Lemon and poppy seed syrup cake (torta al limone e semi di papavero)

There are so many lemons on mamma’s two trees this year. My father planted the trees in the early 1970s when we moved back to Australia from Italy and they have been producing fruit every year. Some years less and some years more but this year, we can’t go through the lemons they produce fast enough. I have taken to grating lemon on most savoury dishes as well as adding it to most cakes and tarts but I am struggling to get through my overflowing bowl of lemons. My mission over the weekend was to find a recipe that would use some of them up. I read quite a few italian food blogs and remembered that I had seen a recipe for a lovely poppy seed syrup cake that used a lot of lemons on the Trattoria da Martina blog.

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The cake sounded simply delicious and as Mark’s mother was coming over for afternoon tea, I thought I would make it. I followed the recipe, making the icing as suggested and using only 100g of water to make the syrup. Next time I will omit the icing and double the amount of syrup, making sure that the sweet lemony goodness really soaks the cake through. My mother in law loved it with her cup of tea (Mark and I had ours accompanied by an obligatory weekend caffe’ corretto – short sweet coffee “corrected” by a hefty dose of grappa) and although she is an excellent baker herself (she made our tiered wedding cake), she asked if she could take some home, which I happily obliged. Between that and my husband devouring (accompanied by sweetened Greek yoghurt) large slices, the cake lasted less than 48 hours! Lucky I have a lot more lemons to use up – it looks like I will be making it again soon.

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Torta al limone e semi di papavero (Lemon and poppy seed syrup cake)

  • Time: 20 minutes prep, 45 mins cooking time, additional cooling time
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85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
Zest of one large lemon (or two small ones)
15g poppy seeds
165g milk, full cream
235g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
for the syrup:
Zest of 3 lemons
100g sugar
200g water

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and butter the inside of a Bundt tin and dust evenly with flour.

Place the butter, sugar, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer (I used medium speed on my KitchenAid) until well combined. Add the milk in a slow stream with the mixer going. The mixture might separate a bit but don’t worry too much about it. In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add these to the wet mixture using a wooden spoon until they all well incorporated.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk until peaks form and carefully fold this into the cake mixture, one third at a time. Place the mixture in the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes (the original recipe says to bake at 175 degrees for 35 minutes but my cake was not yet cooked so I varied it as I just described).

Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the syrup by placing the sugar, water and lemon in a small saucepan on medium heat and then boiling until it reduces by half.

When the cake is cooked (and a skewer inserted comes out clean), make lots of tiny holes in the cake with the skewer and slowly pour on the syrup, which will be absorbed by the cake. Allow to cool completely in the tin.

When it has cooled, remove from the tin by tipping it upside down onto a serving plate. If it remains stuck to the tin, place a hot tea towel (wet it with boiling water) on the upside down tin – this will help the cake separate from the tin.

poppyseed lemon syrup cake-italy on my mind-italian food blog

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11 comments on “Lemon and poppy seed syrup cake (torta al limone e semi di papavero)

  1. Making it today! My favourite Lemons & Syrup Cake does it not get any better? Only wish I had an abundance of lemons in my backyard like you have. I have only just planted a lemon tree, this is my second attempt wish me luck that this one doesn’t die like the last one. Lemons are like liquid gold to me you should see how excited I get when I am given a bag of lemons 🙂

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  2. This is such a pretty cake… on such a pretty plate. Lucky LUCKY Mark’s mother!! I would love to have a lemon tree, but one wouldn’t survive in my area. I’ve been searching for a small lemon tree that could survive indoors, yet not grow too big!! 🙂 Lovely post!

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  3. Mmmm delicious. I have a daughter heading over baskets of lemons, it’s obviously been a good season despite or maybe because of the heat. I chucked at your comment amount putting lemon zest on everything, me too! I discovered it was delicious on oven dried tomatoes and zucchini pizza. I’m trying a lemon syrup polenta cake today and will add your cake to my how to use up lemons list!

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  4. This cake always reminds me of spring. We make something similar every year for Easter. I can see yours might be a bit lighter with just egg whites. Will need to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Do you mean 165mls of milk not grams? I notice the Italian recipe saws grams but surely milk would be measures in mls. What did you do?

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