This vegan lemon cake is delicious, light, perfectly moist, and easy to make, with a few simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.
Serve it with a rich and tangy vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting or with vegan lemon custard. It's excellent all-year round as an easy and delicious dessert for weekends, birthdays, and special occasions.
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Our vegan lemon cake is a soft, light, one-layer cake similar to a sponge cake but with a beautiful lemon flavor. It's very easy to make, with simple ingredients you already have at home and with very little effort.
The cake has a distinct lemon flavor thanks to the juice and the zest of fresh lemon, and best of all, it doesn't taste vegan at all, and no one will be able to tell that it is.
It is delicious without fillings or toppings, and you can eat it as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee.
Or you can turn it into a special lemon dessert by topping it with a beautiful vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting. Let's see how to make it.
Get a large, yellow lemon; best if organic since we are using the peel. We use lemon zest and lemon juice, so there's no need for 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 tried making this cake with dairy-free milk 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 we are not sure if it works. Coconut sugar or palm sugar works, too, although the cake will be less sweet.
We use sunflower seed oil or canola oil. You can replace sunflower oil with any other neutral vegetable oil.
We can't recommend vegan butter or coconut oil here; they'll make the cake heavier and less fluffy.
It goes well with the lemon, making the flavor of the cake rounder. 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.
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, vegan cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
What about egg replacements?
There's no need for egg replacements. Instead, we adjust the quantity of flour and water.
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.
Flax eggs, ground flax seeds, aquafaba, or other egg replacements are unnecessary and often change the cake's texture, consistency, and flavor.
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 cake pan.
To a large mixing bowl, add grated lemon zest.
Then cut the lemon in half, squeeze it, and add ¼ cup or 60 grams of lemon juice to the same bowl. Make sure you don't add any lemon seeds.
Now add water, oil, sugar, salt, 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.
Next, sift in flour and baking powder.
Whisk to combine the dry and wet ingredients, but don't over-mix the batter. Some lumps are ok. It should barely take you 30 seconds to mix the batter.
Tip: when making vegan cakes is best not to overmix the batter. 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°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 15 minutes, then take it out and let it cool down completely (at least 1 hour) before applying the frosting.
Vegan Cream Cheese and Lemon Frosting
Add 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 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 on the cake immediately.
Tip: you can add between 1 cup and 4 cups of powdered sugar based on your taste. We like it with 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar.
Spread evenly on top of the lemon cake. Optionally, garnish with yellow sprinkles.
Let the cake and frosting cool down in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing and serving it so the frosting firm up nicely.
If you want to be faster, pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then slice it and serve.
Lemon Custard Filling
Want to try something other than the usual frosting? Fill this vegan lemon cake with a light, creamy, and delicious lemon custard, or for something even more lemony, you can try our vegan lemon curd.
First, bake the vegan lemon cake, then let it cool down completely. In the meantime, prepare the filling. Follow our vegan custard recipe or our vegan lemon curd recipe.
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 with a spoon evenly across the cake, almost to the edges.
Then cover with the top part. Gently 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.
You can make beautifully soft and fluffy lemon muffins with the same 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.
Refrigerator: keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer: freeze 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
If you are hungry for a vegan dessert right here and now, try our vegan custard or chocolate custard. They take 5 mins to make, and they're delicious.
More Lemon Desserts
- Vegan lemon bars: an easy way to combine lemon curd and pie crust!
- Easy lemon pound 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
Vegan Lemon Cake
- cake pan 8-Inch or 21 cm | 9-Inch or 23 cm works too, but cake will be flatter.
For the lemon cake
- 1 lemon the grated zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup canola oil or sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
For the cream cheese and lemon frosting
- 2 ounces vegan butter
- 4 ounces vegan cream cheese
- 1 cups powdered sugar
- ½ lemon the grated zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 340°F or 170°C. Butter cake pan sides and line bottom with parchment paper.
- To a large mixing bowl, add grated lemon zest, lemon juice, water, oil, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk well.
