Our vegan lemon cake is effortless to make with a few pantry staples and guarantees a moist, tangy, and tasty treat.
We infuse the cake batter with fresh lemon juice, zest, and lemon extract. The crumb is moist and pillowy; you can taste the lemon with every bite.
You can serve the cake as is, top it with an indulgent vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting, or fill it with vegan custard. It’s the perfect dessert for a special occasion.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian and vegan diet.
Because that’s how we like to develop our cakes, they must be easy, doable in less than an hour on a weeknight after work, and made with simple ingredients.
Also, they shouldn’t taste vegan and must turn out well on your first try.
This vegan lemon cake has a distinct lemon flavor thanks to the juice and the zest of fresh lemon, and for even more flavor, you can add some lemon extract.
But if you want a more festive and indulgent lemon dessert, top it with a sweet and tangy vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting. You won’t regret it!
Ingredients & substitutions for vegan lemon cake
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Get a large, yellow lemon; it is best if organic since we use the peel. We use lemon zest and lemon juice.
Lemon extract is optional, but if you’d like a more evident lemon aroma, we recommend it.
It goes well with the lemon, making the flavor of the cake rounder. We recommend vanilla extract or the seeds of a vanilla pod.
We use all-purpose flour.
We haven’t tested this cake with gluten-free flour, so we are unsure if it’ll work out.
We tried making this cake with almond milk, vegan buttermilk with apple cider vinegar, soy milk, and other non-dairy milks in the past.
However, after several rounds of testing, we figured out that the cake turned out much more delicious with water.
You can use white sugar or brown sugar.
We haven’t tested this cake with maple syrup and are unsure if it works.
Coconut sugar or palm sugar works, too, although the cake will be less sweet and more dense.
We use olive oil – not extra virgin olive oil, just regular olive oil.
Substitute avocado oil for olive oil.
Other oils we tested in the past that work well are sunflower oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, and most other neutral vegetable oils.
However, compared to olive and avocado oil, these are less healthy.
Melted coconut oil will make the cake denser and less fluffy.
To help the cake rise and make it light and airy. We don’t use baking soda in this recipe.
A pinch of salt helps bring the flavors together.
Vegan Cream Cheese and Lemon Frosting
You can make a delicious vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting with:
- vegan butter (use one that comes in a stick, and it’s solid, not a spreadable one)
- vegan cream cheese
- powdered sugar
- lemon zest
- vanilla extract
What about egg replacements?
There’s no need for egg replacements.
Flax eggs, ground flax seeds, aquafaba, or other egg replacements are unnecessary and often change the cake’s texture, consistency, and flavor.
With vegan cakes, it’s all about getting the ratios of wet and dry ingredients right, and we tested this many times till we got the perfect cake consistency.
How to make vegan lemon cake
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Preheat the oven to 340°F or 170°C. Butter your cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. We use an 8-inch (20-21 cm) cake pan.
To a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to combine them.
To a smaller bowl, add the wet ingredients. Start with the grated lemon zest.
Then, cut the lemon in half, squeeze it, and add 1/4 cup or 60 grams of lemon juice to the same bowl. Make sure you don’t add any lemon seeds.
Add water, olive oil, lemon, and vanilla extract and whisk well.
Tip: Only grate the yellow part of the peel, not the white flesh under, as that part is bitter.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry one and whisk until just combined. Get rid of lumps, but don’t overmix the batter.
Tip: it is best not to overmix the batter when making vegan cakes. You can use an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer, but remember that overmixing will activate the flour gluten and make the cake heavier and more compact.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and level it off.
Bake it immediately in the central lower wire rack of your preheated oven at 340°F or 170°C for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Let the cake cool down in the cake pan for 10 minutes, then take it out and let it cool down completely (at least 1 hour) before applying the frosting.
Tip: to prevent the cake from sticking to your wire rack, line the rack with parchment paper.
How to make vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting
Take the vegan butter out of the refrigerator and let it soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Add the softened vegan butter, the zest of one lemon, and the vanilla extract to a bowl.
Whisk with a hand mixer until the butter turns creamy.
Add the vegan cream cheese and beat with a hand mixer until combined.
Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
Store it in the fridge to set if you don’t apply it to the cake immediately.
Tip: you can add between 1 and 4 cups of powdered sugar based on your taste. We like it with 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
Spread evenly on top of the vegan lemon cake.
