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Light, fluffy, and bursting with fresh citrus flavor, this easy lemon poppy seed bread is the perfect way to start your day! Bake a loaf for simple grab-and-go breakfasts or snacks, enjoy the sweet treat with a special brunch, and offer it as a delicious dessert alongside vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, or a dollop of whipped cream. Best of all, the iced lemon loaf cake comes together in minutes thanks to help from a box of cake mix and a small box of instant pudding mix!

Hands slicing a loaf of lemon poppy seed bread

Easy Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Kids and adults go crazy for this easy lemon poppy seed bread recipe. While the loaves are simple to make with pantry shortcuts like lemon cake mix, lemon pudding mix, and poppy seeds, the bakery-style loaves are bursting with bright citrus flavor. Each slice is light, tender, fluffy, and drizzled with a sweet lemon glaze. Grab a cup of coffee and sink your teeth into the best ever lemon poppy seed bread!

I first baked these loaves for a last-minute coffee at my oldest son’s preschool…almost a decade ago! Everyone loved the sweet snack, and we’ve been enjoying the quick recipe ever since. It starts with a box of lemon cake mix, and is almost identical to my mom’s recipe for a classic lemon bundt cake. You can certainly serve these loaves for dessert (similar to lemon pound cake), but we also enjoy the bread for a special breakfast or brunch treat, or as an after-school snack.

Sliced lemon loaf cake on a ceramic platter with a gold knife

Ingredients for Lemon Loaf

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to make two loaves of glazed lemon poppy seed bread. As always, the specific measurements and the complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Lemon cake mix: my mom always uses Duncan Hines brand, but any similar boxed lemon cake mix will work.
  • Lemon instant pudding mix: just the small 4-serving (3.4 ounce) box of dry mix — not prepared into actual pudding.
  • Poppy seeds: add a little bit of flavor and crunch.
  • Water: the liquid for the batter.
  • Oil: I use vegetable oil, but any neutral oil (such as canola oil) will work.
  • Eggs: give the quick bread structure.
Mixing batter for lemon loaf cake

Why add pudding to cake mix?

The gelatin component in the instant pudding mix makes the lemon loaf super moist. It’s the secret ingredient to make your cakes more fluffy, too! When baking a cake (or quick bread) in loaf pans, a very moist batter is necessary so that the bread doesn’t dry out. Don’t omit the pudding, which is a key ingredient.

Process shot showing how to make lemon poppy seed bread

How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

This easy breakfast or dessert recipe has been prepared in farmhouse kitchens for generations because it’s absolutely delicious (and so darn simple). The lemon bread strikes a perfect balance with a rich, moist lemon flavor and a light, fluffy crumb. The tender texture is not as dense as a classic sour cream pound cake, and it’s finished with a delicious lemon glaze for maximum citrus flavor.

  1. Mix together the batter ingredients in a large bowl on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes.
  2. Pour the batter to two greased loaf pans. Tap on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles.
  3. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean.
  4. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Glazing lemon loaf cake

The Lemon Glaze

For the quick and easy lemon glaze on this easy lemon cake, simply whisk together the following ingredients until a smooth, thick (but pourable) icing comes together:

  • Powdered sugar (also called “confectioners’ sugar”): sift the sugar beforehand to make sure that there are no lumps in your glaze.
  • Freshly-squeezed lemon juice: to thin the glaze and add that bright, tart lemon touch that nicely balances the sweetness of the sugar.
  • Vanilla extract: for warm, delicious flavor.

Drizzle the glaze all over the top of the cool bread. Give the glaze a little while to set, then slice and serve!

Square side shot of glazed lemon loaf on a serving platter

What to Serve with Lemon Loaf Cake

These loaves of lemon poppyseed bread make a great addition to your breakfast or brunch table, serve as a nice snack with a cup of coffee or tea, and work equally well for a quick dessert. If you’re serving the bread for breakfast or brunch, here are some other delicious options to pair it with:

Hands picking up a slice of lemon loaf cake from a white plate

Storage

Covered loosely, this bread will keep at room temperature for about 2-3 days. To extend the life of your lemon poppy seed bread, store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Can I freeze lemon poppy seed bread?

Yes, this old-fashioned loaf cake freezes beautifully, so you can enjoy one now and save the second for later. Allow the bread to cool completely, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. If possible, wait to glaze the bread until it’s thawed, just before serving.

