make sure to add extra baking powder to it. You can also use gluten-free flour in this recipe.
- Lemon curd - Make your own or use the shop-bought curd, if you prefer. You can also skip it from the recipe, or use your favourite jam instead.
- Butter - I always choose unsalted butter, but feel free to use salted butter if you'd like (just don't add any extra salt to the cake batter).
- Swiss meringue buttercream - This type of frosting goes wonderfully with these lemon cupcakes as it is not overly sweet. The extra smooth and incredibly creamy texture of buttercream compliments the lemon and poppy seed flavour without over powering them. If Swiss meringue buttercream is not something you want to make, try one of the following options:
- Simple lemon icing - Mix 250g of icing/ powdered sugar with 1 ½ -2 tablespoon of lemon juice until smooth. Add a teaspoon of lemon zest and spoon the icing on top of each cupcake.
- Lemon cream cheese frosting - Use the cream cheese frosting recipe from my Gingerbread Cupcakes recipe, adding an additional teaspoon of lemon zest and a tablespoon of lemon juice.
- Mascarpone cheese frosting - Mascarpone cheese is higher in fat content in comparison to the soft/ cream cheese, which is what makes it richer and creamier in texture. It is also a great carrier for the lemon flavour, as it doesn't over power it. To make mascarpone cheese frosting, mix 185g of room temperature butter with 230g of cold mascarpone using an electric mixer. Add 480g of icing sugar in 3 additions, and 2-3 tablespoon of double/ heavy cream. Mix until you have smooth buttercream (if it feels too thin, place in the fridge for 20- 30 minutes).
- Mini cupcakes or lemon and poppy seed loaf cake - Use the batter to bake a loaf cake instead of cupcakes. This recipe will yield one large or two small loafs. Or why not try making mini cupcakes instead? Simply use the mini cupcake liners instead of the regular size. Adjust baking times accordingly.
- Poppy seed muffins - You can easily turn this recipe into muffins instead of cupcakes by moderating the ingredients and adding some sour cream or yoghurt to the batter. Check out this Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins recipe from the Domestic Gothess.
- Vegan lemon poppy seed cupcakes - Replace the butter in this recipe with a vegan spread or plant-based alternative. Use applesauce as an egg replacement (¼ cup of applesauce for every egg).
A good, tried and tested cupcake/ muffin tin is a must here. You will get somewhere between 14-16 cupcakes from this recipe, so you will need a couple of tins or simply bake the second batch after the first one is done.
As with any cupcake recipe, I recommend a cookie scoop or an ice cream scoop to portion the batter. I used a medium scoop, which is 2 tablespoons in capacity.
Depending on the type of frosting/ icing you want to use, you will require a piping bag with decorative nozzle. I used Wilton 1M tip to pipe the buttercream on top of my cakes.
Storage and freezing
Store the frosted cupcakes at room temperature in the airtight container for up to a day. You can also store them in the fridge for up to 4-5 days, but they will dry out with time. Bring the cupcakes to room temperature before serving.
Unfrosted cupcakes are suitable for freezing. Wrap each cupcake in a double layer of clingfilm and place them in the freezer-friendly bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw them at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.
Swiss meringue buttercream is also suitable for freezing for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature, then place it in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy.
Frequently asked questions
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
You can prepare the cupcakes and buttercream ahead of time. Baked and cooled cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Swiss buttercream can also be prepared ahead and stored at room temperature for up to a day, or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Why my cupcakes didn't rise?
Make sure all of the ingredients are in date, especially the baking powder and the self-raising flour. The cupcakes will not rise properly if these are passed their best. Also, overmixing the cake batter can result in cakes not rising properly and being too dense.
Why did my cupcakes sink in the middle?
If you add too much batter to the cupcake liners, the batter will rise too much and will quickly deflate and fall as a consequence. That will leave your cakes sunken in the middle. Fill each case no more than ⅔ full with the batter.
Make sure not to overmix the cake batter. Once the dry ingredients are in, you want to quickly bring everything together. Stop mixing as soon as there are no more dry patches of flour visible.
Use a freestanding mixer to make the Swiss meringue buttercream. If the buttercream splits after adding butter to it, just keep mixing it. It will eventually come together and become smooth.
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Lemon poppy seed cupcakes
- 12 hole muffin tin
- cupcake liners
- electric mixer
- sugar thermometer optional
- piping bag with nozzle optional
For the cupcakes:
- 40 g poppy seeds
- 180 g unsalted butter (softened)
- 180 g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs (room temperature)
- 180 g self-rising flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large lemon (zest and juice)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 teaspoon lemon curd
For Swiss meringue buttercream (optional):
- 120 g egg whites (from about 3-4 eggs)
- 200 g caster sugar
- 300 g unsalted butter (softened and cubed)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
For the decoration:
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
To make cupcakes:
- Place poppyseeds in a cup or a bowl with water and soak them for about 25- 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 175°C (160°C fan) and line the muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a bowl of a standing or hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar for about couple of minutes until pale, light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour, baking powder and lemon zest and stir until just combined.
- Drain the poppyseeds and add them to the batter along with lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir again until you have smooth batter.
- Divide the batter between cupcake liners, filling no more than ⅔ of each case. You should get about 14-16 cupcakes, depending on the size of your liners. Place in the oven and bake for about 20-22 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
To make Swiss meringue buttercream (optional):
- In a large bowl, or a bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites and caster sugar and mix by hand briefly, until they are just combined.
- Create a double boiler by placing your bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat the egg mixture, stirring often, until the temperature on the sugar thermometer reaches 70°C (If you do not have sugar thermometer, you can check if the mixture is ready by rubbing some of it between your fingers. Be very careful as it will be very hot. You should not feel any sugar grains when rubbing the mixture between your fingers). The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved completely.
- Return the bowl with egg whites and sugar to the mixer, and using a whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 minutes, until it's shiny and stiff peaks have formed. The meringue should be room temperature when this is finished. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment.
- With mixer running on low, start adding softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter have been incorporated, add the vanilla and poppy seeds (if using). Turn the mixer to medium speed and and mix until silky smooth.
To assemble the cupcakes:
- Using a teaspoon or the back of your piping nozzle, create small holes on top of each cupcake and fill each cupcake with about 1 teaspoon of lemon curd.
- Transfer the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with the nozzle (I've used Wilton 1M) and pipe the buttercream on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle with extra poppy seeds and lemon zest if you would like and enjoy!
Please note that all my recipes are developed and tested in metric grams. I recommend that you use digital scales for a more accurate results. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
- Lemon curd filling and the Swiss meringue buttercream are optional. You can swap the lemon curd for your favourite jam or skip it completely from the recipe. Instead of SMB you can use a simple lemon icing or lemon cream cheese frosting.
- To make the simple lemon icing: Mix 250g of icing sugar, 1 ½ tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Spoon the mixture on top of each cake.
- To make the lemon cream cheese frosting: Mix 115g of soft butter with 500g of icing sugar on a medium-low speed. Add 225g of full-fat cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and combine well, until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag with nozzle and pipe the frosting on top of each cake.
- Store any leftover cupcakes in the airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Unfrosted cupcakes are suitable for freezing for up to three months. To freeze, wrap each cupcake individually in a double layer of cling film and place in the freezer friendly container or a bag. Thaw at room temperature.
This recipe was originally published in February 2020. It has been updated with the new photos, video, revised recipe and tips in June 2022.