High Altitude Lemon Poppyseed Bread

Easy Lemon Poppyseed Cake


This one goes out to all the mountain bakers.

After three attempts over the course of one very long Saturday, I finaly won.  I won the battle to create a dense, moist and domed lemon poppyseed cake- in bread form.

Lemon Poppyseed Bread Ingredients

The first one burned unlike anything I have ever witnessed.  The center crumb was perfection though.  I double checked my oven thermometer and meditated over the possible culprits for this result.

For batch two I adjusted a couple of ingredients and the resulting cake was less burned, and delicious, but caved slightly near the end of the baking process.  Could you guess that one of the changed ingredients was the leavener?  Tsk, tsk.  Altitude don’t play those games.  The domed top caved in submission under the final moments of oven pressure.

Moist Lemon Bread Recipe

In the final round, I returned to my original recipe and adjusted the bake time and temperature- BOOM!

Totally moist, totally delicious lemon poppyseed cake, peaked top and all.

Oh and for those of you at sea level or at the summit of Mt. Everest- my lemon butter syrup to baste the top of your lemon cake is dynamite.  Wrap that baby up with the sugar syrup overnight and total, utter butter moist top will be yours.

Moist Lemon Poppyseed Recipe

High Altitude Lemon Poppyseed Bread

Tested for an altitude of 5,280ft.  Best when made a day ahead.

  • 3/4 C bread flour plus 1 T
  • 3/4 C cake flour
  • 2  1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1  1/4 C sugar minus 1 T
  • 1/2 C neutral oil (ex: vegetable) plus 1 T
  • 1  1/2 eggs (whipped a whole egg and used half of it for the half)
  • 3/4 C whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, packed
  • 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Grease a 9×5 loaf pan lightly with butter.  Cut parchment paper to line the pan, insert it and then grease the parchment paper with butter.  Preheat oven to 375F and position a rack in the center of the oven. I strongly recommend an oven thermometer for all baking, but especially for high altitude baking.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, poppy seeds, sugar and salt.  In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir lightly.  Add the oil and whisk briefly just until everything is combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10min.  Drop oven temperature to 300F for remaining bake time, about 30 – 40 more until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.  Remove the bread from the oven and baste with  Lemon Butter Syrup.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then use the parchment paper to remove it and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.  I think this bread is the best when you wrap the cooled loaf in tin foil completely overnight. Enjoy!

Moist Lemon Butter Syrup

How do you achieve the coveted moist muffin top on this style cake?  Use this syrup:

  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • zest, to taste
  • pinch of fine sea salt

Place all ingredients over medium low heat in a small saucepan.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Allow to cool slightly and then baste the top of the hot loaf with this syrup several times in the first 10 minutes of cooling.

This entry was posted in bread, cake, citrus, Colorado, high altitude, recipe, Snack and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to High Altitude Lemon Poppyseed Bread

  1. Baker Boonce says:

    Beautiful pix, HG!

  2. hungrygems says:

    Thanks Baker Boonce! It’s as if magic from Hogwarts itself assisted in creating such a wonderful Butterbeer-colored lemon bread. Now, if only I knew someone who could get me through platform 9 3/4…

  3. bev mcinis says:

    I have been baking at high altitude for 40+ years. I don’t know what went wrong with this but it is dry and heavy as a brick. The batter was too thick to pour. It took over an hour to cook. It’s almost as if a liquid ingredient wasn’t listed in the recipe.
    Any thoughts?

  4. hungrygems says:

    Hi Bev – I’m disappointed your bread didn’t turn out! There’s nothing worse than spending the time and money to make something only to be left frustrated at the end. Seeing as this recipe is one that took 4 tries to adapt successfully to high altitude, I feel like I know it by heart. The big red flag to me is your batter. I’m certain the problem is pre-baking which means before any high altitude or baking chemistry even comes into play. This batter should not be runny like a pancake batter but should be easily pourable. This recipe originates from a typical muffin/quick bread ratio of flour to liquid around 2:1. But given the fat is also liquid-y and you’re not creaming a solid like butter or shortening, the oil should even further add to its flowing nature. I was actually going to make this bread with lime instead of lemon on Friday but given your comment, I just did it tonight instead using this post. I took an iPhone pic of the batter ribboning when lifted with a whisk and falling into the bowl and would be happy to post briefly if it would be useful? It took 45 min to bake. The total liquids when I poured them into a liquid measuring cup (milk, eggs, vanilla, lime juice) totaled over 1 C and for just 1 1/2 C flour that’s quite a bit for a quick bread. If you’re willing to trust in the deliciousness by giving it another go, I’d just double check the measurements, don’t pack the flour and don’t forget the oil! In unusual baking fashion it goes in after dry and wet are blended and if forgotten, would leave a dense, non-pourable batter similar to your description. Could this have been the culprit?

  5. hungrygems says:

    One final thought – because I ran so many trials on this recipe, I thought I’d share that it also works well with 3/4 tsp baking powder at Denver elevation for a more rounded top after baked and a slightly lighter crumb. I just enjoy a slightly heartier texture, slightly flatter top as a personal preference so if you do try again and prefer something a bit less dense feel free to go 3/4 tsp baking powder – it’s been tried, tested and devoured! Thanks Bev!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s