Other people’s recipes: Joanne Chang’s French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake

Now for something completely different! It’s been a while since I made any sort of cake, and I’ve wanted to try this one (from Joanne Chang’s Flour, pp. 70–72) for a while. The proportions are very similar to a pound cake (if you doubled it, anyway), but rather than the creaming method typical of butter cakes, Chang takes a page from the génoise playbook, folding the flour into an egg foam, then folding the reinforced foam into melted, rather than solid, butter. The result was a moist and not-too-dense crumb, although I wouldn’t have minded a little boost in the flavor department. Here’s how it went:

Mise en place
This is, I think, the complete mise for this recipe. Note the separate bowls of sugar and other dry ingredients. I was a little short on the lemon zest so I made it up with some Meyer lemon (which isn’t technically a lemon) zest instead. Everything else is as described in Chang’s recipe.

Butter, cream, and flavor mixture
The first step is to mix the melted butter, cream, and flavoring ingredients (lemon zest, lemon juice, and poppy seeds) together. As the recipe suggested might happen, my butter resolidified a bit, and I had to put it in the microwave for a few seconds to make sure the butter would stay melted.

Egg and sugar mixture
In the second step, whole eggs and sugar are whipped together in the stand mixer until foamy and lightened in color.

Dry ingredients folded into egg-and-sugar mixture
Then the previously sifted dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, salt) are folded into the egg foam.

Egg mixture folded into butter mixture
Then the egg mixture is folded into the melted butter. It would have been rather convenient if this had gone the other way — my stand mixer’s bowl has a nice pouring spout — but it can’t be helped, since it’s the egg that has the air in it that we’re carefully folding in so as not to deflate. This gets poured into a lubricated 9″×5″ (230 mm × 130 mm) loaf pan and baked for a fairly long time — more than an hour.

Finished cake
Unsurprisingly, it has to cool in the pan until starch structure that reinforces the foam cools and sets — half an hour according to the recipe.

Lemon glaze
While waiting for the cake to cool, there’s more than enough time to make a simple lemon glaze — what in my dialect we would call “icing” as distinct from “frosting” — from powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Cake after depanning, before glazing
Now the cake is ready to depan. You can see a little bit of roughness on the bottom edge where there apparently wasn’t quite enough baking spray; I had to run a knife around the perimeter to get the cake to slide out without breaking.

Cake after glazing
I put some waxed paper underneath the cooling rack to catch the dripping glaze, then poured the glaze over the top, using a knife to spread it around where it had pooled up a bit too much.

Sliced cake
After the glaze dried, I took a slice for myself. I wrapped the rest of the cake in plastic and brought it in to work the next day (where I had another slice, of course!). Opinions were pretty favorable overall, although I still thought it needed a bit more flavor than it had. (Subtle flavors are often lost on me, unless they’re nasty ones like coffee or mushrooms!) It was popular enough (and went fast enough) that I’d probably double this recipe in the future and make two cakes rather than just one. But my next time through, I’ll probably make the vanilla version Chang gives as an alternative — which substitutes vanilla seeds for the lemon and poppy in the main recipe.


Since it’s baked in a standard 9×5 loaf pan, this cake is 9 inches in length. For service I sliced the cake in half lengthwise, but I had whole slices for myself — figure ¾″ (19 mm) per slice to make 12 slices per loaf.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: ¾-inch slice
Servings per container: about 12
Amount per serving
Calories 316 Calories from fat 134
% Daily Value
Total Fat 15g 23%
 Saturated Fat 9g 43%
 Monounsaturated Fat 3g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 106mg 4%
Potassium 49mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 14%
 Dietary fiber <1g 2%
 Sugars 27g
Proteins 4g 8%
Vitamin A 10%
Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 9%
Iron 3%
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1 Response to Other people’s recipes: Joanne Chang’s French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake

  1. Yummy, my favorite…Thanks for sharing this recipe.


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