This vegan lemon cake with lemon glaze icing is unbelievably soft, moist, and flavorful, yet oil-free, gluten-free, low-fat, low-sugar (optionally sugar-free), and plant-based. A perfect vegan lemon dessert for spring, summer, and special occasions!
Moist, Vibrant Vegan Lemon Cake
If you’re looking for a vegan lemon cake recipe that not only hits the spot flavor-wise but also texturally and health-wise, too, then you’ve found it! This gluten-free lemon cake left me in awe when I first perfected the recipe. It’s so soft, moist, and bursting with citrus flavor, yet 100% oil-free, low fat, and even low sugar, and you can’t tell. Consider me speechless!
It just proves that you don’t need heaps of butter, eggs, wheat flour, and sugar to create a delicious lemon coconut cake the entire family will love. I’d go as far as to say that this lemon sheet cake (following the recipe as written) is healthy enough to enjoy even at breakfast. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make, too!
You likely have most of the pantry-friendly ingredients needed to prepare this vegan lemon dessert already in your kitchen. That makes it the perfect cake to whip up for a mid-week meal, potlucks, or special occasions, like Mother’s Day, Easter, and birthdays. Guests will love this bright and vibrant gluten-free vegan lemon cake!
You can even prepare and freeze the cake for later. Plus, keep reading for plenty of ways to adapt the recipe with optional add-ins. Whether you want a vegan lemon blueberry cake, a cream cheese frosting, and more!
This gluten-free vegan lemon cake recipe is made primarily from simple pantry ingredients and easy-to-find ingredients.
The Dry Ingredients
- Rice flour: I use white rice flour, though regular flour should also work.
- Oat flour: Or use rolled oats (certified gluten-free if necessary) and grind them into a floury consistency in a food processor/ blender or spice grinder. Making oat flour takes just some seconds and will help save money in the long run!
- Leavening agents: This gluten-free vegan lemon cake recipe relies on baking powder and baking soda to provide texture and lift.
- Salt: To enhance the various flavors in the lemon dessert. I recommend using sea salt/ kosher salt rather than table salt.
- Turmeric powder: While technically optional, this powder will help to make a pretty vegan yellow cake.
The Wet Ingredients
- Coconut milk: Use full-fat canned coconut milk for its richness and fat content, which will take the place of oil in the recipe to make a wonderfully moist gluten-free lemon dessert. If you use another plant-based milk, add at least 2 Tbsp of neutral oil (vegetable oil, coconut oil, canola oil).
- Liquid sweetener: I use maple syrup, but any liquid sweetener will work. i.e., brown rice syrup, agave, Yukon syrup, etc. Alternatively, use a sugar-free syrup.
- Lemon: I recommend using unwaxed organic lemons for the juice and lemon zest.
- Aquafaba: This is the liquid from a can of chickpeas (or from cooking your own chickpeas) and takes the place of egg in this eggless lemon cake.
- Powdered sugar: I used powdered Erythritol (sugar-free AND zero calorie), which I prefer to regular sugar. However, use regular icing sugar if preferred.
- Lemon juice: Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor.
- Plant-based milk: Any will work.
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations
While this vegan lemon coconut cake alone is a delicious treat, there are a surprising amount of add-ins and ingredients to play around with to adapt this recipe further.
- Blueberries: Make a delicious vegan lemon blueberry cake with the addition of up to a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries. Raspberries also work.
- Poppy seeds: Add 2-3 tablespoons to make vegan lemon poppy seed cake.
- Vanilla extract: Add a splash of vanilla to the batter for a subtle flavor depth.
- Ginger: Finely chopped candied ginger adds heat and robust flavor.
- Lavender: Food-grade dried lavender or lavender extract (just 1-2 tsp) will add a subtle flavor without overwhelming the lemon sheet cake.
- Vegan orange cake: Effortlessly adapt this cake by swapping the lemon for orange.
- Alternative frosting: Instead of a lemon glaze, you could use lemon buttercream or lemon cream cheese frosting (replace the milk in the glaze with vegan cream cheese), or even strawberry or raspberry frosting/ glaze for a pretty color and flavor combination.
- Candied lemon peel
- Vegan white chocolate shavings
- Fresh raspberries or blueberries
- Shredded coconut or coconut flakes
How to Make Vegan Lemon Cake with Lemon Glaze Icing
- First, preheat the oven to 350F/180C, and line a baking pan or sheet pan (mine is 9×6-inches/23x15cm) with parchment paper. Leave an overhang on two sides for easier removal.
- Then, add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix.
- Add the wet ingredients and whisk until combined.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (a few crumbs are fine).
- Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare the lemon glaze icing by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well.
If it’s too runny, add a little more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, add more lemon juice or milk. You’ll need less milk if you use regular powdered sugar!
- Once the cake is cool, pour the icing over it and transfer it to the fridge for it to set for 20-30 minutes.
- Finally, remove the cake from the pan, slice it into squares, and enjoy!
Make ahead: You can prepare the dairy-free lemon cake batter, minus the leavening agents, a day in advance and store it covered in the fridge. Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before adding the leavening agents and continuing with the recipe.
Store: Cover and store the gluten-free lemon cake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freeze: It’s best to freeze the cake without the icing for less mess. Spread slices on a tray (not touching) and freeze until solid, then wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a large Ziplock to store for 3 months.
Allow a slice to thaw in the fridge or on the counter (for 30 minutes) before serving.
Could I replace the aquafaba?
Applesauce or dairy-free yogurt could work as a substitute. Alternatively, you could try using a flax or chia egg (combine 1 tbsp ground seeds with 3 tbsp warm water, mix, and leave to thicken for 5 minutes).
Could I use other flours?
You may be able to experiment with making this vegan lemon cake recipe with regular flour (if you aren’t gluten-free) or try a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix.
Can I use this batter to make vegan lemon loaf cake or cupcakes?
I haven’t tried this personally, though it should work, adjusting the cooking time accordingly. I.e., for cupcakes, check on them at 15 minutes. A loaf cake will require 40+ minutes. Use a toothpick or skewer into the thickest part of the bake. It’s ready when it comes out clean or with a few crumbs (but not wet).
Can I use lemon extract?
I find lemon extract leaves an artificial aftertaste in the eggless lemon cake. However, if you want to boost the lemon flavor slightly, feel free to add a few drops to the batter.
- Using a scale is preferable: So you don’t accidentally add too much flour and end up with a dense cake. To accurately measure flour using cup measurements, fluff it up in the bag with a fork. Then, use a spoon to scoop it into your cup before leveling it with the back of a knife.
- Adjust lemon flavor: Depending on if you prefer a subtle or more tart, robust lemon cake.
- To make a layered cake: Double the batter and split it between two cake pans (7 or 8-inch tins would work best) to bake. Monitor them as the baking time may vary. I like to use vegan lemon curd and/or cream cheese frosting between the cake layers.
Other Vegan Cake Recipes
- No-Bake Carrot Cake
- Vegan chocolate mug cake
- Gluten-free Peanut butter chocolate cake
- Vegan strawberry custard sheet cake
- Gluten-free chocolate zucchini cake
- Vegan gingerbread cake
- Pineapple upside down cake
- Vegan coconut cake
If you try this healthy vegan lemon cake recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Vegan Lemon Cake
Dry Cake Ingredients
Wet Cake Ingredients
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.I recommend using a kitchen scale for this recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) and line a baking pan (or sheet pan) with parchment paper with an overhang for easy removal. My pan measures 9"x6" resp. 23x15 cm (see pictures above in the blog post).
- Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.
- Add the wet ingredients and mix with a whisk until combined (don't over mix).
- Pour the batter into the lined pan. Bake for about 25 minutes in the oven, or until a toothpick (inserted in the center) comes out clean. It took 24 minutes in my gas oven.
- Let cool completely. Meanwhile, make the icing/glaze.
- Simply add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix with a whisk. The icing should be runny but not too thin. If it's too thin, add more powdered Erythritol/powdered sugar (you'll need less milk if you use regular powdered sugar!). If it's too thick, add a little more lemon juice or plant-based milk.
- Pour the icing onto the cooled lemon cake and transfer the cake to the fridge for about 20-30. The icing will firm up pretty quickly when you use Erythritol (what I did).
- Cut into squares and enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. Check the recipe notes below.
- Rice flour: You can use regular all-purpose flour if you aren't gluten-free.
- Oat flour: To make your own oat flour, simply process oats (regular or gluten-free) in a blender or electric coffee/spice grinder.
- Milk: Since the recipe is oil-free, I used canned coconut milk, which is higher in fat than any other plant-based milk. If you don't like coconut, you can use your favorite plant-based milk and add at least 2 Tbsp of oil in addition.
- Sweetener: You can use any other liquid sweetener (e.g. agave syrup, rice malt syrup, etc.) instead of maple syrup.
- Aquafaba (also known as chickpea brine) is the liquid of a can of chickpeas.
- I used Erythritol which I processed in an electric coffee/spice grinder. You can use powdered sugar instead.
- Nutrition facts are for one piece when you cut the cake into 6 squares (1/6 of the recipe).
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically