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The Best Easy Lemon Curd & Poppy Seed Cake

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Lemon lovers…this one is for you!  Loaded with amazing lemon flavor this easy Lemon Curd Cake starts with a cake mix and ends with the perfect amount of whipped cream and lemon curd.  Happy baking!

A slice of lemon curd cake on a plate and ready to serve.
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What is Lemon Curd vs Custard

While both have great tangy lemon flavor the texture between the two is very different.  A lemon custard is more of a pudding consistency while a lemon curd is like a thick jam.

A lemon custard is also much quicker to make than a lemon curd.  A custard can be made in about 15 minutes while a curd can take up to 5 hours with chill time.

I wouldn’t let the time difference stop you from using lemon curd because you can buy really great ones at the grocery store and make your life super simple.  That is what we use in this easy lemon curd cake recipe.

What goes into this Recipe

Ingredients needed for a lemon curd cake.
  • Cake Mix:  Starting with a cake mix gives you a super simple cake that is also moist and delicious.
  • Butter:  Adding melted butter instead of vegetable oil to the batter helps to give a cake a richer flavor.
  • Milk:  Substituting milk for water is another great way to add more great taste.
  • Lemon Zest:  Using fresh lemon zest gives the cake lots of amazing lemon flavor that you can’t get with another ingredient.
  • Lemon Curd: You can purchase good lemon curd at the grocery store but by all means make your own if you have a good lemon curd recipe and time.  If you have leftover lemon curd, try these Lemon Curd Cookies or Lemon Blueberry Crumb Cake.

See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Substitutions and Variations

Cake Mix- If you don’t have a white cake mix use a vanilla, yellow or even lemon cake mix for the cake base.

Lemon Curd-  While lemon curd is amazing, this cake would also be delicious with orange curd and orange zest or even lime curd and lime zest.

Whipped Topping- If you prefer to make your own whipped cream go for it!  A Swiss meringue butter cream would also give you a delicious cake.  For more lemon flavor add a lemon buttercream or lemon cream cheese frosting.

Poppy Seeds- You could leave the poppy seeds out altogether or replace them with a cup of fresh blueberries or raspberries!

How to make a Lemon Curd Cake

1. Combine the cake mix, milk, melted butter and eggs in a large bowl.  Use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients.  Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds to the cake batter and stir them into the mixture by hand until they are evenly incorporated.

2. Pour the lemon cake batter into a 9×13 baking pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. 

Steps 1 and 2 of making a lemon curd cake. 1, combine cake ingredients. 2, pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake the cake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs {but no raw cake batter}.  Let the cake cool for 15 minutes. Then take the end of a wooden spoon and poke holes into the top of the moist cake, being sure to not push completely through and to the bottom.  Next, allow the cake to cool completely.

4. Once the cake is cooled, add the lemon curd filling to a piping bag {or zipper bag} and pipe the curd into the holes of the cake.  Use an offset spatula to spread out any of the lemon curd on top of the cake.  

Steps 3 and 4 of making a lemon curd cake. 3, poke holes in cake. 4, add lemon curd to holes.

5. Finally, add a layer of whipped topping to the top of the cake and spread it out into an even layer.   Take any remaining lemon curd and pipe it randomly over the top of the whipped cream.

6. Use the end of the spatula or a toothpick to swirl it into the Cool Whip topping.  Sprinkle with additional poppy seeds and lemon slices {if desired} before serving.

Steps 5 and 6 of making a lemon curd cake. 5, add the toppings. 6, sprinkle with poppy seeds and serve.

Expert Tips

  • Spray the pan just before pouring the batter into the pan.  Doing this step too early can cause the spray to pool in the bottom of the baking dish and not evenly cover.
  • If you are a big lemon dessert lover, add fresh lemon juice to the cake batter.  The extra citrus flavor will give you even more wonderful taste.
  • Use a piping bag or zipper bag to add the curd to the holes in the cake.  This allows you to completely fill each hole evenly and will give a wonderful finishing touch when the cake is cut.
  • Serve this easy lemon cake recipe chilled.  While this recipe is wonderful at room temperature, chilling it gives it an extra element that enhances allow the flavors.
  • Make this recipe a day ahead of time.  It truly is at its best the day after you make it and it has been refrigerated overnight.

