Saturday, October 22, 2022

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cakes w/ Sourdough Discard


My character Sol from Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer loves Lady Wynwood’s cook’s seed cakes, so I decided to try some seed cake recipes using a cook book published in 1800. The first seed cake recipe I tried, Pound Seed Cake, turned out really well, but after tasting them, my husband requested lemon poppy seed flavor.

Making the seed cakes with sourdough discard turned out exactly the same as when I made a sourdough levain, so I thought that making these tea cakes would be a GREAT way to use up sourdough discard, since I always keep a jar for my discard in the fridge.

The lemon poppy seed version turned out fantastic! I admit that the first time I made them, I accidentally forgot to check them at 25 minutes, so I took them out at 30 minutes and they were a little brown. But they still tasted wonderful and were great with tea. The sour tang of the discard paired perfectly with the lemon zest. I made them again and took them out at 25 minutes, and they were perfect (but I forgot to take a photo).

As before, I included instructions for making them with flour instead of sourdough, but be warned that I have not tried this recipe with only flour (since I can’t eat it because of my IBS).

When I made Sol’s seed cakes, I used a cast iron mini cake/biscuit pan so the cakes turned out like tea cakes. You can instead use muffin tins if you’d like, although I have not tried this so I can’t tell you how it will turn out. When I used the biscuit pan, the wide flat shape made the tea cakes bake quickly and evenly and gave a really great texture to the cake—it was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

However, you can certainly bake this in a loaf pan like a regular pound cake. I would suggest that you double the recipe and increase the baking time to one hour, but check it for doneness at around 45 minutes or so.

Pound Seed Cake

This recipe makes 7 small cakes. It’s about the same amount of cake as half of a large loaf of pound cake.


148 grams of spent sourdough discard (100% hydration)
39 grams flour
Alternative: Instead of discard and flour, you can instead make a 65% hydration levain with 114 grams (1/4 pound) flour, 74 grams warm water, and 1 tablespoon 100% hydration sourdough starter, active and bubbly, and let it incubate for a few hours.
Alternative 2: If you don’t want to use sourdough, just use 114 grams of flour in place of the levain. However, be warned that I have not tried this recipe with only flour (since I can’t eat it because of my IBS). Also, (according to some articles on the web) it’s the sourdough that weakens the gluten and makes the cakes tender, so omitting it will change the texture of the cake.
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter, room temperature
114 grams (1/4 pound) sugar
1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, beaten together lightly and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons poppy seeds (add according to your own tastes)
2-3 teaspoons lemon zest (add according to your own tastes)


Make a 65% hydration levain by combining 114 grams of flour with 74 grams of water and 1 tablespoon of 100% hydration sourdough starter. The consistency of the levain is almost like a ball of bread dough that you could knead, but it's stickier than bread dough. If you’d like it to ferment for a little longer to get a little bubbly, leave it out at room temperature (I put it in a glass mason jar) for a few hours and then use it whenever you like. I let it sit for 24 hours since I wanted the bacteria to break down the wheat fructans a bit more.

Alternately, mix 114 grams of flour with 74 grams of water and 1 tablespoon of 100% hydration sourdough starter, and leave it out at room temperature until it’s most bubbly and active.

If you’d rather not use sourdough, skip the above steps and instead add 114 grams of flour below in place of the levain.

Mix the butter in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer for a minute or so, then add sugar and cream them together until light and fluffy. This whips air into the butter to help the cakes turn out a little less dense.

Add the beaten eggs to the butter/sugar very slowly, a teaspoon at a time, scraping down the sides and making sure the egg is completely incorporated before drizzling in another teaspoon of egg. This is supposed to make an emulsion of the egg with the creamed sugar and butter.

Add the vanilla, levain, poppy seeds and lemon zest and mix. The batter will be a bit stiff, stiffer than cornbread batter, but not as stiff as biscuit dough.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. You can butter the inside of the biscuit pan if you’d like, but I didn’t the second time because the fat in the batter makes the cakes release easily without buttering. Spoon the batter inside the pan, filling each cup only about halfway. If using a loaf pan instead, butter the loaf pan before spooning the batter inside.

Bake it at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes. If using a loaf pan, bake for 60-75 minutes, but especially the first time you make it, check for doneness at around 45 minutes or so. The cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean.


The original pound seed cakes, made from a recipe book published in 1800, were featured in my Christian Regency Romantic Suspense novel, Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 3: Aggressor. Get volume 1 in the series for only 99 cents!

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