Soaked Lemon, Poppy Seed and Olive Oil Cakes

This morning, as we were eating breakfast and getting ready for school, my little 3 year old turned around and said to me, “amatxu, these strawberries are better than candy”.

I know it sounds silly, but anyone with a little one must know how good it feels to hear such words. Good parenting often times goes unnoticed and we don’t always get the praise that we deserve (or we would like to think we deserve). It certainly rarely ever comes from our children. So this morning I felt that perhaps after all, after all the guilt and doubt that I feel as a mother, I might be doing something right.

Cooking and baking are such a big part of my life and I feel it’s my mission to instill that in my children. After my diagnosis, I am also having J. tested for food protein sensitivities such as gluten and casein. Of course, I really hope he doesn’t inherit my genes, but if he does, I want him to know that he will not have to give up everything he might consider as a treat in his life.

As I was rubbing a long swab against the inside of his cheeks, he asked “why do I need to have this done, amatxu?”. I told him how we are checking to see if some foods might make him sick and he responded, “I can’t have any more cake?”. Although I explained to him that was not the case, that thought roamed around in my mind. When he came home from school, I told him to pull up his chair up to the counter. We were making cake.

To me, nothing beats the simplicity of some classics such as a lemon cake with poppy seeds. So fresh and fragrant. I took Claudia Fleming’s lemon and lavender cake recipe and made it into a gluten and dairy free version by adding arbequina olive oil, millet flour and superfine brown rice flour. One of my new favorite gluten free flours.

The cakes are soaked in a lemon syrup while still warm out of the oven. Made my little boy happy as can be.

Soaked Lemon, Poppy Seed and Olive Oil Cakes (Gluten and Casein Free)

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract (gluten free)
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
2 Tbs tapioca starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs poppy seeds
1 cup olive oil (I used Arbequina)

Lemon Syrup
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Whip the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract for about 5 minutes until they are light and thick.

In a bowl, whisk together, the flours, xanthan gum, salt and poppy seeds. Fold the dry into the whipped egg mixture. Be gentle not to deflate the batter too much.

Take about 1/2 cup of the batter and whisk it with the olive oil. Incorporate this to the main batter and fold gently.

Pour into baking cups and bake at 350F for about 18-20 minutes.

In the meantime, make the simple syrup by boiling the lemon juice and sugar. When the cakes come out and are still warm, poke holes on the top and brush them with the lemon simple syrup until well soaked.

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100 Responses to “Soaked Lemon, Poppy Seed and Olive Oil Cakes”

  1. Totchie says:

    Great little cakes and beautiful pictures. It really gives me the will to try your recipe.

  2. Junglefrog says:

    I love the little poppyseeds throughout these cakes. Delicious!

  3. Robyn Iaea says:

    These look scrumptious! Thanks for sharing–love your photography

  4. Elana says:

    I bet he thought his cakes were wonderful. I made some orange banana muffins and everyone i know who ate them were happy! Thanks for your amazing recipes. I love poppyseed.

  5. Sounds like a gorgeous recipe. Your photographs are so beautiful :)

  6. Hilda says:

    I so know what you mean about the little victories with the little ones. I really hope that J will be fine but you are the best mother to have if he needs to adapt food-wise. I love lemon poppy seed muffins when it’s a good recipe, and I’m sure this one is delicious. I’ll give a try asap. The pictures are lovely as usual but I especially love the second one.

  7. I love olive oil in cakes and biscuits, and I love lemon muffins and cupcakes, so, I definetly love these tiny cakes!
    I tried a lemon syrup as well, boiling a pud of vanilla together with sugar and lemon juice: dots over dots in this case! ;)

  8. Simply Mel says:

    Lemon Poppy Seed is one of my all-time favorites ~ and this recipe may seriously just ‘take the cake’!

    Agreed ~ so rewarding to have our little crumbs choose wholesome gifts of nature over anything else. Makes my heart sing with glee!

  9. Can’t wait to try these. I love lemon cakes especially with syrups
    And I love how your child knows good food.

  10. So pretty and tempting! I love such cakes!



  11. Lovely. Simply lovely.

    (I’ve been doing the gluten-free, vegan diet for two weeks. I feel so good. Thanks for your advice on the subject.)