Storing and Freezing

Store- Store leftovers covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container and refrigerated.  It will stay fresh for up to 4 days.

Freeze-  This cake can be frozen with or without the lemon curd for up to 2 months.  I do not suggest freezing it with the whipped topping, as it might lose quality after being frozen.  Add that final elements {whipped topping, poppy seeds and lemon slices} after the cake has defrosted and serve.

Recipe FAQs

Does lemon curd cake need to be refrigerated?

Yes, unless you are planning to serve this cake within a couple hours of making it refrigerating is best.  The whipped topping and lemon curd both need to be refrigerated to keep their integrity.

Can I bake this recipe in a different pan?

Absolutely!  A bundt pan could be used to bake the cake but the baking time would need to be changed to 35-45 minutes.  

You could also make a lemon layer cake by using two 9 inch round pans.  I suggest lining the pans with parchment paper to be sure that they turn out of the pan easily.   To finish, add half of the lemon curd between the lemon cake layers and cover with whipped cream.

You could also use this batter and bake in a muffin pan for amazing lemon poppy seed muffins or cupcakes.

How do I serve this cake?

My favorite way to eat this cake is with a cup of tea in the afternoon but it would also be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.  While serving it in the spring and summer is my preference, this cake works wonderfully for any occasion.

Can I make homemade lemon curd?

Yes, if you have a great recipe for tangy lemon curd then go for it!  The lemon filling from these Lemon Bars Cookie Cups would also be delicious and is easy to make.  

A lemon curd cake where a few slices are removed.

Do you love lemon desserts? Try these recipes…

Did you try this recipe?Leave a ⭐️ review below and tag @practicallyhomemade on Pinterest!

A square of cake on a plate.

The Best Easy Lemon Curd Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

Loaded with amazing lemon flavor this easy Lemon Curd Cake starts with a cake mix and ends with the perfect amount of whipped cream and lemon curd.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 288kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix {15.25 ounces}
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • cup butter {melted}
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest one lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds

Toppings

  • lemon curd
  • 8 ounces whipped topping
  • ½ teaspoon poppy seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  • In a large bowl combine the cake mix, milk, melted butter and eggs. Use an electric mixer to mix the ingredients together. Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds to the cake batter and mix by hand until they are evenly incorporated.
  • Spray a 9×13 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Spread into an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs {but no raw batter}.
  • Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes and then use the end of a wooden spoon to poke holes into the top of the cake {not all of the way through} about every 1/2-1 inch. Allow the cake to cool completely.
  • Once the cake is cooled, add the lemon curd to a piping bag {or zipper bag} and pipe the curd into each and every hole. Use an off set spatula to spread out any curd that is on top of the cake. Top with the whipped topping and spread out. Take any remaining lemon curd and add it to the top of the cake in dollops. Use the end of the spatula or a toothpick to swirl it into the whipped topping. Sprinkle with additional poppy seeds and serve.

Video

Notes

  • If you are a big lemon dessert lover, add fresh lemon juice to the cake batter.  The extra citrus flavor will give you even more wonderful taste.
  • Serve this easy lemon cake recipe chilled.  While this recipe is wonderful at room temperature, chilling it gives it an extra element that enhances allow the flavors.
  • Make this recipe a day ahead of time.  It truly is at its best the day after you make it and it has been refrigerated overnight.
Substitutions/Variations
Cake Mix- If you don’t have a white cake mix use a vanilla, yellow or even lemon cake mix for the cake base.
Lemon Curd-  While lemon curd is amazing, this cake would also be delicious with orange curd and orange zest or even lime curd and lime zest.
Whipped Topping- If you prefer to make your own whipped cream go for it!  A Swiss meringue butter cream would also give you a delicious cake.  For more lemon flavor add a lemon buttercream or lemon cream cheese frosting.
Poppy Seeds- You could leave the poppy seeds out altogether or replace them with a cup of fresh blueberries or raspberries!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 288kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 380mg | Potassium: 112mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 280IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 166mg | Iron: 1mg
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