Vegan lemon cake

Vegan lemon cake

Hope the sunshine is gracing your corner of the world this week. It is almost like magic at lifting your mood, isn’t it? A slice of good cake alongside your afternoon coffee also seems to have magical powers I find. This sunny looking vegan lemon cake is exactly what the doctor has ordered. It features only a handful of easily accessible ingredients, it comes together in a single mixing bowl and requires very little skill.

This recipe is based on my previous recipe for vegan lemon drizzle cake that so many of you love. This time I wanted to make a lemon cake free from nuts and I also wanted it to stand a little taller so I adjusted the amounts of the ingredients accordingly. This cake is soft and fluffy, fragrant with lemon zest and doused with a generous amount of tangy lemon syrup. If you are feeling extra fancy or simply want the full look, finish the cake off with a thin layer of lemon icing and let it artfully drip down the sides.


PLANT MILK: I used soy milk to make this cake, but if you cannot have soy any other neutral flavoured plant milk will do. I combined it with lemon juice to make it curdle and therefore create a vegan equivalent of buttercream, which helps this cake rise.

LEMON ZEST: The lemon flavour in lemon cakes in general is derived from the zest and any lemon flavoured icing/syrup that you add after baking. I used generous amount of lemon zest here to make this cake very fragrant, but feel free to go down to 2 lemons if you prefer.

LEMON JUICE: Lemon juice is used in the cake batter to help it rise rather than for flavour – lemon juice’s tangy flavour is lost during the baking process unfortunately. To compensate and give this cake the level of tanginess it deserves, I used a liberal amount of lemon juice to create a simple lemon syrup, which is used to infuse the cake with lemon flavour. I also added a touch to the icing, which works to counter the sweetness of icing sugar a little.

FLOUR: I used widely accessible plain white flour (known as all purpose in the US) to make this cake. If you would like to make it gluten-free, use a well balanced gluten-free flour blend and a touch of xanthan gum to improve the texture.

TURMERIC: A small amount of ground turmeric is nice to add for a warm yellow colour that comes from egg yolks in a traditional, non-vegan recipe. I found that it is not really necessary if using olive oil and with any other oil, only add a smidge, literally as much as will sit on the tip of a knife as it’s surprisingly potent.

OIL: this case is super easy to make as it uses regular vegetable oil. There is quite a few vegetable oils you can use, I recommend something neutral in flavour like grapeseed oil for example or if you wanted something a little bolder, mild olive oil also works. I would steer clear of extra virgin olive oil though as it overpowers the delicate balance of flavours. I have also tried making this cake with fragrance free coconut oil, both creaming the sugar and the cold oil and by using melted coconut oil and they both work well but the texture of the cake is a little denser, less fluffy and springy due to the fact that coconut oil becomes solid at low temperatures.

CASTER SUGAR: Caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar) is great for baking and that’s what I used both in the cake itself and to create the syrup.

XANTHAN GUM A small amount of xanthan gum is used to improve the texture of the cake (only if you are using a gluten-free flour blend instead of plain gluten flour). If you have a well formulated gluten-free flour mix that contains a high proportion of starches, you could skip it, but it does make a difference so use it if you can.

BAKING AGENTS: I used a carefully calibrated amount of baking powder and baking soda to get a rise out of this cake. The latter comes into a reaction with lemon juice in the buttermilk and keeps the cake nice and fluffy.

ICING SUGAR: Icing sugar (known as confectioner’s sugar in the US) is used to make the icing. To achieve the right consistency of the icing, you’ll need surprisingly little liquid so make sure to add it very gradually.

vegan lemon cake sugar oil

In a large mixing bowl, place oil, sugar, lemon zest and a small amount of turmeric if using – I found it completely unnecessary if using olive oil. Whisk with a wire whisk until well mixed. If using coconut oil, melt it and cool it before using or else it will cause the sugar to dissolve.

vegan lemon cake buttermilk

Add vegan buttermilk – soy (or other plant) milk and lemon combined together and whisk until you get a homogenous mixture.

vegan lemon cake flour

Place a sieve over the bowl with wet ingredients and gradually sift in dry ingredients – I like to do so in 2-3 batches. Switch to a spatula and incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients by making small circles in the middle of the bowl, gradually incorporating more and more flour.

vegan lemon cake batter

Transfer the batter – it will be pourable – into the greased and lined baking tin and bake in the preheated oven until fully risen, golden brown and the skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Poke small holes all over the cake and drizzle warm cake with a cool syrup or vice versa.

vegan lemon cake icing making

vegan lemon cake icing

vegan lemon cake slice

2lb loaf
20 min
45 min
2lb loaf
20 min
45 min

  • 70 g / 1/3 cup caster sugar (fine sugar)
  • 90 ml / 6 tbsp lemon juice


  • 320 ml / 1 + 1/3 cup plant milk
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 100 g / ½ cup neutral oil, like grapeseed oil*
  • 200 g / 1 cup caster sugar
  • zest of 2-3 lemons


  • a smidge of turmeric, for colour (optional)
  • 280 g / 2¼ cups plain flour or GF flour mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum (only GF version), optional

ICING (optional)

  • 50 g / 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 12 ml / 2½ tsp lemon juice



  1. Put the sugar and lemon juice in a small pot, simmer on low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Set aside – use cold syrup on hot cake or vice versa.


