This vegan lemon cake is soft, light, moist, and incredibly easy to make, with a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
Eat it as is, or fill it with a light lemon custard for an even tastier and party-friendly cake. We will show you how to make both.
Check out our best plant-based dessert recipes!
A vegan lemon cake is soft and light, similar to a sponge cake, but lighter and airier. It's very easy to make, with simple ingredients you already have at home.
The cake has a distinct lemon flavor thanks to the juice and the zest of fresh lemon.
It is delicious as is, without any fillings or toppings. We eat it as a mid-afternoon snack, with a cup of tea and sometimes even a quick breakfast.
However, you can also fill it with lemon curd or vegan custard to make it even more delicious and turn it into an elegant dessert for a special occasion.
Finally, to make it even more irresistible, consider adding vegan frosting or lemon glazing. All variations are in the "variations" chapter below.
Ingredients and substitutions
Get large, yellow lemons; best if organic since we are eating their peel. We use lemon zest and lemon juice to replace the use of lemon extract.
We use all-purpose flour. To make it gluten-free, you can replace all-purpose flour with 1 to 1 gluten-free flour for baking.
We use almond or oat milk for this cake. Any dairy-free milk works for this recipe, including soy milk, rice milk, and others.
We use organic brown sugar. However, any other sugar works, including white sugar and coconut sugar. We haven't tested this cake with maple syrup, and we are not sure if it works with that.
We use sunflower seed oil or canola oil. You can replace sunflower oil with any other neutral vegetable oil. Unrefined vegetable oils are marginally healthier but will make your cake taste bad, so we don't recommend them.
You could replace oil with vegan butter or coconut oil, but be mindful that they often contain saturated fats and palm oil.
It goes well with the lemon, making the flavor of the cake rounder (the lemon on its own can be a little sharp). We recommend vanilla extract or the seeds of a vanilla pod.
To help the cake rise and to make it light and airy. We don't use baking soda in this recipe.
To sprinkle on top. Alternatively, you can apply vegan cream cheese frosting or lemon glaze. See the recipes in the "variations" chapter below.
This cake is delicious as is, without any filling. However, it is even more indulgent if you fill it with our most-loved vanilla custard or our tangy lemon curd.
Here we show you how to fill it with a lemon-vanilla custard made with non-dairy milk, cornstarch, sugar, lemon, vanilla extract, and a tiny pinch of turmeric for color.
What about egg replacements?
There's no need for egg replacements. We simply adjust the quantity of flour and milk.
With vegan cakes, it's all about getting the ratios of wet and dry ingredients right, and we test this many times till we get the perfect cake consistency.
Flax eggs, ground flax seeds, aquafaba, or other egg replacements are not necessary and often change the cake's texture, consistency, and flavor.
Start with the lemons.
As a first step, preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius.
Then line your cake pan with parchment paper. We use an 8-inch (21 cm) cake pan.
Anything up to 9 inches or 23 cm is ok, but the larger the cake pan, the thinner the cake. Also, we like to use a springform pan, the one that opens on the side, so that it's easier to remove the cake from it afterward.
To a large mixing bowl, add the grated zest of lemons.
Tip: Only grate the yellow part of the peel, not the white flesh under, as that part is bitter.
Then cut the lemons in half, squeeze them, and add ½ cup or 120 grams of lemon juice to the same bowl. Make sure you don't add any lemon seeds.
Add wet ingredients
To the same bowl, add ½ cup or 120 grams of plant milk of your choice; we are using almond milk. ¼ cup or 50 grams of neutral vegetable oil; we use sunflower seed oil and a little over half a cup or 120 grams of sugar.
So, our cakes are not overly sweet, so you can add more sugar if you like. And also, add one tablespoon of vanilla extract to give a fuller aroma to the cake.
Mix well with a whisk to combine.
Add dry ingredients
Now sift in 2 cups or 300 grams of all-purpose flour and one tablespoon or 16 grams of baking powder.
Mix with a whisk to combine the dry and wet ingredients, but ensure not to overmix the batter. Some lumps are ok. It should barely take you a minute to mix the batter.
Tip: when making vegan cakes is best not to overmix. Overmixing will activate the flour gluten and make the cake heavier and more compact. So keep your cake light and fluffy mix as little as possible.
Pour the batter into the cake pan, level it off, and bake immediately in the central wire rack of your preheated oven at 340 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, insert a skewer in the center of the cake; if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If not, bake for a few more minutes.
Let the cake cool down for at least 1 hour before slicing and eating it. Then dust it with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.
It is the easiest, softest vegan lemon cake ever. It's simple yet packed with lemon flavor. Its crumb is compact yet incredibly soft and light, a perfect birthday cake and celebration treat.
How to fill the lemon cake
Make the filling
If you want to make a more party-friendly cake, you can fill it with easy lemon custard.
