Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

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Whether fuelling the sugar rush at a children's party, adding some glamour to a tea table or being passed around at work on a Friday, cupcakes are always a hit with everyone. In this glorious cake recipe, Victoria soaks poppy seed cupcakes in lemon syrup before topping them with a rich buttercream icing. Quick, easy and fun to make at home, kids would enjoy decorating these pretty little cakes.

First published in 2015
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This lemon and poppy seed cake will fill your belly with enough sunshine to help ward off any invading rain this spring. With nephews and nieces due for a visit over the weekend, I opted to bake cupcakes – small enough for little mouths, but big enough to satisfy the greediest of grown ups too. These cupcakes don’t really need the swirl of buttercream on top, if you don’t want it, but I can assure you, it goes down a treat with the under 10s – especially if you give them back to their parents soon enough after eating that any sugar-induced bouncing off the walls is left for when they get home.




Cupcake batter

  • 150g of unsalted butter
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 150g of self-raising flour, (or rice flour plus 1 tsp. baking powder for gluten-free)
  • 2 lemons, zest only
  • 1 tbsp of poppy seeds
  • 1 dash of milk, if needed


  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice only


To decorate

  • sprinkles, optional


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases
Begin by making the cupcake batter. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg, whisking between each addition
Sift over the flour and whisk it until combined. If the cake batter is too stiff you can add a splash of milk to slightly slacken it
Fold in the lemon zest and poppy seeds. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases. The mixture should not fill the cases more than three-quarters. Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean
Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and sugar until fully combined. When the cupcakes are ready stab them all over with a skewer and pour a little syrup over each of the hot cakes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
To make the buttercream, whisk the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift over half of the icing sugar and whisk to incorporate. Sift over the remaining icing sugar and continue to whisk until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and whisk again to combine
Spoon the lemon buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle and pipe in a circular motion over the top of the cupcakes. Add sprinkles, if you wish, and serve
First published in 2015

Victoria is a London-based food writer and recipe developer. She was the Roald Dahl Museum’s first ever Gastronomic Writer in Residence and has written six books, including her latest, Too Good To Waste.

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