Orange and Poppy Seed Cake


Gosh, it has taken me over three days to write this post!

Do you ever have tasks that you set about doing that seem to take an age to complete?

I have been a little distracted, to be honest. Now that it is February, I have set about visiting the gym so the ‘slimmer, fitter me’ can emerge from it’s rather long, slumber. I avoided the gym in January intentionally (cough, cough) as the tread mills are far too busy. Better to embark on a new regime when the fainthearted have already exhausted their resolutions in January, I say.

I really have to make a concerted effort on this fitness front in order for me to enjoy my bakes with a clear (or clearer) conscience…


So ‘HURRAH’ for February!

I, for one, am very pleased to see the back of January, the wettest on record here in the UK. We seem to be experiencing extreme weather all around the world of late. So what better way to lift ourselves out of the gloomy grey, wet skies and floods than to put the kettle on and enjoy a glorious syrupy, orange and poppy seed cake. An instant ‘sunshine’ fix, if ever there was one.

This cake is a ‘gem’ according to friends and family and trust me, they get to sample a fair few. Adapted from one of my most favourite books of late, ‘The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook’ – each and every one of their recipes I have tried is superb – this cake is easy to make.

Fundamentally, it is an orange flavoured sponge cake with added poppy seed for ‘crunch’, which is steeped in a fragrant orange syrup, topped off with a simple orange glaze. Baked in a single round tin means you are able to maximise the syrup content so it is a beautifully moist cake. I have suggested you use an 8 inch / 20cm round tin (most people own one of those, correct?). This will give you a slightly deeper cake than mine shown. I used a 9 inch pan and would have preferred it to be a little deeper. Don’t be put off by the syrup. I know it seems like extra work but it really is simple and can be made whilst the cake is being baked.


This cake goes perfectly well with a fresh cup of tea or coffee, but equally works well as a dessert. If any cake can chase away the winter blues, this one can!



Orange and Poppy Seed Cake


  • 280g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (I used ground, course sea salt)
  • 150g buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 260g granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 4 oranges
  • 150ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • For the syrup
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 120ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • For the icing
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange
  • For the decoration (optional)
  • Freshly grated orange zest or orange candied peel ( see separate post for recipe)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4. Prepare an 8 inch round tin by greasing and lining with baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. In a jug, beat together the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for approximately 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture, incorporating well each time. Repeat the process again and finish with the final third of flour. Add the orange zest and juice and mix well. Finally, add the poppy seeds and ensure they are thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, add the granulated sugar and orange juice. Over a medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve. Once dissolved, cook for a further 5 minutes until it is slightly reduced and resembles a syrup. Set aside.
  6. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool a little in the pan. Turn onto a wire rack to allow to cool completely. Place a sheet of baking parchment under the wire rack to prevent syrup spills. With a skewer, pierce holes all over the top of the cooled cake, ensuring you do not punch all the way through - we want the syrup to settle in the cake, not seep out of the bottom. Spoon the syrup over the top of the cake ensuring it seeps down into the holes. Spread the syrup over the cake with the back of a spoon. Leave for a few minutes and then repeat until all the syrup is absorbed into the cake.
  7. Prepare the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and orange juice until completely smooth. Pour over the cake.
  8. To decorate, grate orange zest over the icing or add candied orange peel (optional).

Source: Adapted from Cheryl Day & Griffith Day’s ‘The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook’



  1. OMG! This cake looks like an absolute stunner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE IT!!!! I love a moist syrupy cake and orange and poppy seeds are sooooo good together! and hahahaha!!!! I absolutely agree with your logic of hitting the gym in Feb! 😀

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Thanks Samina! Well, I have to make an effort to do some exercise with all this cake consumption…;-) !!

  2. Oh the weather has just been so dismal hasn’t it! Not fun at all. Really like the look of this bet it’s lovely with a pot of earl grey :)- normally usually only see the lemon-poppy seed combination so this makes a nice change.

  3. I love moist cakes and this one looks awesome! I have a 9″ inch pan, it took me a while to get used to it, but I am beginning to enjoy these “not so tall” cakes, they are great for coffee time. I was missing your bakes, Joanne! Good luck with the gym!

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Thanks Viviana – so sweet of you! As you know with young children, things tend to crop up so I have been a bit behind with my posts. I am trying to be more organised generally – baking and exercising!! Yes! I love my 9 inch spring form pan. So versatile and increased surface area means more tasting frosting/glaze! 😉

  4. Jo, I could really use a sunshine fix right now and this fits the bill beautifully! It has been one snow storm after another – one coming tonight and another yet over the weekend! I’d much rather think about cake. And this one looks incredibly moist and sounds so refreshing with just that hit of sweetness we all need everyday! I adore an everyday cake like this. I really like the layout of the Back in the Day cookbook too. I only tried one recipe but it was a good one. I see there are others to explore!

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Try and stay warm and safe Monica. We have more winds and rain forecast also. More sweet bakes required I think! Yes, thank you – there is something so wholesome about everyday bakes. I love the Back in The Day Cookbook. I have tried the Coffee Streusel Cake and the Ginger Molasses Cookies and they were both heavenly!!

  5. The cake looks absolutely divine! Love orange and poppyseed- looks super moist too! 🙂

  6. This cake looks so good! I love the orange / poppy seed combo – I made muffins with them a long time ago and fell for them hard. This cake looks even better with the syrup and icing! The weather has been weird here too – snowing one day and then freakishly warm the next. Probably one of the reasons everyone keeps getting sick!

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Thanks Ashley! Yes – syrup and icing is a bit of an indulgence for an everyday cake but I think we need it with this dreadful weather 😉 Hope you manage to avoid being poorly!

  7. This cake looks like the perfect winter treat! I really like citrusy baked goods and the crunchy addition sounds superb! The glaze looks so delicious as well! This one is so so so worth hitting the gym ;–)

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