  12. Those look so delicious, can’t wait to try them. I think my 2 little ones will love ‘em too. Thanks

  13. Our little ones are just the best, aren’t they.
    I love your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sarah says:

    these cakes sound delicious! would you mind posting a modified gluten and cassein included version of the recipe? As a college student, I would rather not spend the money on xanthan gum and rice flour unless I have to! Thanks!

  15. You’re such a lovely, Mama. :-) You must’ve made his day inviting him to bake cakes with you. :-)

  16. Chelsey says:

    Using simple syrup rather than icing sugar must make them taste amazing. I bet the olive oil keeps them moist for a few days too. It will keep your little boys blood sugar from spiking.
    I love eating a little healthy and a little bad. Tastes so good!

  17. m says:

    Aww, that’s really sweet of you! I’m sure he loved them!

  18. Sarah- all you have to do is use add up all the flour amounts and use all purpose flour instead. Omit the xanthan gum and use melted and cooled butter instead of olive oil. Simple.

    Thanks everyone!

  19. Aniko says:

    How sweet yr son!
    I love poppies!
    I made a muffins with ground poppies seeds and lemon some days ago, trasforming our tipical,hungarian cake in muffins…

  20. whisk-kid says:

    Aw, reading this made me really happy! Very sweet :)

  21. Yours are some of the best food photogs on the entire www. Great stuff!

  22. Sharlene says:

    These look and sound so so delicious! I’m glad that your son believes in the yum factor of strawberries. Childhood obesity scares me as I spend my days in a hospital and see how large little children can actually be so good for you and your boy! I’ve been wanting to make a lemon poppy seed cake of some sort of awhile now. Can’t wait to try it out.

  23. I love everything about your blog,your recipes, your stories and your photos-you inspire me thank you…

  24. Michelle says:

    A wonderful story! I’m looking forward to trying these soon…

  25. These are so gorgeous, I can taste the lemon and poppy seed from the pictures :) Love the addition of olive oil

  26. These are some of my favorite foods – and yours are so gorgeous! You’re a fabulous mom!

  27. Ann says:

    I can’t wait to try this — once with regular olive oil, and once with my lemon olive oil! The lemon olive oil makes lovely cookies, so I can imagine that it’s good here.

  28. Gordy says:

    Wow… amazing photos. Great Recipe with olive oil. I love to cook with olive oil too. Just found out your Food Blog! Really cool! well done

  29. Beautiful cupcakes and how amazing to use olive oil for baking :)

  30. Oh heavens. These look fantastic.

  31. The French says:

    Wow. Always looking for a way to justify eating sweets. Using alternative flour may just do it. These look delicious! Love the way you wrapped and tied the muffin. And your pics are gorgeous.

  32. boogie says:

    i love LOVE poppy seeds! curious to taste it with olive oil!

  33. Zia Elle says:

    Cute your baby!
    Poppy is a so nice idea and your pictures are so beautifull!!

  34. Curra says:

    Como siempre un maravilloso post, que me encanta leer, disfrutar de esas maravillosas fotos y de ese pastel.
    Un abrazo

  35. ibb says:

    Denboraldi bat haruntz joan beharko nuke, nire labeari lan piskat emateko itzultzean. Dena dirudi hain erreza…eta niretzat hain zaila…denbora faltari bota beharko diot kulpa. Jajajaja.
    Itzura ezin hobea dute…noizbait sobrarik badik…bidali, jajaja.

    Guk, anaiak eta biok, oso txarto jaten gendun…amak, jamon de york eta esneakin, hazi ginela esaten zun. Gero denborarekin jateko plazerra arin ikasi gendun…etxean zer egiten zen ikusi eta erraz ikasten dira gauza horiek. Lan ona egiten hari zara umeekin, lasai. Nahiz eta orain ez hain argi ikusi, gerora…gauza horiek ateratzen dira.
    Patxo haundi bat.

  36. Amazing looking cakes. I always feel for kids with food allergies, it must be so hard not being able to enjoy what your friends can.

  37. Rowaida says:

    Love your post Aran! your writing is beautiful. God bless you and your family with good health and success.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Just fantastic!! bso CarmenZH

  39. Pauline says:

    When I found out about my gluten intolerance (I knew about the lactose intolerance already), I felt sad about all the foods I’d miss out on and any time deprivation would set in, I’d binge on cheesey-wheaty food. For me it’s about changing my focus away from what I can’t eat and focusing on what I can eat and he new options out there… Lemon Poppy Seed & Olive Oil cakes and Strawberries that taste better than candy?? I’d take that over a doughnut any day :)

  40. Congratulations for your blog your recipes and your photos … everything is beautiful! These little cakes are delicious and tasty! Baci Imma

  41. Sharlene- childhood obesity is indeed a scary thing and i wonder what the future holds for these children if they start their lives in this way. We must help them now to make the road ahead easier.

