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 the goods

1 lb / 455g unsalted butter
18 oz / 510g superfine / castor sugar
18 oz  / 510g eggs (about 8, weighed with shell)
1lb / 455g cake flour (plain or all purpose will do)
1tspn baking powder
pinch salt
zest from 2 lemons
2 tblspns triple sec / orange liqueur
1/2 cup poppy seeds


1-2 sprigs lavender (pesticide free)

1 sugar cube (optional)

juice 2 lemons

1 cup confectioners / icing sugar


active time: 25 mins

baking time: 1 hr 15 mins

you will need:

  • electric beaters
  • 3 mixing bowls
  • angel food / bundt cake pan
  • grater / microplane
  • kitchen scales
  • sifter or seive



Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Lavender & Lemon Syrup

My friend, Sharon, was telling me about a cake that her mum used to make. Lemon, poppy seed, lavender. Pound cake. That's all I heard. I begged for the recipe. But the wait was too intense. I was losing sleep over the thought of this cake!

I figured, 'It's a pound cake; how hard can it be? 4 ingredients, a pound each. Mix. Bake. Done!'

Well, some research into the tricks and tips behind the perfect pound cake revealed a little sleight of hand. Pound cakes can go from unctuous to gunk-tuous in the oven.

The trick is to get some air into every single ingredient at every stage of the mixing. That takes a little sifting, separating and good, old fashioned beating. (And to be somewhat indiscretionary with the measuring; a good pound of sugar, a light pound of flour and heavy on the yolks...)

Obviously, I flavoured mine with lemon and poppy seed, but you can use vanilla, almond essence or straight booze.

This cake rose and rose and baked beautifully. It kept for a week. Its simplicity only adding to its versatility.

Have all ingredients at room temperature. For a denser, richer cake, Cooks Illustrated suggest that you fiddle with the pound of eggs; try using 2 more yolks and 2 less whites. I didn't bother with this recipe, but I can see where they are coming from...

preheat oven to 340f / 140c

butter your cake pan and line the bottom with a ring of baking parchment.

sift the flour, salt and baking powder together at least once.(if you are not using cake flour, try sifting it twice)

separate the eggs. Place the whites into a medium / large (spotless) mixing bowl and the yolks into a smaller bowl

beat the egg whites until light and foamy, slowly add 2 oz of sugar, conituing to beat until they can hold their own peaks but are not too glossy.

beat butter in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy (20 -30 seconds) then add sugar.

cream butter and sugar.This will take a minute. 

lightly beat the egg yolks to break them up (you can do this with a fork).

pour egg yolks in a slow and steady stream into the creamed butter (keep the beaters running whilst you do this) .

sift the flour into the bowl and, using a large spoon, gently fold the flour and butter together.

grate zest from lemon, add the zest and triple sec and fold into the batter.

fold the egg whites into the batter. Be gentle but thorough and fold the spoon from the bottom of the bowl up and over. You will lose some volume but do not worry; you should have trapped enough air pockets in the batter for the cake to rise.

add the poppy seeds and stir lightly through the batter

pour batter into cake pan and bake for about 1 hr 15 mins. The cake will rise above the cake pan, split along the top and brown. Test by inserting a tooth pick into the top of the cake, if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Cool for 5-10 mins in pan and then invert onto a wire rack. Use another rack or a plate and carefully turn the cake over again so that it is right side up. 

whilst the cake is cooking, make the syrup.

place the lavender sprig(s) in a small jug or glass and crush with the corner of a sugar cube. You can also sprinkle some sugar over the lavender and use the handle of a wooden spoon to muddle the sugar and lavender.

squeeze the lemon juice over the lavender and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Allow to cool and infuse for 5 mins.

add the confectioners / icing sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste. You can add more lavender or lemon juice. Strain through a seive and drizzle over the oven-warm cake.