On New Year’s Eve a number of years ago, my family and I bought tickets to see an afternoon showing of Cirque du Soleil in San Francisco. Since they perform in a humongous tent and the city’s weather tends towards chilly and overcast throughout the entire year, we bundled up in our warmest jackets and gloves before driving to the performance.
When we pulled into the parking lot, the sun shone down without a cloud in the sky (truly a rare occasion!), so we wandered around the grassy baseball-themed park next to the pier before lining up behind the rest of the ticket holders.
Once inside the tent, we found our seats on the left side of the stage and sank into them, staring at the ropes and wires and pillars in the center of the arena. A few performers in their brightly colored, funny-looking costumes walked around the stage, checking equipment and moving props, before the lights fully dimmed and the musical narration began.
For nearly an hour, we gasped, clapped, and cheered as the troupe members performed their acts. Some bounced and somersaulted on a gigantic trampoline suspended 15 feet in the air, others treated bicycles hanging from the ceiling as a trapeze and twirled about, and a few contorted their bodies into gymnastic feats that none of us believed was humanly possible. And then there was an entire second half after the intermission!
Although experiencing Cirque du Soleil was an incredibly fun way to celebrate, we’re planning on a more low-key New Year’s Eve this year, spend with family and friends watching the festivities and ball drop in New York’s Times Square on TV. And because it’s me, you can basically guarantee that I’ll bake plenty of desserts for us to enjoy that evening, including this Simple Orange Poppy Seed Cake!
This easy cake is bursting with bright citrus flavor, but it isn’t overly sugary. Its sweetness level is closer to that of a snack or breakfast cake — so yes, you could easily enjoy a slice in the morning on New Year’s Day without worrying about breaking any New Year’s Resolutions!
HOW TO MAKE A HEALTHY ORANGE POPPY SEED CAKE
Let’s talk about how to make the best orange poppy seed cake! This recipe begins with whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is ground more finely that regular whole wheat flour and has a texture closer to that of all-purpose, so it’s perfect for creating the tender texture of cakes and pastries. It’s also lighter in taste compared to regular whole wheat flour — and with so much sunshiny orange flavor, nobody can tell this cake is 100% whole wheat!
Note: My recommend gluten free flour blend is included in the Notes section beneath the recipe, if you’d like to make your orange poppy seed cake gluten free instead!
Because this healthier cake only contains 1 tablespoon of butter and no egg yolks, the majority of its tender texture comes from my favorite ingredient in healthier baking… Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt provides the same moisture to the cake batter as extra butter or oil but for a fraction of the calories, and it adds a little protein boost as well.
Instead of refined sugar, you’ll sweeten this cake with honey to keep it clean eating friendly. Agave would be a great substitute. Pure maple syrup would also produce the same cake texture, but it has a stronger, fairly iconic taste that can sometimes detract from the orange flavor… And that bright citrus taste should be the star of the show!
To add as much sunshiny flavor as possible, you’ll use both orange juice and orange zest in the batter. The latter actually provides a more concentrated citrus taste, so don’t skip it! I bought the biggest orange I could find it the store (I could barely hold it in one hand!), just for that reason.
And finally, the poppy seeds. They aren’t just for lemon muffins! 😉 In addition to making the cake look pretty, they add an itty bitty textural contrast that makes this dessert so irresistible. However, do not try to substitute chia seeds because those are much more absorbent than poppy seeds and would dry out the cake.
To bake the cake, I highly recommend a springform pan. They’re most commonly used for baking cheesecakes because of their removable rim, and that same feature makes serving this cake much easier! If you only own regular cake pans, then line one with foil before misting the inside with cooking spray for easier removal of the cake after baking.
The drizzle is optional, but it makes the cake look more sophisticated, don’t you think? If serving the cake for dessert (or even breakfast!), you’ll probably want to include it… Or maybe a dollop of whipped cream… Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream… Or even cream cheese frosting! I have a little left over from baking these cupcakes, so excuse me while I go try that…
Best decision ever. But then again, you can never go wrong with a slice of cake! 😉 And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy orange poppy seed cake!
