Memaw’s Poppy Seed Cake

There’ll be no tandem recipe this week; hopefully this’ll hold you over ’til next week!

Several years ago, my daughter flew to California to visit her father’s parents. When she came back, she brought this recipe with her. I was skeptical – poppy seeds? Really? Meh. – but she was so sure that Fred and I would love it that I finally gave it a try.

Oh my god, you guys. It is SO GOOD. It’s simple to make (most recipes that start with a cake mix – HI AMANDA! – are pretty simple), but SO GOOD. Did I mention that it’s SO GOOD? Because it IS. Fred likes it almost as much as I do, but I swear I could eat the whole thing myself. The crunch of the cinnamon sugar combined with the moist cake is perfect. Also, it’s fairly light and not particularly filling, so watch out – you might find you’ve eaten half the cake and only feel slightly full.

I don’t know where the original recipe came from (a Google search shows the same recipe all over the internet with a zillion different names), but as far as I’m concerned Danielle’s Memaw gets all the credit.

Your ingredients:

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (1)

Cake mix with pudding in the mix, a 5.1 oz. box of instant pudding mix, 3 eggs, water, oil, poppy seeds, and cinnamon sugar.

First thing, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Then grease a Bundt pan – you can use Crisco if you want, but I just use Baker’s Joy spray. It’s less messy.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (2)

Then you “flour” your pan with the cinnamon sugar. I use a mix of 1 T. cinnamon to 8 T. sugar, but you can use more or less cinnamon, depending on your preferences. This part can get messy because you’ve got to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar in the pan and then shake it around to evenly coat the entire inside of the pan. I usually do this over the sink (also, don’t use all your cinnamon sugar – you’re going to need some later on!)

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (3)

Throw your cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, water, oil, and poppyseeds into a bowl and mix that stuff together. It takes me about three minutes on medium speed to get everything mixed together well. Scrape down your bowl, and then mix for about 30 seconds longer.

Pour the batter evenly into your Bundt pan.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (5)

Bake the cake for 20 minutes, then remove it from the oven and sprinkle the top of the batter with your reserved cinnamon sugar. I generally use a small spoon to sprinkle the sugar; you can use a spoon or your fingers or whatever works for you. Just try to sprinkle it evenly so that the entire top (bottom) of the cake is covered.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (6)

Continue baking the cake for another 20 – 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While it’s baking, go snuggle some kittens.

These kittens are The Sopranos. They’re a month old and they are killing me with how damn CUTE they are. Look at that attitude they’re giving me, because I woke them from their nap. Brats.

This is what the cake looks like when it’s done baking.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (7)

I let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. That can be messy (you lose a lot of cinnamon sugar off the top/bottom), so I usually do it over the sink.

The hardest part of this recipe, by far, is waiting for the cake to cool. It takes FOREVER, or so it seems. On the up side, it doesn’t have to be completely cool before you eat it – just as long as it’s not hot enough to burn your mouth, you’re good to go.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake (8)


The rumor is that you can also make a chocolate version of this cake using chocolate cake mix and instant pudding. I imagine you could do lemon as well – really, the possibilities are endless. I’ve never done anything but yellow cake/ vanilla pudding because I love it so much that I’ve never felt the need to experiment. I think YOU should, though, and report back to me.

Memaw's Poppy Seed Cake
Original Source/Author:
: Dessert
Cuisine: The land of cinnamon and sugar. I want to live there.
  • 1 cake mix with pudding in the mix (yellow or chocolate; you could also try lemon)
  • 1 5.1 oz box of instant pudding mix (vanilla or chocolate; lemon if you're making a lemon cake)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. water
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 2½ T. poppy seeds
  • Cinnamon sugar - I use 1 T. cinnamon and 8 T. sugar, but you can adjust according to your preferences.
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Grease (with Crisco or Baker's Joy) and "flour" a Bundt pan with cinnamon sugar.
  3. Mix cake and pudding mixes, eggs, water, oil, and poppy seeds for 3 - 4 minutes; scrape down bowl and mix an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Pour evenly into Bundt pan.
  5. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, evenly sprinkle the top of the partially cooked batter with more cinnamon sugar, and return pan to oven. Cook another 20 - 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then finish cooling on a rack.



