Billowing Strawberry Poppy Seed Layer Cake

Reminiscent of a poppyseed strawberry shortcake, this gorgeous cake is filled with sweet strawberries and fresh cream, making it perfect for late Spring and early Summer.

I adore this cake, but I hadn’t made it in years, primarily because while the original recipe tasted delicious, it was a logistical nightmare.  The cake was too stiff for the frosting and the frosting was too soft for the cake.  It literally fell apart when I sliced it.

While I considered the original recipe again, I realized why.  Cake made with butter really shouldn’t be refrigerated because it becomes dry.  However, the frosting for this cake is primarily cream and, therefore, must be refrigerated.  See the conflict?  My solution was to swap out the butter in the original recipe with vegetable oil.  I also increased the amount of cream cheese in the frosting to make it slightly more stiff.  The result was a cake that remained moist while refrigerated.  Success!

Billowing Strawberry Poppy Seed Layer Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Kathy Casey

Print-Friendly Recipe

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups cream


  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries (about 1 lb after being stemmed & thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • 1 pint fresh strawberries for garnish

Prepare two 8-inch cake pans by greasing them, then lining the bottoms with parchment, then coating the sides of the pans with flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the oil and sugar.  In a separate bowl, mix together the milk and sour cream.  Add half of this mixture to the oil and sugar and mix until smooth.  In yet another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  Add half of this to the wet bowl.  Mix until incorporated.  Then add the remaining milk mixture, eggs, vanilla, kosher salt and lemon zest, about one minute.  Lastly add the remaining flour and mix just until incorporated.  Stir in the poppy seeds.

Divide the batter evenly among the two pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of each cake and turn it out onto a rack to cool thoroughly.

While the cake cools, whip the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer for one minute.  Then add the powdered sugar on low one cup at a time.  When the sugar is completely incorporated, whip on high for 3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until stiff.  Take care not too overwhip.  Then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When the cake is completely cool, cut each cake in half lengthwise, making 4 layers.

Stem and thinly slice 1 pound of strawberries.  Then mix in 1/2 cup strawberry jam and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Set aside.

Place a dollop of frosting on your serving plate and top with a layer of cake.  Spread 1/3 of the strawberry mixture on top then top with approximately ¾ of a cup of frosting.  Leave a ¾ inch border around the edge of the cake.  Top with another layer of cake and repeat until all of the layers and strawberry are used.  Press down gently on the top of the cake to meld the layers together.  In order to stabilize my cake, I inserted four wooden skewers in the center, but that is not technically necessary.  Right after this picture was taken, I just snipped off the skewers at cake level before proceeding with the rest of the frosting.

Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.

Garnish with additional stemmed strawberries and…

Ta Da! Moist, sweet (but not too sweet), strawberry, poppyseed goodness!

Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.



  1. That is so PRETTY! And I love the lemon-topped strawberry stack, too.

  2. very pretty, I have been wanting to make one too lately, you always do such a nice job on your photos and tutorials. I bet it was great tasting too :)

  3. Gorgeous cake!! I typically only pair poppyseed with lemon, but strawberries too!? Ingenious. Love everything about this.

  4. Gorgeous! Really this cake looks so lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is a beautiful cake – haven’t tried the strawberry poppy seed combination but it sounds delicious. Just came across your site and look forward to following you for more recipe inspiration.

  6. What a perfect time of year for this cake. There are so many beautiful strawberries everywhere and I have been looking for a great recipe to use them. I also love poppy seed anything so I’m excited to try the two in combination with each other.

  7. Great photo. Interesting info. about refrigerating a cake with butter will make it dry. Good to know.

  8. In the process of making this cake as we speak… I have to say the batter tasted AMAZING! So I can only imagine the finished product will also be Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! :) :) :)

    • My pleasure! Let me know how it turns out. Best, Heather

      • that frosting is seriously tasty. My husband put the left over frosting on graham crackers, he’s a genius 😉 I found the frosting a little tricky to work with though cause it is so soft and fluffy, and if it even starts to come to room temp it kind of gets melty, but it all seems to have gone together well. Its in the fridge now and will be in there for about an hour and a half before I have to transport it 30 minutes to a birthday party I’m bringing it to so I have my fingers crossed it will survive the trip.

  9. I love this cake!!!! its the BEST!!!!!!!!

  10. I would like to make a layer cake lemon poppyseed cake with strawberry filling for my mom’s 90th birthday party. I found one that is made for me but it costs $65 for a half sheet that feeds 40. I need to make a sheet cake…any suggestions?

    • Hi Carol,

      First, to make your life a lot easier, buy yourself a cake board for the cake first. You can probably pick one up at your local party supply store or online. They come very plain and cheap, greaseproof and even covered in pretty foil.

      Then, I would suggest doubling this recipe and making it in two half-sheet pans lined with parchment. You may have slightly more batter than you need, but it will probably be just about right. Also, be aware that the cake will bake faster due to the shallow batter in the pans.

      After you bake the cake, to assemble, place one layer on the bottom. Top with a generous amount of the strawberry filling followed by frosting, then flip the second cake on top of the first. Refrigerate the whole thing for at least an hour and then coat the top and sides with more frosting and garnish with fresh strawberries.

      That’s what I would do anyway. :) – Heather

  11. Any ideas on how to vegani«e this recipe?

    • Looks really, really delicious!!

  12. Would melted coconut oil work in place of vegetable oil? Or would it end up being like butter since it solidifies at cold temps?

    • Hi Kathy,
      Melted coconut oil wouldn’t work for the very reason you described. Butter wouldn’t be good either. You need a fat that stays liquid when cold. – Heather


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