Spiced Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting

{Just go ahead and start adding these ingredients to your grocery list now.}

I'm not sure why I don't bake cakes very often.  Wait...yes, I have an inkling.  I don't make cakes very often because I feel like they have to look spectacular.  I love a spectacular cake.  My Pinterest cake board is filled with them.  I have immense respect for Amanda, and Rosie, and Heather, and Gail, and Melissa because they make them.   
My cakes, though, are not pretty.  I've decided to make peace with that fact. 

After coming to terms with this truth, I decided my birthday was the perfect excuse to make a cake I'd been dreaming about from the book Cake Ladies. (Found on Amazon and B&N.}

It's a poppy seed cake made with warm spices, honey, and a little whole wheat flour.  The frosting is a rich, fluffy, American buttercream flavored with almond & vanilla.  {Are you swooning, yet?}

Three things:
  1. If you happen to have a friend who is a beekeeper, this cake is even more special.  Yes, I'm lucky enough to have such a friend...Amy from She Wears Many HatsIs that totally cool, or what?  I loved that the honey for this cake came from her bees!
  2. Cake Ladies...if you haven't seen this book, take a look online or next time you're out at a bookshop.  Not only is it filled with delicious tried-and-true cake recipes, but the book showcases 17 southern "cake ladies," and their stories are so wonderful. 
  3. For the moistest cake, make the cake at least a day ahead of frosting...more on this in the instructions.  Trust me. 
OK, ok...you want the recipe.  Here ya go:

Spiced Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting
{slightly modified from Cake Ladies}

for the cake:
1 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups milk, at room temperature
2 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP almond extract
1/2 cup poppy seeds

for the frosting:
3 sticks (1 & 1/2 cups) salted butter, at room temperature
7 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
6 TBSP half-and-half, plus more if needed
poppy seeds for sprinkling

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to  350.  Grease three 9" round cake pans with shortening; line the bottoms with parchment.

Sift the flours, baking powder, cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom together.  Set aside.

With the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

In another bowl, use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy.  On low speed, add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

In a bowl, combine the milk, vinegar, and almond extract. (Don't worry if it curdles.)

Add the dry mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk/vinegar mixture.  Mix lightly, between additions, just until combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.

Fold in the poppy seeds, then fold in the whipped egg whites in three additions. (Re-whip the egg whites first if they have separated.)

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until done.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire cooling racks.  Once the cakes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, wrap in plastic wrap, then in foil and freeze overnight, or until you're ready to frost.

{This tip is from my friend, Gail, and guarantees a moist cake.}

The day you're going to frost the cake, take the layers out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator for several hours to defrost. 

Make the frosting:
Cream the butter and powdered sugar together using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until it forms a thick "paste." Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts, then the half-and-half.  Beat until fully combined.  Add more half-and-half as needed to get to a fluffy consistency.  Beat until fluffy and no lumps remain.

With an offset spatula, spread a heaping 1/2 cup of frosting over each cake layer, then frost the top and sides.

Sprinkle on the poppy seeds and add a little piping detail with a large star tip, if desired.

Will keep covered at room temperature for 2 days, or refrigerated for about 1 week.

Don't wait until your birthday...make it NOW!



  1. Your cake looks perfect to me..Happy Birthday.

  2. Questa è davvero una super torta, strepitosa direi, bravissima!!!!

  3. That looks super lovely! I love the freckled look the poppy seeds give :)

  4. i REALLY want to make this cake- looks so so good!

  5. I think this cake is wonderfull!!
    Kisses from Spain

  6. I think this cake looks perfect! Lovely. I can also imagine it for breakfast too. ;) Yeah, maybe without the icing. Wouldn't it make a wonderful breakfast muffin? YUM!

  7. This looks amazing, Bridget! And thank you so much for the shout-out. I'm sincerely flattered! As for Poppy Seed Cake, I have very fond memories of it. When I was 16 I worked at an incredible German bakery, and they mad a fabulous version of it. I was hooked and ate is so often! Love this cake, and I love you. xo

  8. Bridget this cake is seriously lovely!! I'm dying to check that book out too...

    And yes, I don't make many cakes either. But I don't make them because...I will eat them all.

  9. Happy Birthday. I just adore poppy seed cake and yours is beautiful. I'm going to pin your cake to my Pinterest cake board.

  10. I have never had a poppy seed cake that was frosted before, this could be something great!

  11. i wish i made layered cakes like this more often! they're so pretty and don't really take a lot more time to do!

  12. I rarely make cakes too! They are so daunting with all that frosting to be decorated. But this sounds so good I might have to make it!

  13. So beautiful! I've never tried a poppyseed cake before, but sounds delicious!!!

  14. Such a lovely, lovely cake, Bridget. I love vintage styled cakes that look like something my Mama or Grandmother would have made and this perfectly fits the bill!

    1. I do too Robyn!
      Never thought of phrasing it like that!
      "Vintage Style Cakes!"
      I like it!

  15. And that's the highest compliment I can give. :)

  16. This looks spectacular, Bridget! I love the unique flavor profile of this cake and can't wait to try a slice :) You are such an inspiration!

  17. This cake is absolutely beautiful! I love how simple and delicious it sounds...

  18. Well doesn't that look totally and completely perfect?! My birthday is next week... will you make it for me? :)

  19. Hello Bridget,
    I am so glad that I found your blog. I don't bake much but I always loving browsing through blog that has amazing dessert recipes. I love your pictures. I briefly browsed through your posts and I am sure that I will be back often to check your recipes. Let's stay connected.