  1. Heat up the oven to 180° C (or 160° C fan forced) / 355° F (320° F fan forced). Line a 1 kg / 2 lb cake tin with a wide strip of baking paper to be able to remove your cake easily.
  2. Combine plant milk and lemon juice together, let it stand for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk oil and sugar together with a wire whisk, then add curdled plant milk. Add lemon zest and turmeric if using.
  4. Place a sieve over the bowl with the wet ingredients and sift through all the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches.
  5. Stir flour into the wet ingredients by making small circles in the middle of the bowl, gradually incorporating more and more flour.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking tin.
  7. Bake until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes but each oven is a bit different so do check.
  8. Once baked and cooled just a little, pierce the top with a toothpick in several places to allow the syrup to infuse the cake better. Brush the surface of the warm cake (that’s important as otherwise the syrup will stay on the surface) with cool syrup several times allowing the syrup to soak into the cake between each application.
  9. Once completely cool, drizzle with icing starting from the middle so that it drips down to the sides creating pretty drizzle marks.

ICING (optional)

  1. Whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice in a medium size bowl until fully combined. Add the lemon juice gradually to avoid lumps in your icing.

*OIL: you can use any oil that has a mild, neutral flavour. I recommend grapeseed oil or mild olive oil if you enjoy olive oil flavour in a lemon cake. Melted (odourless ideally) coconut oil also works well, but due to the fact that it solidifies at low temperatures, it results in a denser, less fluffy cake.

This recipe is based on my earlier recipe for vegan lemon drizzle cake, but this one is created to avoid nuts.

21 g
7 g
1 g
2 g
36 g
*per 1 out of 16 slices (without the icing)
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6 reviews, 12 comments
Can I use rice milk?
    Yes, any plant milk will work. Hope you'll enjoy it. Ania
I tried this recipe and it tastes amazing. My only issue is that it deflated after it came out of the oven, and I don't understand why. I chose this recipe specifically because in the picture it was beautiful and well-risen, and mine was when it was fully baked. I waited 5 minutes before poking it and during that time it sunk, and now the slices are a more rectangular shape. It still tastes wonderful, though! I don't have a fan in my oven, so I don't know if that is the issue. Would you have any pointers for me?
    Hi Sarah,
    Glad you enjoyed this cake and sorry to hear that it deflated. Did you use plain flour or self-raising? If the latter it would be too much baking agents. I had another person do that the other day and their cake deflated too, once they used plain flour the was solved. Second guess is was your tin definitely big enough? Sometimes this happens if the tin is too small and the cake has not enough support after it's risen. Opening the oven too early could also cause this or mismeasuring ingredients (I insist on using scales for dry ingredients when making cakes as cups aren't precise enough) There are a lot of possible causes for that issue so hard for me to be totally sure what happened here but these are my best guesses. I am assuming you made no changes to the actual recipe. Hope you'll give it another go. x Ania
      Hi, Thanks for your reply! I saw online that too much raising agents could do that, but it used plain flour. The tin was the right size and I didn't make any substitutions. And I do use a scale :) I opened the oven at 45 minutes, checked the cake, and decided to put it for another 7 minutes, so maybe because I opened the door when it wasn't ready? I will try it again, for sure. Thanks!
        Hi Sarah,
        You should be safe to open the door after 45 minutes as by that time the cake of this size is nearly ready so I doubt it's that. I really am not sure why this happened if I am honest. I hope you'll give it another go and that it will come out on point. Ania
Amazing!!! Made both versions of your lemon cake recipes several times and they never disappoint.
Thank you.
    Aw thank you so much Sanji, I am really happy to hear that and thank you for taking the time to review - I really appreciate it. x Ania
This is my new favourite cake! I've made it 3 times for different visitors and every time it's a huge hit. The cake is plush and bouncy and the lemon three ways makes it taste zingy and rich with lemon.
Thank you for this stellar recipe <3
    Aw thanks so much, Elise! I'm so chuffed to hear that this lemon cake has been such a hit with you and your guests. Thank you so much for taking the time to review, I really appreciate it! x Ania
Ania, thank you for this recipe! Finally, I found the perfect lemon drizzle cake recipe! Believe me, I tried a lot of them)))
    Aw thanks Ella, I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed this cake so much and thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. x Ania
so easy to make and totally delicious ❤️❤️❤️
    Thank you Lou :) I am delighted to hear that you enjoy this recipe so much and thanks for letting me know - much appreciated. x Ania
Hi Ania,
I have baked your other lemon cake with almond flour and it was fabulous and moist. How does this recipe compare with the other one and where would I see the difference?
Thank you for all the vegan cake recipes!!
    Hi Mathangi,
    Firstly, apologies for my late reply but I was on holidays for the last 10 days. This cake is more like a sponge compared with the other one. It's also moist if baked correctly but the texture is a bit different from the other one. I hope you'll give it a try and enjoy it if you do. x Ania
Kathryn Khoury:
I made this cake yesterday for a party. Everyone loved it! Thanks, for the amazing recipe!
    Thanks so much, Kathryn! I am delighted to hear that it went down so well with your guests. And thank you for taking the time to review, I really appreciate it! Ania
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