Optionally, garnish this delicious lemon olive oil cake grated lemon zest, strawberries, poppy seeds, or fresh berries.
For best results, let the cake and frosting cool down in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing and serving it so the frosting firms up nicely (but if you can’t wait, we won’t blame you).
Pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes for a faster result, then slice it and serve.
Vegan lemon cake with custard filling
Want to try something other than the usual frosting?
Fill this vegan lemon cake with a light, creamy, and delicious vegan custard, or for something tangier and more lemony with our vegan lemon curd.
First, bake the vegan lemon cake, then let it cool down completely.
Fill the cake
Cut the cake in half with a serrated knife.
Take the top off the cake and pour the filling onto the base layer. Spread the filling evenly across the cake with a spoon, almost to the edges.
Then, cover with the top part. Press down to put it in place, but ensure the filling doesn’t fall out.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and set in the refrigerator for about one hour before slicing and serving.
Vegan lemon loaf cake with lemon glaze
Our lemon pound cake is soft, moist, flavorful, and the perfect treat for lemon lovers.
Make the lemon glaze with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extra.
Check out the recipe for our lemon pound cake.
Vegan lemon muffins
You can make soft, fluffy lemon muffins with a similar vegan lemon cake batter.
They are perfect as a snack or for a quick breakfast, and you can top them with a sweet streusel or frosting, too.
Check out our lemon muffins recipe.
Storage & Make Ahead
Make ahead: you can make this cake up to 3 days ahead.
Refrigerator: if you apply the frosting, keep the vegan lemon cake in the fridge for up to 3 days in a cake dome or an airtight container. If you don’t apply the frosting, keep it in a cake dome or in plastic wrap for three days at room temperature.
Freezer: let the cake cool down completely, transfer it to a freezer-friendly container, and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Thaw: defrost in the fridge slowly, over several hours, or overnight.
More Easy Cake Recipes
- Vegan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a reader favorite, and single-layer cake
- 7-ingredient vegan apple cake with tender and sweet apple pieces inside
- Orange cake: easy and quick orange cake with a sweet and tangy orange curd filling
- Easy chocolate cake with eight ingredients and a chocolate ganache topping
- Soft pear cake: light, fluffy, and super moist, this Italian pear cake is topped with cinnamon sugar!
- Vegan vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and a pillowy soft cake base
More Vegan Lemon Desserts
- Vegan lemon bars are an easy way to combine lemon curd and pie crust!
- Easy lemon pound cake or vegan lemon loaf cake with yogurt and an airy texture
- Quick lemon curd with five ingredients
- Lemon blueberry pound cake: it takes just 5 minutes to whip up this soft and delightful pound cake!
- Vegan lemon tart with 5-minute custard and a flaky pie crust
For many more easy dessert ideas, check out our desserts category page.
Vegan Lemon Cake
- cake pan 8-Inch or 21 cm | 9-Inch or 23 cm works too, but cake will be flatter.
Cake's Wet Ingredients
- 1 lemon the grated zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon extract optional
Cake's Dry Ingredients
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ounces vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ lemon the grated zest
- 4 ounces vegan cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 340°F or 170°C. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper and brush sides with butter.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: 1½ cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar, 1½ teaspoon baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk to combine.
- To a second bowl, add wet ingredients: the grated zest of 1 lemon, ¼ cup lemon juice, ¾ cup water, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons lemon extract. Whisk to combine.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, without overmixing.
- Transfer cake batter to your prepared baking pan.
- Bake at 340°F or 170°C for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry.Let cake cool down 10 minutes in the pan, then take it out and let cool down completely on a wire rack lined with parchment paper.
- Spread frosting on top, keep in the fridge if not eating it immediately.Cut into slices, then you can add grated lemon zest on top before eating.
For the frosting
- Soften 2 ounces vegan butter at room temp for 15 minutes, then add it to a mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the grated zest of ½ lemon. Beat with a hand mixer for 30 seconds.
- Add 4 ounces vegan cream cheese and beat for 30 more seconds.Add 1 cup powdered sugar, beat on low speed first, scrape down sides, and finish beating on medium-high speed until perfectly smooth. Don't overbeat it.Let it firm up in the fridge for 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 15 minutes, before applying it on the cake.
- Spread frosting on top of the cake, then let cool down 1 hour in the fridge or 15 minutes in the freezer before slicing and serving.