  20. wow, this looks amazing! poppyseed ANYTHING is a personal fav!

  21. So did you just say that your cake was not perfect? I mean, really? Looks pretty spectacular to me!

  22. oh that looks delicious Bridget!! Steve has a customer who gives us honey - it's the BEST!!!

  23. I love the mixture of spices in this recipe. And almond buttercream....YUM!

  24. First of all~the Cake Ladies cookbook looks incredible!
    Yeah for SOUTHERN ladies and CAKES!
    That's pretty much a MAGICAL BIRTHDAY CAKE!
    What's more magical than a GIGANTIC cake sweetened with a FRIEND'S HONEY!!!!!!
    I'm in LOVE with that!
    I was honestly yearning for a slice of this as you were cutting it in these pics!
    You know how I feel about BIG~TALL~HUGE CAKES!
    Please tell me you've seen those HUGE Fair cakes in the the movie Polyanna!
    I've just got to get me several 20" round cake pans and make my ultimate DREAM come true by making one of those
    gigantic Polyanna cakes!
    Love this cake Bridget!
    Absolutely love that it was sweetened with Amy's HONEY!

  25. Wow! That looks amazing! It's beautiful/

  26. Don't hurt yourself too much, I can make a cake and beautify it (as to speak), but I can't decorate cookies like you do. Your cookies are just perfect. I have come to understand something and that is that the most important part of any cake is the taste. Your Spiced Poppy See cake looks great and the ingredients sounds great. I mean great quality honey, who can beat that?

  27. This cake is right up my alley...I love poppy seed muffins and this sounds like a giant, amped up poppy seed muffin! Almond extract is another love, and the spices...oh my! I am going to pin this to make for my birthday on 12/12/12! :)

    Happy Birthday to you!!!

  28. I've never seen a lemon poppy seed recipe with the spices and amount of eggs that this ones calls for but is certainly looks lovely! I've used Gail's tip for freezing the cakes while still warm and it does keep the cakes moist. Love almond buttercream!
    I hadn't heard of Cake Ladies and just read the books description. I love that there are personal stories with each of the featured cakes. I did not know that being a Cake Lady was an actual role one could fill in a southern community. Sounds like a great read :)

  29. Oops. I know it's not a lemon poppy seed cake...force of habit whenever I write anything with the words *poppy seed* in it :)

  30. Adding ingredients to my grocery list right now (and also looking for a beekeeper friend). :)

  31. Yes....swooning....with coffee please!

  32. Another stunner! I think your cake looks amazing! I hope your birthday was extra special!
    Renee - Kudos Kitchen

  33. I just tried a new cake recipe yesterday, and also tried to make it look pretty. Still didn't end up looking like I hoped. I was quite happy to see your first photo and realize even imperfect cakes are still pretty. :)

  34. this looks so good. We are hunkering down for the Hurricane coming and if I had this to nibble on right now I would be a happy camper.

  35. This is definitely one swoon worthy cake! I love the spice + organic flavor combinations of almond, honey, and poppy seed... LOVE!

  36. Yum! Definitely going to make this. Do you think it would work as a loaf cake if I halved or third-ed (is there one word for "divided in three"? haha) the recipe?

  37. I don't bake cakes often, either, and I certainly don't decorate them well. But THIS ONE is making my 2013 bucket list. Love the poppy seeds!

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  41. Got rave reviews for this cake...it was delicious. Will definitely be in the cake rotation...

  42. Really good recipe! Thank You!

  43. Made this cake and it was good! The frosting was especially delicious with the almond extract. The cake seemed extremely dense though. Delicious, but definitely dense. Next time, I think I'll add marzipan! Would add a nice finishing touch.

  44. I saw a spiced poppy seed cake with almond buttercream on Instagram today, and I've never heard of it before that! What a coincidence! This cake is gorgeous :)

  45. Made this cake for mother's day! I would agree that it was quite dense, and I wonder if I messed up somewhere and did something to make it less fluffy than it could have been? For some reason I thought it didn't seem as tall as it should have been. Maybe something to do with using a hand mixer? Or that I had trouble getting the egg whites to peak? It was a hit, anyhow! Thanks for posting it!

  46. Wow! What a unique cake we have here, I'm gonna do this instead of this recipe called Flourless Chocolate Cake.


  47. oh I like that it looks so tasty this so lovely cake i ever see here on internet.
    i love eating that's why im too fat now :)
    but most of the time what i eat are any kind of chocolates
    like milk chocolate ,French macarons, and macarons london and so on.
    well anyway that cake recipe above is interesting i wanna try that.

  48. I made this cake yesterday and it is VERY heavy...not a "fluffy" cake at all. Yummy, just heavy.

  49. Can the milk in the cake be substituted for either almond milk or...? I have a friend who can't have (cow) dairy and that's the only thing holding me back from making it for my friends.

  50. Wow says it all. This may well be my new favorite cake - Which says a lot since I am a serial baker. This is an elegant, beautiful and delicious cake. The almond burst of flavor in the frosting makes it pop. I'll make this again and again. Thank you for an awesome recipe!

  51. This was incredible. I'll make this again.

  52. Do you have to soak the poppy seeds before adding them to the batter? (I've heard before that you're supposed to..)

  53. I made this cake for a friend’s birthday tonight. Huge win! Everyone loved it and went back for seconds. I followed your instructions with no problem. Thank you for sharing!

  54. This was the best cake I've ever had! I made it into cupcakes, and cut down the poppy seeds a little bit, but it was absolutely fantastic. So delicious!

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