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Lemon, thyme & poppy seed cupcakes

Feb 12, 2021 | Baking, Desserts, sweet treats & baking

Lemon and poppy seeds are a well-known combination, and these cupcakes add a zesty flair to any tea table or picnic basket. The fresh thyme gives a lovely botanical flavour to the cupcakes, making them a little more sophisticated. The ratio of lemon juice to icing sugar adds just enough acidity to the recipe to balance out the sweetness and rounds the cakes off beautifully.

Lemon, thyme & poppy seed cupcakes
Lemon, thyme & poppy seed cupcakes

Lemon, thyme & poppy seed cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Make five/Maak vyf

Makes 24


300 ml (300 g) soft butter

350 ml castor sugar

6 eggs

140 ml milk

60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice

10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla essence

10 ml (2 tsp) finely grated lemon rind

30 ml (2 tbsp) poppy seeds

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh thyme leaves

750 ml (3 cups) self-raising flour



25 ml (5 tsp) lemon juice

250 ml (1 cup) icing sugar

extra finely grated lemon rind, fresh thyme leaves or poppy seeds


1. Preheat oven to 180 °C. Line two cupcake tins with cupcake paper cups. Or see the tips below.

2. Beat butter and sugar together with an electric beater in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat for quite a few minutes to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat until smooth.

4. Mix milk, lemon juice and vanilla together in a jug. Stir lemon rind, poppy seeds and thyme into the milk mixture. Use a large metal spoon to fold the milk mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the flour, until a smooth batter forms. Take care not to stir too much.

5. Divide the batter equally between the paper cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

6. Icing: Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth and runny. Spoon icing over the cooled cupcakes. Decorate with lemon rind, thyme and poppy seeds or as preferred.


1. If you only have one cupcake tin, bake the first 12 cupcakes, with half the batter. Spoon the rest of the batter into a lined and greased 16 cm cake tin or 1,5 litre bread tin. Bake this for 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

2. An important tip when baking, is to get the cake into the oven as soon as possible. If the batter stands for more than about 5 minutes, the raising agent will be less effective, as it starts to react as soon as it comes into contact with a liquid. The sooner the baking process can start, the better the end result. 

This recipe was featured in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of LiG Tydskrif.
Images: Adel Ferreira Photography.

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