- Sift in flour and baking powder. Whisk to combine without over-mixing. Some lumps are ok.
- Pour batter into cake pan and bake immediately for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
- Let cool down in pan for 15 minutes, then take out of pan and let cool down completely on a wire rack before applying frosting.
- 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.
- To a bowl, add softened vegan butter, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Beat with a hand mixer until butter is creamy.
- Add cream cheese and beat with the butter until well combined. Then add powdered sugar and beat one more minute until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
You might also like the following:
I tried doubling this recipe but it’s turning very thick even with two and a half cups of flour and double the rest. Is it the baking powder??
Sorry I'm not sure what you mean - did you double all the ingredients amounts as well as the baking powder? What measurements do your baking tray have?
Let me know, and we'll do our best to troubleshoot 🙂
Hi, could I use olive oil? Thank you
Hi Tara, thank you for your message.
We haven't tested this lemon cake with olive oil, but my guess is that it would work.
We've tried making our lemon pound cake with a light olive oil, and it turned out delicious. Since this cake is very similar, I believe that it could work.
Do let me know how it turns out if you try. Have a wonderful Sunday.
I liked the cake but it was a little heavy and dry. The frosting was delicious. I doubled it and frosted the entire cake.
Thank you for your feedback - I'm delighted you liked the frosting, and it's a great idea to frost the entire cake too 🙂
Have a great day,
The lemon cake was delicious, and I want to make it again and again but just a bit moister, recommendations? Thank you!
I’m excited to try this egg-free vegan cake for Christmas! I’m curious if you’ve tried making this with gluten free flour (as indicated in the recipe as a substitute). Also, for the vegan cream cheese frosting, what vegan butter do you recommend?
Hi Beatrice, sorry for the delayed comment, we wanted to publish our vegan cream cheese frosting post first so you can get more information here: https://theplantbasedschool.com/vegan-cream-cheese-frosting/
Our top favorite brands are "Violife just like original cream cheese" (probably our favorite for frosting because it's as thick as regular cream cheese), Wayfare, Simply V, and Trader Joe's. Other brands are Kite Hill, The Dairy-Free Co, Daya, So Delicious, and Miyoko's.
The vegan lemon cake works also with gluten-free flour (tested and approved by our readers) - we have yet to test it ourselves.
I hope this helps. Have a wonderful Monday. Kindest, Louise
Thank you for your response about the cream cheese. What about a recommendation for non-soy vegan butter good for baking?
You are welcome, Beatrice. We really like Violife's Vioblock. It's a really good soy-free alternative 🙂
Thanks for the response! Does it matter if the butter is a spreadable kind vs. stick? I know baking ingredients usually need to be precise.
Hi Beatrice, thanks for your message. Go for as solid a butter type that you can find. We've only tested with hard butter types and not softened butter. I hope that helps. Have a great Monday. Best, Louise
Can I use a regular pan and not a springform?
Hi Hannah, yes you can use a regular cake pan. The reason we like to use a springform pan is that I find it easier to remove the cake from it after baking. Make use to oil your cake pan well or use parchment paper, then you should be fine! Have a wonderful day. Cheers, Nico
I made this yesterday and it’s very tasty. I may have over mixed it slightly as it’s not as moist as normal, but very edible. I will definitely make this again. Thank you.
Hi there, thanks so much for coming back to leave a reply! I'm happy you liked it 🙂 Cheers, Nico
Hello, I'd like to bake this in a Bundt pan. Should I leave the recipe as is, or double it? Thank you
Thanks for your comment. If you wanna make a bundt cake, I highly recommend following the lemon pound cake recipe which we tested with a bundt pan: https://theplantbasedschool.com/vegan-pound-cake/#variations
If you wanna make the vegan lemon cake, I would double the measurements and bake it 5-10 minutes longer until a toothpick comes out dry. We haven't tested this version for the lemon cake, so I cannot predict the result 🙂
I hope this helps, have a wonderful Friday!