Lemon poppy seed cupcakes recipe

(79 ratings)

Our easy lemon poppy seed cupcakes are ready in under and hour and only have 332 calories per cake

lemon poppy seed cupcakes
(Image credit: Alamy)
Preparation Time20 mins (plus cooling)
Cooking Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Cost RangeCheap
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories332 Kcal17%
Sugar35.8 g40%
Fat14.7 g21%
Saturated Fat8.1 g41%
Protein3.7 g7%
Carbohydrates46.3 g18%

These lemon and poppy seed cupcakes have lemon zest in the sponge and lemon juice in the icing for a delicious zesty flavour. 

A simple twist on a basic cupcake recipe, these cupcakes look impressive but are so easy to make. The combination of zesty lemon and a slightly nutty poppy seed flavour is a classic for a reason. Decorate with extra lemon peel and poppy seeds or keep the icing plain for a simple finish. 


  • 175g (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g (6 oz) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1tsp lemon extract or fresh lemon juice
  • 1tsp lemon zest
  • 175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
  • 25g (1 oz) poppy seeds

For the icing:

  • 250g (9 oz) icing sugar
  • 1½tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp finely grated lemon zest




  1. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan, Gas 4). Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases.
  2. Start by creaming butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Whisk the eggs in one at a time to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the lemon juice, zest, flour and poppy seeds.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the lemon juice to give a smooth, spreadable icing. Stir in the lemon zest and spread the icing over the cupcakes. Leave to set at room temperature.

Top tips for making lemon poppy seed cupcakes

These cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or in a cake tin. Feel free to increase the quantity of lemon zest in the cake batter and icing if you want a punchier lemon flavour. You could also use a little gin if you wanted a boozy flavour. For more tips, continue reading our suggestions below.

What do poppy seeds add to a cake?

Not only do poppy seeds give cakes and cupcakes an attractive centre when you slice or bite into them, they also add a delicious subtle flavour. Many people describe the flavour of poppy seeds as slightly nutty and sweet with subtle undertones of warm spices like cinnamon. 

Do you need to toast poppy seeds?

The poppy seeds are baked into the cake batter in this recipe so there is no need to toast them. However, if you’d like to decorate the cakes with some additional poppy seeds, toasting them will enhance the flavour. 

What flavours go well with poppy seeds?

You could enhance the flavour of these cupcakes even further by adding a generous teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cake batter. Add the extract with the final addition of egg to ensure it is evenly incorporated. 

The quickest and easiest way to cream butter and sugar together is by using an electric hand mixer. 

KENWOOD Handmix Lite Hand Mixer Silver - View at Currys

KENWOOD Handmix Lite Hand Mixer Silver - View at Currys

With two sets of beaters, this hand mixer will not only make baking cakes easy but kneading bread too. The beaters are dishwasher safe but they are easy to hand wash too. The mixer has five speed settings and a 1.1 metre power cord. 

If you like the flavour combination of this recipe you should try our lemon cake with poppy seeds. Purists might like our lemon drizzle cake or these adorable lemon cupcakes are an excellent choice too. 

Jessica Ransom
Senior Food Writer

Jessica is a freelance food writer, stylist and recipe tester. She previously worked as Senior Food Writer at Future. While at Future Jessica wrote food and drink-related news stories and features, curated product pages, reviewed equipment, and developed recipes that she then styled on food shoots. She is an enthusiastic, self-taught cook who adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits.