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poppy seed

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes, with Lemon Curd & Cream

TIME: 1 HOUR (not including cooling time); SERVES: 12 MUFFINS
Adapted from Christina Tosi’s ‘Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins’ in the Cherry Bombe cookbook

This recipe is a little more involved than I typically tend towards (and definitely not gluten or sugar-free), but worth the extra steps! If you don’t want to overdue it, skip the lemon curd filling and the whipped topping, and you’ll still have the best, most-lemony poppy seed muffins ever.

My sister is the pastry chef, not me. (I use a ziplock with the corner cut out as a piping bag.) You will, however, benefit from an electric hand mixer or stand-up mixer. Having to whip egg whites and cream butter & sugar by hand makes these already involved cupcakes a little too daunting.

*Note: If you don’t have access to Meyer lemons, other varieties are fine, you just may need to purchase a few extra because they can yield less juice. Stray away from bottled lemon juice—you will need the zest and pulp as well, so fresh lemons are a necessity here.


4 (Meyer) lemons, zest and flesh
3 large egg whites
6 tbls. unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup buttermilk or crème fraîche
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I’ve made these with gluten-free flour—they require a little more baking time)
1 tbls. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Lemon Curd (makes 1 cup)
2 large egg yolks
2 large whole eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (~5 lemons)
5 tbls. unsalted butter, diced
Pinch of salt
Whipped Lemon-Cream Topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
~1/2 cup lemon curd, or to taste


  1. For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

  2. Zest the lemons and set aside. Cut off the top and bottom of each lemon. Holding each lemon upright, use a paring knife to slice down the sides, removing the white pith until only the fruit is left. Run a paring knife along each segment to extract the flesh from the membrane, making sure to remove any seeds. Do this over a bowl to collect all the juice. Cut the segments into slivers if they haven’t already broken apart, and add to the bowl along with the zest. Set aside.

  3. Using either a hand mixer or standing mixer, whip the egg whites until medium-firm peaks form. Set aside.

  4. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, add the egg yolks and buttermilk/crème fraîche. Mix until combined.

  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the lemons until incorporated.

  6. Add half the egg whites and mix to combine. Add the other half and gently fold, careful not to over mix.

  7. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely. These can be made a day in advance.

  8. For the lemon curd: Mix all ingredients together in a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the butter melts and the curd becomes thick. Do not overcook.

  9. Immediately remove from the stove and strain through a mesh sieve, pressing down with a rubber spatula. Let cool completely. Curd can be made up to 3 days in advance.

  10. Assembly: Once you are ready to assemble the cupcakes, cut out a hole from the center of each cupcake with a serrated knife.

  11. Spoon half the lemon curd into a sturdy plastic bag, or piping bag, and cut a small hole in the bottom corner. Squeeze enough curd into each hole to almost fill. If you don’t have enough, you can add more from the reserved curd, just know you’ll have less to add to the whipped cream topping.

  12. Cut the bottom off each cupcake plug that was removed. Replace the flattened plug on top of the lemon curd.

  13. For the whipped lemon-cream: Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff, but careful not to over mix because you will make butter!

  14. Fold in the remaining lemon curd. Avoid adding too much, or the cream will become wet and heavy.

  15. Using a different sturdy plastic bag, spoon the whipped topping in and cut a hole in the bottom corner—a pastry tip is nice here. Pipe on top, concealing the plug.

  16. Refrigerate If not serving immediately. Pass around fresh raspberries or blueberries for a nice touch.