Memaw’s Poppy Seed Cake — 40 Comments

  1. Military husband who doesn’t eat poppy seeds because it could pop on the random drug tests. You know what that means, don’t you? MORE FOR ME!!! Thanks, Memaw!

    • See, I always heard that poppy seeds could throw a false postive on a drug test, but now I have proof from the American military!! 🙂

      I grew up eating poppy seed bread and muffins (HA – I accidently typed “poopy seed” – I blame all the cat litter discussions over at L&H!) and I think Mom used the lemon cake mix for some of them. All very, very good! But I don’t remember a cinnamon sugar addition, so I need to try this.

  2. I can indeed vouch for the lemon version! I’ve made this for many years and have tried several combinations, but my favorite is yellow cake and lemon pudding. And yes, it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once!

    • I really do think it is!

      Do you have a regular tube pan? I meant to mention that you can probably use a tube pan instead, but I’m not sure how that would affect the baking time.

      • I don’t, so it sounds like time to get me a Bundt (it’s not the buying, it’s the storing, but I’ll find an awkward corner to keep it in). My mother and brother will be here for Thanksgiving, and I’m thinking this is a good one for breakfast. Cake for breakfast is okay on a holiday, right?

      • Oh, Caroline. You don’t have to wait for a HOLIDAY to have cake for breakfast. It’s okay for breakfast ANY day! 🙂

  3. Looks delicious, and easy! I love lemon with poppy seed, so I’m gonna give that version a try.
    Gotta call a foul on the Sopranos picture, though. Where’s Paulie Walnuts? Maybe he’s off on “family business” and I shouldn’t ask …

  4. That looks delicious! I don’t know what it is about poppy seed anything, but any recipe I have with poppy seeds in it is really delicious. Perhaps it’s the residual opium on the seeds?

    • I’ve come to like poppy seeds in my old age. I used to think “What’s the point?”, but now I think “the point is that they’re delicious, dummy!”

  5. Yummy-looking and, clearly, -tasting, though I suspect the chickens won’t be happy since they likely won’t be getting their fair share. Perhaps you should microwave a few of last week’s recipe for them, Robyn. Meanwhile, hope all is well on the great Nance’s end.

  6. mmmmm….love lemon poppy seed bread my mom makes so this would be delicious!! BTW – idea for the cinnamon sugar in the baking pan – put a large plate on top of the pan and shake to distribute (if you don’t have a large enough plate, try a cookie sheet) and the you can still get to the stuff that didn’t stick.

    Oh – and next time work harder with the Sopranos – one of them slept through the picture. 🙂

  7. I’ve made this one before-but without the cinnamon sugar dusting. What a great idea! This is a really good cake, but I haven’t made it in years. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. When I saw the picture of the Sopranos, my first thought was “Dang, I know they are teeny, but how are they all fitting on that pot holder?” I promise I wasn’t snorting poppy seeds beforehand… 🙂

    • In a pinch, adult cats or even dogs can be substituted for kittens. It’s not as much cuddly fun, but you do what you can with what you’ve got, right?

      Those chickens eat better than the humans do!

  9. My mother used to do something like this with applesauce and cake mix. She’d pour in half the batter, put down a layer of the cinnamon sugar then the rest of the batter. As it baked it made a cinnamony swirl in the cake. Oh so good. I must ask her for that recipe.

  10. The poppy seed/drug test thing is true. I worked for a large company that did random drug testing regularly. All of a sudden, there were a disproportionate amount of heroin addicts turning up. After some investigation, all of the lemon poppy seed muffins in the cafeteria were pulled from the shelves, never to return again. Which sucked, because I was a junkie with a one-a-day habit.

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