    Ibb- egie da hemen gluten bako urun asko dagola. aukera piloa dau eta horrek gauzak erreztatu eiten deuz. seguru. baina hor jateko era desberdine da, askoz be garbiagoa. hemen gauza askotan sartzen deurie glutena guk jakin barik. ostondute aurkitu ahal da janari askotan, batez be paketeetan (bueno suposatzen dot hor be holan izengo dala ze gauzak asko aldatu dire). Nire etxeko ateak zabalik dauz!! eskerrik asko.

    Mark- they actually can and sometimes they don’t even know the difference. I serve gf cupcakes to my son’s friends all the time and they don’t even know it. but it’s true that sometimes they get left out when other parents bring snacks to school or go outside of their home. it’s all about being prepared though and foreseeing these things.

    Pauline- that’s how i see it too!

    Thank you all. Hope you try the recipe!

  42. These little cakes look wonderful! I adore your recipes – I can eat gluten but have so enjoyed some of your gluten free goodies! (especially the lemon almond meltaways, amazing!) And I think your three year old has a healthier outlook than most adults, so you are certainly doing something right!

  43. The cakes sound great but your words about your little guy really got me. Thanks for sharing such nice thoughts and perspective on motherhood.

  44. tara says:

    a terribly sweet story, and it is obvious that you are doing so very many things right as a mother. your two are lucky to have you. (as are we to know you!)

  45. It’s a great recipe, the taste it’s very familiar to me.In Catalonia we often use olive oil
    instead of butter in our dessert recipes.
    Thank you very much.

  46. These are fantastic, Aran! I’m a sucker for all things lemon, and love baking with poppy seeds as well. The cakes look so moist, yum!

  47. caroline says:

    I love lemon poppyseed cakes! I’ve been wanting to try “real” gluten-free baking (as opposed to using a pre-made GF flour mix) and I think this recipe would be a good place to start.

  48. Asha @ FSK says:

    aww!! your kids love strawberries more than candy.. i imagine, that is such an awesome feat as a parent.. and gorgeous cakes Aran!

  49. Julie says:

    What I’ve read is that a gluten intolerance is saving your body from becoming sicker in a worse way. Many stored grains are full of pathogens (molds) from being stored for so long and these are ground into the flours making it toxic. Eliminating these mass produced stored grains (corn products too for the same reason) is something most everyone should do to improve their health. Some people have less tolerance than others but really these grains are not good for our health period, whether you are sensitive or not. Being forced to use healthier options in our food preparation because of an intolerance means avoiding something perhaps far worse down the line- like cancer. Your body is sending a message. As you point out there are a million other ways to prepare delicious food and your kids will understand that they feel better for these choices. Hats off to you for making the switch and now sharing your journey- we all can be inspired to bake more healthily!

  50. Elisabet- Si, si, mi madre siempre hacia los bizcochos con aceite. Mucho mas jugoso verdad? Un abrazo!

    Caroline- No need to buy GF mixes. So much easier to make your own!

    Asha- not sure that would always say no to candy…:)) but when my son said that he meant it. the trick is to find good strawberries in season that do taste like candy! :)

    Julie- great comment. I love that. i have never thought about the mold that grows in our stored grains but it makes total sense. and yes, you are right. i am convinced cancer and all these things have a correlation with what we eat. my doctor always says, an allergy doesn;t mean you always have to have an instant reaction to something. it will show up later. like you can have silent cancer for a long time and not even know you have it. the same with a sensitivity/allergy. thank you!

    Thank you all for all your words!

  51. Both my kiddos have food sensitivities but they are far from deprived. In fact, having such limitations has made them want to get in the kitchen and bake delicious gluten-free goodies like these beautiful cakes!
    Good luck with your life changes. It does work out. Kids are so adaptable.
    Take care,

  52. Those little comments make all the difference, don’t they? My 3.5-year-old would probably choose strawberries over candy too. It was the first weekend for strawberries at our market and he devoured half a pint on the trip home.

  53. Mónica says:

    Me ha encantado la receta. Gracias por compartirla!

