Not all of my cakes turn out pretty. In fact, you could argue that most of them don’t. Remember, oh I don’t know, any of my cupcakes? I still haven’t really mastered the art of icing, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

You’d think that if a cake allowed me to skip that part – that part where I had to pull out a pastry bag and tip, cuff it, fill it, and squeeze it like a giant tube of toothpaste – I would be happy. The truth is I was! So happy in fact that I forgot to wait for the cake to cool entirely before putting on the glaze.

You’ll see very poor finished full cake pictures here today, and let that serve as a reminder (Get it? Serve? You know, like a cake? Well I thought it was funny…): even if it smells as heavenly as this one does, you need to wait to ice it, or you’ll end up with a cake that you cut before you even get to a brunch with it. Or at least I did.

But heavenly this cake smelled, and heavenly this cake was. In fact, it left guests asking the hostess of our brunch party which bakery she found it in because it was so moist and tender. What with the intensely flavorful cake and the delicately sweet purple glaze, it would have been a very beautiful cake, had I had the patience and the will power to restrain myself. It just wasn’t meant to be, but never fear, I’ll put myself through some sort of 12 step program, and next time I make this recipe, I’ll exercise restraint.

I’m on step one already. I have mustered the serenity to accept the ugly cakes I cannot change, the courage to change the cakes I can, and the wisdom to know the difference between too-hot-to-ice and just right.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Blueberry Glaze
Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker
makes one 10-inch bundt cake


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 large egg
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds*

1/3 cup blueberries, rinsed
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons buttermilk (or regular milk is fine too)


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In another medium bowl, whisk together canola oil, buttermilk, egg, vinegar, lemon, lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once.  Whisk together until just combined and no lumps remain.  Stir in the poppy seeds.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

3. Allow the cake to cook in the pan for 20 minutes.  Carefully run a butter knife along the edges of the cake to assure that it is well loosed before inverting the cake onto a wire rack to cool. Seriously. Let it cool.

4. To make the blueberry glaze: Mash the blueberries in a medium sized bowl releasing lots of dark blue juice.  Remove most of the blueberry skins from the juice and discard.  Add the vanilla extract, buttermilk and lemon.  Add the powdered sugar and whisk to combine.  If the mixture is too thick, add more milk to reach the desired consistency.  If the mixture is too thin, add just a bit more powdered sugar.

5. Drizzle the glaze over the completely cooled bundt cake and allow to set for 20 minutes before serving.

* If you will soon be in China and you’d like to make something with poppy seeds, I’d highly recommend bringing some with you. Though a friend found these at the Spice Shop, every day I’ve gone back, they have told me that they don’t have them and they won’t be stocking them again. I’ve never seen them in groceries here, and I suspect it has something to do with the Opium Wars. And by suspect, I mean guess haphazardly, with little reference to actual causal evidence or historical accuracy. Either way, bring your own poppy seeds, or risk having to substitute black sesame seeds – a starkly different taste, that wouldn’t be a good substitute at all. Any ideas for poppy seed substitutes? Please leave them in the comments so I can find a way around this poppy seed pantry stocking problem!