Overhead shot of a sliced lemon loaf cake on a tile table

Recipe Variations

  • Lemon Blueberry Bread: gently stir 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries into the batter. If using frozen berries, do not thaw. Omit the poppy seeds.
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake: bake the batter in a Bundt pan at 350°F for about 40 minutes.
  • Dust with powdered sugar instead of drizzling with the lemon glaze.
  • Add lemon zest to the batter for even more potent lemon flavor.
  • Lemon Raspberry Bread: gently fold 2 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries into the batter. If using frozen berries, do not thaw. Omit the poppy seeds.
  • Turn this recipe into lemon poppy seed muffins by baking the batter in muffin tins at 375°F for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For muffins that are made from scratch, use this recipe.
Close up shot of a sliced loaf of lemon poppy seed bread on a tray

Tips for the Best Lemon Poppy Seed Bread Recipe

  • Grease the loaf pans really well by coating with butter and then dusting with flour. Alternatively, you can use a cooking spray that’s specifically made for baking (like this one). These options will ensure that your bread pops right out of the pans when it’s done!
  • The total baking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use (and on your individual oven). I prefer light-colored pans (or gold pans), which cook the bread more evenly. Dark metal pans tend to cause the outside to burn before the inside cooks through. You’ll know that the bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Don’t leave the bread in the pan for too long after baking — about 5-10 minutes is plenty. After that, condensation will start to form and the moisture will negatively impact the crust.
  • Fresh lemon juice is best in the glaze if it’s available, but you can use bottled lemon juice, too.
  • The bread gets better as it sits, so this is a nice breakfast or dessert option to prepare the day before you plan to serve it.
Overhead shot of pieces of lemon poppy seed bread on a white plate with butter

More Quick Bread Recipes to Try

Square side shot of a sliced loaf of lemon poppy seed bread

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread {Lemon Loaf Cake}

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings 2 loaves (about 16 total slices)
Calories 172 kcal
A delicious and easy recipe for lemon poppy seed bread that starts with a box of cake mix! Serve the lemon loaf cake as a snack, at brunch, or for dessert.

Ingredients
  

For the Bread

  • 1 (15.25 ounce) box lemon cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant lemon pudding mix (just the dry mix — not prepared into pudding)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Bake the Bread

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease two (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat together the cake mix, dry pudding mix, poppy seeds, water, oil, and eggs for about 2 minutes.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then turn the loaves onto wire racks to cool completely before glazing.

Make the Glaze

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract until a thick, pourable glaze comes together. If the glaze seems too thick, add more lemon juice, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. If the glaze is too thin, gradually add more powdered sugar.
  • Drizzle the glaze over the cooled loaves of bread. Once the glaze sets, slice and serve.

Notes

  • Grease the loaf pans really well by coating with butter and then dusting with flour. Alternatively, you can use a cooking spray that’s specifically made for baking (like this one). These options will ensure that your bread pops right out of the pans when it’s done!
  • The total baking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use (and on your individual oven). I prefer light-colored pans (or gold pans), which cook the bread more evenly. Dark metal pans tend to cause the outside to burn before the inside cooks through. You’ll know that the bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Don’t leave the bread in the pan for too long after baking — about 5-10 minutes is plenty. After that, condensation will start to form and the moisture will negatively impact the crust.
  • Fresh lemon juice is best in the glaze if it’s available, but you can use bottled lemon juice, too.
  • The bread gets better as it sits, so this is a nice breakfast or dessert option to prepare the day before you plan to serve it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 172kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 3gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 244mgPotassium: 37mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 60IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: lemon bread, lemon cake, lemon poppy seed bread
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in April, 2014. The photos were updated in July, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this lemon poppyseed bread for my family a while ago, it was loved so much, I am sending it to friends and family for the holidays this year to bring a little sunshine in these cold days! Thank you for sharing! Thank you Ellie for your inspiration!
    Kristin

      1. Hello, Blair,
        I have been unable to find lemon cake mix that doesn’t have pudding in the mix. How do I adjust the recipe for this? May I substitute vanilla cake mix without pudding in the mix and use the lemon pudding?
        Thanks!

        1. Hi, Pat! I would just go ahead and use the cake mix with pudding in the mix and not adjust the recipe at all. You’ll have a really moist bread — but that’s not a bad thing. 🙂 If you prefer, you could certainly do what you suggested and use vanilla cake mix with the instant lemon pudding (you could also add extra lemon zest to the batter for more lemon flavor). Either way, it should work fine. Enjoy!

          1. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Blair! I’m excited to try your recipe, and will make it with the pudding in the mix lemon cake mix to get the full lemon flavor! I’ll let you know how it comes out!
            Warm regards, Pat

    1. Hi, Jodi! You can, but the texture of the bread will be very different since it’s lacking the fat from the oil. Baked goods that are made with applesauce tend to have a more gummy texture, or may be more dense and chewy than those made with oil or butter. Feel free to experiment, though, and let me know if you give it a try!

  2. Can I use vanilla pudding mix instead of Lemon? It seems some of the breads are over powered by lemon flavor. Starbucks for example is way to much lemon in there bread.

    Thanks

    Gian

    1. Absolutely! If you prefer a more subtle lemon flavor, you can definitely use the vanilla flavored pudding instead. Enjoy!

    1. Hi! Yes — I think it should work well in a Bundt pan. I haven’t tried this particular recipe myself that way, but here’s how I typically bake similar cakes in a Bundt pan:

      Bake the Bundt cake at 325 degrees F for 70-80 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for about 20 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

      1. Can easily make this into a bundt. But suggest google nothing but bundt lemon cake… it’s similar recipe and it’s the bomb!!

    1. Hi, Sandra! You can certainly do that. I don’t know if you’ll taste the difference or not, but it won’t hurt.