Zucchini Cake with Lemon and Poppyseed

Zucchini Cake with Lemon and Poppyseed Recipe

There is a lovely retro charm, redolent of 1950s cookbooks, about making a sweet zucchini cake with a vegetable that’s usually served savory. Of course, the zucchini here performs the same function as grated carrot does in the more familiar carrot cake. It keeps this cake wonderfully fresh and moist.–Brian Glover

LC Some Like It Sweet Note

Nothing helps a vegetable go down without a struggle like a little sweetness. This particularly lovely zucchini delivery system—an old-fashioned dessert that’s not unlike carrot cake—is sweet but not too sweet. In other words, it’s just right. Although you can temper how much sugar you prefer to dose—or douse—your zucchini with by twiddling with the frosting. If you wish to retain some sense of savoriness, omit it. If you want to layer on the sugar, frost away. And if your sweet tooth falls someplace in between, consider a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar. You can’t really go wrong any way.

Zucchini Cake with Lemon and Poppyseed Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 8 to 10


  • For the zucchini cake
  • 3 tablespoons poppyseeds
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup milk, preferably whole milk
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/3 cups light soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted (or substitute 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt)
  • 2/3 cup ground almonds
  • 9 ounces zucchini, topped, tailed, and coarsely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • For the lemon frosting
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)


  • Make the zucchini cake
  • 1. Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C).
  • 2. Place the poppyseeds and grated lemon zest in a small bowl. Heat the milk until hot but not boiling and stir it into the poppyseed mixture. Let it cool while you make the batter.
  • 3. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract, flour, and ground almonds. Gently fold in the zucchini, followed by the poppyseed mixture.
  • 4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the cake mixture. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and level the surface.
  • 5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Make the lemon frosting
  • 6. When the cake is cool, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the still-hot melted butter. Stir, adding sufficient lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to achieve a spreadable frosting. Mix in the grated lemon zest. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake and let it set at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before slicing and serving.
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