Meyer Lemon Upside Down Poppy Seed Cake + 5 Must Try Upside Down Cakes!


I nearly missed these smooth skinned beauties neatly stacked like a pyramid of little suns, nestled between the overpriced organic lemons and limes.  I blame my 3-year-old for the near miss.  Grocery shopping with him is like wrestling a bear while trying to maintain some composure and getting everything on my list.  A nearly impossible feat! And yet somehow, out of the corner of my eye or the eyes that exist on the back of my head, I noticed the plump, canary yellow orbs.  I grabbed one, rubbed my thumb across its glossy skin and held it to my nose.  Sweet, floral, bright; a perfect contrast to the heavy, cheese and meat laced comfort food coming out of my kitchen this time of year.

Unsure of what to do with them or the $2.99 a pound price tag, I placed a few in my cart anyway; picked up my 3-year-old who was elbow deep in the organic (oh c’mon) chocolate malt balls candy bin, which, by the way, is oddly placed in between the produce and fancy cheese, (another WTF moment in a long month of WTF moments); and carried on.

I admired the little lemons sitting in our fruit bowl on our sometimes sticky, sometimes clean, kitchen island for a few days before deciding to make an upside down cake.  Sexier recipes for a lemon curd, preserved lemons, cupcakes and pastry cream enticed me briefly before I settled on this 1920s throwback.  Something about taking an old-fashion dessert and modernizing it with Meyer lemons and poppy seeds appealed to me post inauguration.

So I got to work thinly slicing a few lemons, melting butter and sugar together to create a syrupy, caramel like topping and carefully placing the lemons on top of the delicious goo. Next, I made a butter cake batter adding Meyer lemon zest and poppy seeds which made it taste exactly like my Mom’s famous lemon poppy-seed tea cake.  Fifty-five minutes later I had a tender, sweet, subtly tart and modern upside down cake.  I hope this cake brightens your January as much as it did ours.

Meyer Lemon Upside Down Poppy Seed Cake

recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated Fresh Fruit Upside Down Cake

Serves 8 -10

Ingredients for topping:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3 Meyer lemons, sliced 1/4 inch thick, seeds removed


Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round pan thoroughly.  Set aside.  Using a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add both brown sugars , stir and cook until the mixture foams, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Pour the butter/sugar mixture into your prepared pan and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan with a spatula.  Arrange the lemon slices in concentric circles.  Set aside.

Ingredients for cake:

1 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornmeal

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

zest of 1 Meyer lemon

2/3 cup of milk

Directions for cake:

Place oven rack in the lower middle position and pre-heat your oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium speed.  Slowly add the sugar followed by the lemon zest.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once or twice.  Next, reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternating until both are incorporated into the batter.  Mix until the batter just becomes smooth.

In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in one-quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter.  Then fold in the remaining egg whites until they are completely incorporated.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.  Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-60 minutes.

Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.  Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Place a serving plate over the pan, hold in place and flip so the cake is now sitting on the platter.  Remove cake pan.  If some lemon slices stick to the bottom of the cake pan, remove them and place on top of the cake.  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake will last two days stored in an air-tight container, at room temperature.**

5 Must Check Our Upside Down Cakes

Craving  more citrus in your life?  Head to Broma Bakery for an upside down winter citrus cake that is sure to brighten any January day.

Before pear season is gone, make Fix Feast Flair’s cardamom pear upside down cake.

Love grapefruit?  Check out Food on Fifth’s recipe for a grapefruit upside down cake.

Spring will come and when it does make Martha’s plum-blueberry upside down cake.  This is on my must make list.

I love all things banana flavored so I need to make David Lebovitz’s banana upside down cake, knowing my picky nine-year old will refuse to eat it.  Banana hater.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting + 5 Spring Cupcake Links!

lps0006I called an old friend today to wish her a happy birthday. A few hours later she called me back. We attempted to have a conversation, but N started crying. Neither of us could ignore his helpless newborn cry so we said goodbye. I felt sad we couldn’t chat longer. I miss her. Distance and small children who need us make staying in touch difficult. We try anyway because we need each other. We try because we remind each other of who we are. We try because a 20 year friendship deserves it.  One day our little people won’t need us as much and our conversations will last longer than 5 minutes. So today we make an effort for one day.

If today, we had more than 5 minutes to chat this is what I would have said: Happy birthday sweet friend! It is so good to hear your voice. I know, it is hard to believe we haven’t talked since N was born. Crazy how 5 weeks fly by. Lets not let another 5 weeks go by. Are you taking some time for yourself today? You should. No, don’t feel guilty. You deserve some time just for you. They will be ok. I wish we could grab a drink tonight and chat and eat the cupcakes I made. I think it is so cool your birthday falls on the first day of spring! Spring means a new beginning. This 36th year is your new beginning. Surprise yourself this year. Do something adventurous, and call me and tell me all about it. Also, be patient with yourself. You have a lot going on and there is only so much you can do in a day. Go for a run to clear your head as often as you can. Go to yoga and breathe out whatever is troubling you. Stop debating about whether you should have a second piece of cake today. You should damn it! It’s your birthday! You mentioned buying eye cream. You should buy some. Time is not our friend. If it works let me know! I know you have to go, me too. I hope this is your best year yet. I love you and miss you terribly. Bye for now.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food 1-2-3-4 Cake and Averie Cook’s Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients for cake:

2 eggs

1/2 cup of milk

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp. poppy seeds

zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt


Pre-heat your oven to 350. Line a 12 cup standard size muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.

Separate 2 eggs and set aside. Sift and measure 1 and 1/2 cups of cake flour into a medium bowl. Stir in 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 1 stick of butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup of sugar and lemon zest. Cream until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides once or twice. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Now add vanilla extract and fresh lemon juice. Once it is well combined, add the flour mixture and milk alternately. Start with 1/3 of the flour and then 1/3 of the milk, ending with the flour. Stir until just incorporated. Do not over mix! In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spoon the batter, about 2/3rd the way full, into the prepared muffin pan and bake for about 18-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cupcakes will last in an air tight container, at room temperature for 2 days. Enjoy and happy spring!

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

recipe barely adapted from Averie Cooks

(double the recipe if you want a lot of frosting on your cupcakes)


1/4 cup of cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar or more for desired consistency

pinch of kosher salt

optional: lemon zest for garnish


Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Add a pinch of salt. Continue to add sugar until you reach desired consistency. Refrigerate the frosting for about an hour so it firms up a bit. Once firm, frost your cupcakes with as much or as little frosting as you like. Enjoy!

5 Spring Cupcakes You Should Try!

If you like lemon meringue pie, why not try the cupcake version? Cooking Classy has a recipe that looks fantastic and I’m guessing tastes even better!

Looking for a cupcake recipe to try on your more adventurous eaters? I found it! Head to Annie’s Eats for her strawberry balsamic cupcake recipe.

I love the combination of raspberries and lemon. I need to make this cupcake by My Baking Addiction very soon.

I love carrot cake, especially in cupcake form. The Cupcake Project has a carrot cake cupcake recipe that promises to be moist and delicious. Check it out!

Peeps and Easter go hand in hand. I love Peeps, especially when they are a little stale. How about a vanilla cupcake, frosted with vanilla raspberry marshmallow frosting, topped with a pink peep? Yes please! Heather Cristo has the recipe for you.