  54. Dajda says:

    What a nice story! Your children are very lucky to have you as a mother. :)

    I made the financiers with rhubarb over the weekend and they were just perfect – thank you for sharing that recipe, I’ve got a feeling I will be coming back to it a lot.

  55. Seanna Lea says:

    Oh goodness! Lemon is definitely my favorite as all of the lemon curd I’ve made in the past week can certainly attest.

    I will have to make these as soon as I can get my hands on some more poppy seeds.

  56. My mom has celiac, so I have been sending her the links to your gluten-free posts! I know she really appreciates it.

    As for your 3-year-old, my mom recently sent me this link, from which you can order a test that will diagnose your predisposition to celiac. It’s a little pricey, so I haven’t done it yet, but you may want to!

  57. proofofthepudding- we actually did a gluten/casein sensitivity test (genetic test) through which is the same lab my dr used for me. He is not celiac. I would know by now, I think. He has never shown, and neither have I, GI symptoms, but I still tested positive for gluten sensitivity. You can have an allergy to gluten and not be celiac so a lot of blood tests and biopsies are not accurate for everyone it seems like.

    thank you!

  58. Golubka says:

    Awh, I definitely know how wonderful it would feel to hear such words come out of my child’s mouth :) Beautiful!

  59. Paula says:

    poppy seed and lemon juice is a great connection!

  60. Love Life Love Food says:

    Dear Aran,
    I am new to your site and am blown away. Reading your blog has become a daily addiction and I am so happy I have two years worth of articles to catch up on.
    I have a question. I am longing to try the pate de fruits recipes I have found on your blog but am wondering when you say glucose whether you mean liquid or powder. In Pakistan we do not have access to a huge variety of baking ingredients but one company does manufacture glucose powder (for babies and patients etc) and I am curious as to whether I can use this. It looks exactly like the photo of atomized glucose on the L’Epicerie website. Also, is there any substitute for yellow pectin? How about jam sugar? Or would a professional like yourself shoot me for even asking such a question? :-)
    Thank you once again for your gentle, heartwarming words, amazing recipes and exquisite photographs. Your blog gives me a serene feeling every time I read it and this must be your personality coming through.

  61. love life love food- the glucose i use is liquid and i don’t think the glucose you are mentioning will do it. do you have corn syrup? also, the yellow pectin really is necessary in this recipe. i’ve tried apple pectin and others and it just doesn’t work with the same quantity. you could try googling pate de fruit recipes without any pectin. i’ve seen some. best!

    Thank you!

  62. shaz says:

    Question: About how many little cakes does this recipe yield?

  63. Shaz- it made about a dozen small muffins and two 3 inch cakes. So probably about 18 small muffins.


  64. Lemon is one of my favorite cake/pastry flavors. What a sweet story. I’m sure your son will always be able to eat cake :)

  65. Anonymous says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  66. simplesong says:

    gorgeous! little cake perfections!

  67. Tara says:

    Oh Aran, I can’t seem to get enough citrus lately, so your little cakes popped up on my screen at a very opportune time! I’ve also finally gotten my hands on some millet flour, and can’t wait to begin using it.

    And I love, love, LOVE including my boys in my baking activities. Such special memories are created in front of the mixing bowl! Your children are certainly lucky to have your presence in their lives. :)

  68. maria says:

    i liked your recipe & want to try it. if i dont want to use butter, the olive oil i have is extra virgin,is it fine or i can use canola oil. Using whole wheat flour won’t make my cakes rise?? thank you so much…

  69. Maria- you can use extra virgin olive oil. it will work. it will have the flavor but i love it. you can use whole wheat flour but omit xanthan gum then. it will rise but maybe be a bit more dense. just make sure you fold gently to keep most of the air from whipping the eggs. let me know how it goes.


  70. Susan says:

    I used to make these “mini muffin-cakes” for my little nephew because they were his favourite. I will have to give this recipe a try too.

  71. Chelsey says:

    I made these today!!! They were fantastic. In the afternoons I have a kindergarten day home and one of the kids said

    “These are the best muffins I have ever eaten, I want the recipe!”

    then the rest followed

    “I want the recipe too Chelsey!”

    Too funny.

    Five year old’s asking for ‘the recipe’.

    I rate this recipe five stars, delicious!

  72. Y says:

    What a lovely story! If I had a son and he said that about natural food being better than processed, I would have been so proud too :)

    Those cakes look delicious. I’ll have to try baking with millet flour some time.

