Lemon & Poppyseed Cake with Lemon Syrup

September 6, 2011

Lemon and Poppyseed cake

“Why seek revenge? Karma is going to get the bastards anyway”

- Ajahn Brahm

The saying goes “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Wise? Yes. But the yellow-peel road from sour lumps to sweet lemonade isn’t easy: squirts of lemon juice launch like finely-honed missiles with your eyeball as their target. It also has a special way of seeking little paper-cuts to give you a good stinging. Heaven forbid there’s a bandaid over a cut, sealing the juice right into the wound and making you do the Yelpie-Stingy dance while trying to rip the fabric from your finger.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s not easy to make good of a bad situation. I’m the champion of hosting a Perpetual Pity Party for one with a resplendent sour lemon theme. I’ve been deeply hurt in a way many of us experience, adding a tonne of sour lemons to the proverbial backpack I carry everywhere. For a year or two, I’ve carried it. Carried the bitterness, the heaviness, the resultant draining of emotion. It’s exhausting and it sucks the life out of you. Then I had my lightbulb moment:

“It’s only heavy if you hold it, but if you let it go, it’s got no weight at all.”

-Ajahn Brahm

Think about it slowly once more. Things are only heavy if we carry them, but if we choose to let go, we’re free. Mind. Blown.

So I’m choosing to shed the cubic mega-tonne of lemons I’ve let consume me. It’s slow going, as old habits die hard. But whenever I find myself going back to that place, those memories, those feelings, I say STOP IT, Emma. LET. IT. GO. And I can feel the load lightening a little more with each release.

To commemorate turning gross lemons into better things, I baked a Lemon & Poppyseed Cake. It’s a lovely little cake, based on a pound cake recipe by the venerable Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of The Cake Bible). She also happens to request making lots of little stabby holes with a skewer into the top of the cake, to brush through the accompanying lemon syrup. Good times ahead, people. Release away.

Hey, lemons. Yeah you. You aren’t so tough once we juice the crap out of you and mix in a little sugar. Punks.



You will need:
45g milk, room temp
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g plain flour
50g cornflour
150g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6g Lemon zest
28g poppy seeds
185 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature  

75g caster sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice



Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a medium loaf tin.

In a small jug combine the milk, eggs and vanilla. In an electric mixer bowl combine the plain flour, cornflour, caster sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds. Beat in the very soft butter and half of the egg mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for one minute to aerate the batter. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

Scrape the batter into the greased loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup. Place the caster sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the oven.

While the cake is still warm, poke many holes deep into the cake with a skewer, then brush the lemon syrup over the top sides and base of the cake. Wrap the cake in gladwrap to seal in the syrup, then store in an airtight container for 24 hours. This allows the syrup to seep through the cake.


Recipe adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum Copy available from The Book Depository  

  • http://ironchefshellie.com Iron Chef Shellie

    bahahahaha!!! so true about the lemon juice and the paper cut.. i laughed out loud and Hamish stopped playing his game to read what I was laughing about :P

    looks delicious mistress of cake :P

  • http://myfoodtrail.com [email protected]

    Awww, yay for having a lightbulb moment and realising that letting go is the way to go! Best of luck to continue the journey to a more positive mindset because it isn’t easy especially when you have a lot of lemons. The first and major step is acknowledging you want to move on and it can only get easier from there! :)

    I made a lemon cake too recently but haven’t gotten around to blogging it!

  • http://www.makemydayproducts.com/blog make my day

    ALWAYS looking for yummy lemon recipes… this one is the most ENTERTAINING read yet – as always fun to read! i’m going to send you one of my lemon squeezers….seriously says “CIAO baby” to lemon and paper cut issues!

  • http://alittlelessvanilla.wordpress.com ck

    Good luck with your moving on Cake Mistress. I make a cake like this, but it is lime poppyseed with lime syrup – and it is a cracker. A couple of years ago, I was a broken human being, a complete shell and wreck, due to work experiences in starting and running a large small business (not for myself, for a big company in Sydney). It nearly killed me and pretty much destroyed me. Time of course allows us to move on and get our mojo back. The turning point for me was hearing Lindy Chamberlain speak at some forum which was played on ABC Radio National. She spoke about how she was able not to carry hatred for those who incarcerated her and who call her guilty of a heinous crime and how she was able to move on. She spoke about not looking back. About how you can’t change the past and how, you can choose to let the past cause the rest of your life to be sh*t also, or, you can draw that line in the sand and choose to make the rest of your life as amazing as you possibly can. A quote I have loved for many years is the one by Eleanor Roosevelt, about how you can’t change the behaviour of others, you can only change the way you choose to react to it. It is of course all common sensical, and as you say, sometimes easier said that done. But even considering these wise thoughts is a step in the direction of healing. Again, I wish you much luck and love in moving forward into the life you deserve – make the most of every day, don’t let whoever hurt you succeed a day longer. Onwards and upwards I say!

  • http://www.di-liciouscupcakes.com Di-licious

    You must be a prophet – this is exactly what I needed to read today! I’m guilty of over-thinking and dwelling on how badly I’ve been treated by others. I need to let go. And have a slice of this delicious cake with a steaming cup of tea, Hallelujah!

  • http://msihua.com msihua

    Hey you read Ajahn Brahm? I have a CD of one of his week long retreats if you’re interested. It helped me whilst I was going through a rough patch and he is a funny man :)

  • http://www.ledelicieux.com/ Jennifer (Delicieux)

    It’s so true about lemon juice finding the tiniest little cut, or the juice squirting your eye. It always happens to me.

    Congratulations on that lightbulb moment. It’s something I need to do. :)

  • http://www.asplashofvanilla.com/ Emma

    Yup. Been there, still got the t-shirt but getting a bit better. I hope everything is ok with you and gets better and better.

    I really love lemony baked goods, and lemon and poppyseed is one of my favourite flavours, looks lovely as always.

  • http://www.startswithcupcakes.blogspot.com Andie

    i’m new to your little corner of the blogosphere.. but i have a feeling i’ll be back. those quotes and your story have definately struck a cord with me. i am having my own lightbulb moment. thank you! xx

  • http://thechocolatepot.blogspot.com Chele

    Good for you Hun!!

  • http://www.sliceofmylyfe.wordpress.com Anita Menon

    I love this quote -“It’s only heavy if you hold it, but if you let it go, it’s got no weight at all.”
    Fantastic. I haven’t heard of him before so I googled him.

    The Lemon poppyseed cake looks perfect.
    Thank you for writing this post and sharing your thoughts. It really helped put so many things in perspective

  • http://melangerbaking.com/ Julia @ Mélanger

    This lemon cake looks just perfect. A great way to celebrate letting go!

  • http://www.tamarindrestaurantmthawthorn.com Candy Palmer

    “It’s only heavy if you hold it, but if you let it go, it’s got no weight at all.” I think this is the best quote to feed my mind and heart right now. And this wonderful cake that would make letting go easy for me… :) Thanks for this great and helpful post.

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