Simple Orange Poppy Seed Cake
FOR THE CAKE
- 2 cups (240g) whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 3 tbsp (8g) orange zest (about 1 extra large orange – and see Notes!)
- 1 ½ tbsp (13g) poppy seeds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp (14g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (80g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup (80mL) honey
- ¼ cup (60mL) freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup (60mL) nonfat milk
FOR THE DRIZZLE (OPTIONAL)
- 10 tsp confectioners’ style erythritol
- 2 tsp nonfat milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat a 9”-round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively, line a standard 9”-round cake pan with foil, and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- To prepare the cake, whisk together the flour, orange zest, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg whites, and vanilla. Stir in the Greek yogurt, mixing until no large lumps remain. Stir in the honey and orange juice. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts.)
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 21-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the center feels firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Just before serving, prepare the drizzle by stirring together the erythritol and milk in a small bowl. Transfer the glaze to a zip-topped bag, cut off a tiny corner, and drizzle on top of the individual slices of cake.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Orange Bundt Cake
♡ Simple Raspberry Lemon Cake
♡ Simple Cinnamon Apple Cake
♡ Simple Strawberry Lemon Cake
♡ Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
♡ Classic Carrot Cake
♡ Orange Poppy Seed Scones
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy cake recipes!
Hello! May I know why you leave out the egg yolks? And what if I want to add them, will the recipe need to change?
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe Aarti! Since certain family members have high cholesterol, I try to minimize the amount of egg yolks that I use so they’re able to enjoy more of my homemade goodies. If you prefer to use 2 whole eggs in this recipe, that’s fine! Your cake may require an extra couple of minutes to bake, but the flavor and texture will remain the same. 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!
Thank you very much. I and my family enjoyed the taste of wonderful cakes. You are very creative. I love you
I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed this cake!
Thank you very much. I rely on your recipes because it refreshes my body with health and comfort????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
That means so much to me! I can’t wait to hear what recipe of mine you decide to try next! 🙂
This cake tastes beautiful and turned out well despite only having a larger pan to bake it in, and regular plain flour- as thats all I could find
Its refreshing to bite into cake thats not overly sweet too. Thank you for another great recipe Amy!
I’m so glad you enjoyed this cake, Raven! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know — that really means a lot! 🙂
Gabriela Maldonado says...
Hi! I was wondering if I could use oat flour or coconut flour (or both) in this recipe instead?? And If so how would the measurements be ? I hope I can do it🥺💗💗
I’m honored that you’d like to try my recipe, Gabriela! Coconut flour won’t work because it behaves so much differently than any other flour. As for oat flour, I typically don’t recommend that substitution in my cake recipes, including this orange poppy seed cake. This is because gluten is the protein in wheat-based flours that helps baked goods rise and maintain their shape while cooling. Oat flour lacks that, so when you substitute it for wheat-based flours in my recipes that rise (like cupcakes, cakes, muffins, quick breads, etc!), your baked goods will often turn out denser and may collapse while cooling. Does that make sense?
However, if you don’t mind that texture difference with oat flour (where your cake may collapse and turn out denser), the flavors will still remain the same! 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think if you decide to try making this orange poppy seed cake!
I was just wondering if i wanted to make this cake dairy and gluten free could I use 1/3 of oil rather than 1/3 cup of yogurt?
Thankyou so much, i love your recipes!!
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe! For the best results, I’d actually recommend non-dairy yogurt in place of the Greek yogurt (ie soy-based, almond-based, coconut-based, etc). That will yield the closest taste and texture to the original recipe!
However, if you’re dead set on using oil, then I’d recommend using less, closer to 3-4 tablespoons instead of ⅓ cup, because oil has much thinner and liquidy consistency compared to Greek yogurt. (The cake batter should be really thick, as seen in my 6th photo, where the fork marks are still visible after I gently stirred it together!)
I’d love to hear what you think of this cake if you try making it!