  73. Chelsey- that makes me soooo happy. you don’t even know! fantastic!

    Thank you!

  74. El says:

    This is such a sweet and memorable story. I love it. The cakes look good too.

  75. patricia says:

    Hola Aran! Tu blog es sencillamente hermoso.
    Mi hija de 5 años no puede tomar trigo, ni leche, huevos, soja, azúcar blanco ni carnes rojas. Desde diciembre pasado hemos adaptado toda nuestra dieta y la verdad es que estamos muy contentos con los resultados.
    He hecho estas magdalenas ayer e hice los siguientes cambios: Usé Harina de trigo sarraceno y espelta, semillas de lino molidas+agua (para los huevos), aceite de girasol (en vez de arbequina) y en vez de limón, usé naranjas (todo de procedencia orgánica). Quedaron muy ricas. Seguro repetimos.
    Muchas gracias por la receta! Has sido una fuente de inspiración!
    Hasta pronto.
    Patricia- Tarragona.

  76. Kara says:

    Where do you get your beautiful wrappers?

  77. Patricia- no sabes que ilusion me hace oir que has probado la receta y hasta hacer tus propios cambios. muchas gracias!

    kara- i get them from


  78. Danielle says:

    Hi- I’m so excited to make these muffins for Mother’s Day–I had to re-blog your recipe on my site!

    Question, can I use corn starch instead of the tapioca starch?

  79. Danielle- you can if you don’t have tapioca. thanks!

  80. Beautiful pics and lovely muffins. My poppet will be turning 4 in a month’s time. I remember how hurt I felt each time when she said ‘Mommy, I don’t love you any more’ out of fit of anger because she couldn’t have what she wanted when she was a toddler. But my heart melts each time she says ‘mommy, you are the strongest, the best & the most wonderful mommy in the world. I love you forever and forever.’ that is until she added ‘for 1 week.’ To her, 1 week is like forever. LOL! There are times I asked myself if I have done a good job as a parent and when I see the way how poppet conducts herself or things she says or observes, it tells me I’m on the right track.

  81. Great cakes and i love to bake with olive oil; i have a couple of cousins who live in Basque country (for the past 30 years a least)
    Love your blog and your photography is stunning!

  82. sinnlighet says:








    Agneta, Sweden

  83. Alanna says:

    These look amazing! I tried to make some gluten free lemon poppyseed muffins a while back, and while many of my experiments turn out well, these were atrocious. Yours look much, much better. I am fascinated by the large quantity of olive oil, which sounds amazing! Can’t wait to give these a try soon. Thanks for another gorgeous post!

  84. Viv says:


    First time commentor, long time visitor! I love your blog!!! That’s so cute what your little boy says, how did he enjoy the cake?

    I’ve recently bought a very fragrant lovely orange smelling/tasting olive oil…and am hoping to bake a good, simple olive oil cake that will bring out the orange-ness of the oil…

    Would you be able to post a recipe of such? Would really mean a lot!!!

  85. maria says:

    Hello Aran, i have tried your recipe and it was successful, so delicious. check out the pictures here,and i’d appreciate your feedback. thank you alot.

  86. Gaëlle says:

    Hey Hello!
    I am just discovering your blog which is spectacular! Very nice photos and ideas.

  87. Aran, whipping, beating, or whisking eggs for a recipe seems to stump me everytime. I either don’t beat them enough, or I beat them too much and the batter/baking fails. What does it mean to whip the wet ingredients until “light and thick?” (meringue-like light and thick with peaks? or no..)

  88. thoughtfullittlecaterpillar- in this case, you have to whip the eggs untilk they turn a pale yellow color and they are tripled in volume. they will appear thick and very fluffy. they will have peaks but not as stiff as meringue. About 5 minutes.

    Hope that helps!

  89. Cecile says:

    I just made these, substituting potato starch for tapioca, and with half the oil, and without whipping the eggs, and they still came out delicious! Thanks!

  90. This is so nice because it doesn’t use nut flour. I have tree nut allergies and it’s used in so may gluten free recipes. Thank you!!!

  91. Beth says:

    What beautiful photographs! I am truly impressed!

  92. Tania says:

    Lovely site and great post!

  93. […] Lemon Poppyseed and Olive Oil Cakes via Cannelle Vanille […]

  94. Yes, sometimes good parenting goes unnoticed by the majority, but when you and your child reap the benefits thereof it is truly worth it.

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