Before doing this, let the cake cool down fully. Then prepare the vanilla lemon custard.
With a paring knife, peel a lemon and add its peel to a medium saucepan.
Now add in 2 cups or 500 grams of plant milk of your choice; we use oat milk, ⅓ cups or 70 grams of sugar, one tablespoon of vanilla extract or the real beans of a vanilla pod, ½ cup or 50 grams of cornstarch, and a tiny bit of turmeric, the tip of a knife, to add color to the custard.
Whisk well to combine till all lumps are gone completely, then bring onto medium heat and cook, while whisking, until you get a thick creamy custard.
Remember to remove the lemon peel halfway through cooking.
Set the custard aside, whisking it occasionally to prevent it from lumping up.
Fill the cake
Remove the cake from the pan, peel off the parchment paper at the bottom, then place the lemon cake on a serving platter.
Cut the cake in half. You need a serrated knife to do that, the one you use for bread.
Cutting this cake in half is easier than you think, so go ahead and do it confidently.
Take the top off of the cake, then pour the filling onto the base layer. Spread the filling with a spoon evenly across the cake, almost to the edges.
Then cover with the top part, so both cake layers are stacked. Gently press down to put it in place, but ensure the filling doesn't fall out.
Now sprinkle with powdered sugar or make a vegan frosting; see "variations" chapter. Let the cake cool down in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing and serving it so the custard firm up nicely.
If you want to be faster, pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then slice it and serve.
This is still a simple vegan lemon cake recipe with an irresistible filling that makes this cake special.
Cream cheese frosting
Add 9 ounces (250 grams) of dairy-free cream cheese to a bowl. There are a lot of brands available these days, so pick the one you like from your local supermarket.
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, then the grated zest of half a lemon or lime and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Whisk and spread evenly on top of your lemon cake.
Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of plant milk to a bowl.
Stir till the powder sugar dissolves in the liquids. You should get to a pourable consistency.
Pour on top of the lemon cake. If it runs down on the sides, use a spoon to get it and pour it again on top.
Turn this cake into lemon muffins or cupcakes by simply baking the cake batter into muffin tins. In this case, you'll only need to bake the muffins for about 15 minutes.
- Like tangy flavors? Replace our custard filling with our lemon curd, packed with lemon flavor. If you are into the sour, tangy taste of lemons, you must try it.
- Prefer oranges to lemons? Then have a go at our light, soft and fluffy orange cake. We even made a carrot-orange cake that is
More vegan cake recipes
If you're as big a fan of plant-based desserts as we are, take a look at these easy vegan cakes:
- Vegan carrot cake with frosting
- 7-ingredient vegan apple cake
- Orange cake with orange curd
- Easy vegan chocolate cake
- Vegan coffee cake with filling
- Easy brownie cake
- Vegan fruit tart
- No-bake vegan cheesecake with fresh berries
More vegan lemon desserts
Store the vegan lemon cake without filling at room temperature for up to 4 days. It's best to keep it under a cake dome or in a food-grade plastic bag to keep it soft.
Keep the lemon cake with the filling in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You can freeze both cakes for up to 3 months. To freeze them, cut them into smaller pieces and put them into food-grade plastic bags. Then, thaw it in the refrigerator over a day or overnight.
For many more sweet ideas, check out our desserts category page.
Vegan Lemon Cake
- cake pan / spring form pan 8 inch or 21 cm
For the lemon cake
- 2 lemons the grated zest
- ½ cup lemon juice (from the two zested lemons)
- ½ cup plant milk (oat milk, almond milk, soy milk or other)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the custard filling (optional)
- 2 cups plant milk (oat milk, almond milk, soy milk or other)
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon the peel
For the cake
- Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius. Line your cake pan with parchment paper.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the grated zest of two lemons. Cut the lemons in half, squeeze their juice and add it to the mixing bowl.
- Add plant milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and mix well with a whisk.
- Sift in flour and baking powder. Mix with a whisk for just a minute to combine but do not overmix. Some lumps are okay.
- Transfer cake batter to cake pan and bake immediately at 340F or 180C for 35 minutes.
- Cool down completely before transferring the cake to a serving platter and dusting it with powdered sugar. You can eat the cake as is, or fill it with our lemon-vanilla custard or lemon curd.
For the custard filling (optional)
- To a pot off the heat, add all the ingredients: plant milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon peel. Stir with a whisk till all lumps are gone.On medium heat, stir continuously until the liquid thickens into a creamy custard.
How to fill the cake
- Put the cake on a serving platter, cut it in half with a serrated knife (it must be cold before you cut it), and pour the custard over the base layer.
- Spread the filling with a spoon, cover with the top layer, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and let set in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing and serving. Optionally you can cover with vegan frosting or lemon icing. See the "variations" chapter for instructions.