Light, zesty, and so lemony, this Vegan Lemon Cake is the best springtime recipe around! Celebrate the warm weather with a slice decorated in lemon buttercream and fresh vegan lemon curd in the center, if desired.

3 pieces of cake on plates with pink flowers around it

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate sunny weather than with a big slice of this Vegan Lemon Cake. Like eating sunshine on a plate, this tangy cake is so soft, fluffy, and packs in bright and fresh flavors. It’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten!

This recipe is similar to my moist and decadent vegan vanilla cake. The cheerful specks of yellow from the added lemon zest and lemon extract transform this cake into a treat with a pop of fresh flavors. It really is the prettiest cake around. I added a touch of yellow food coloring for that vibrant yellow hue, but you can leave it out if you like.

I haven’t forgotten about the buttercream either! It’s a lemony dream with all of the creaminess you love about a classic buttercream frosting. Give this eggless cake a try when you need the perfect dessert to bring to Easter dinner or any lemon lover’s birthday.

piece of cake being lifted out from the rest of the cake

How to make vegan lemon cake

Start by making vegan buttermilk. Combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a measuring glass and let it sit until it curdles.

Pour the aquafaba into a bowl and mix on medium-high speed until it’s light and foamy. It does not have to form stiff peaks.

Line two round cake pans (8 or 9 inch) with a square or round piece of parchment paper, and spray very well with oil.

collage showing steps for making vegan lemon cake

Beat the vegan butter, oil, sugar, and lemon zest together in a large bowl.

Next, add the lemon and vanilla extracts and beat again. Add the yellow food coloring as well, if using.

Pour in the aquafaba and vegan buttermilk and mix one last time.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until they’re just combined. 

collage of how to make cake batter

Pour the batter into your prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean. When they’re done, let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack.

yellow cake batter in two pans

How to make vegan lemon buttercream frosting

Beat the softened butter until it’s light and fluffy. Reduce the speed and add in the powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Finish by mixing in the rest of the powdered sugar and adjust the texture as needed.

Decorate the completely cooled cake layers with buttercream and vegan lemon curd if you want. Add decorations like candied lemon slices, vegan whipped cream, or fresh berries on top and enjoy!

frosting a cake

Tips for success

  • Is the frosting too thick? Mix in a tablespoon of non-dairy milk at a time to thin it out. 
  • Is the frosting too thin? Add more powdered sugar until it gets a bit thicker.
  • Cake flour – For the best results, make this recipe with cake flour. It comes out of the oven super fluffy with a fine crumb that is unmatched! All purpose flour will also work if you can’t find cake flour.
  • Decorating – If buttercream isn’t your thing, decorate the cake with Cream Cheese Frosting instead. Add a layer of Vegan Lemon Curd in the middle and fresh blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries on top for a colorful presentation.

close up of a piece of vegan lemon cake with pink flowers

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is aquafaba? Aquafaba is the liquid in a can of chickpeas. Simply drain the chickpeas over a bowl and collect the liquid.
  2. Can it be made gluten free? Yes! Replace the cake flour with a 1:1 gluten free flour. It works out quite well!
  3. Can this recipe be made into cupcakes? Pour the batter into two prepared muffin tins and bake for around 20 to 24 minutes. You could also use my recipe for Vegan Lemon Cupcakes.

Storing and freezing lemon cake

Leftover cake can be kept covered at room temperature for about 3 to 4 days. To keep it longer, store the individual slices or the whole cake covered in the fridge for around 1 week.

The baked cake layers also freeze nicely. Once they’re cool, wrap the layers well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

cut piece of cake showing fluffy yellow texture

Want more vegan lemon desserts?

square image of a piece of lemon cake on a plate with a fork in it
4.91 stars (103 ratings)

Vegan Lemon Cake

Light, zesty, and so lemony, this Vegan Lemon Cake is the best springtime recipe around! Celebrate the warm weather with a slice decorated in lemon buttercream and fresh vegan lemon curd in the center, if desired.
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Cooling time: 1 hr
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 12 slices

Ingredients 
 

For the lemon cake

  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba liquid from a can of chickpeas
  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup neutral flavored oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon pure lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon yellow food coloring, optional

For the frosting

  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment rounds (I cut them out myself to fit the bottom of the pans to prevent sticking.)
  • Vegan buttermilk: In a measuring cup, combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit a few minutes until it curdles (this is your vegan buttermilk.)
  • Aquafaba: In a medium sized bowl, drain the chickpeas to collect the liquid from the can. (Rinse the chickpeas and refrigerate for another use.) Measure 1/2 cup of aquafaba. With a hand mixer, mix on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and foamy. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add the softened butter, oil, sugar and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed with the handheld mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Now add in the lemon and vanilla extracts and beat to combine. If using the yellow food coloring, add it in now as well.
  • On low speed, add in the vegan buttermilk and aquafaba and mix. Now add the flour, sprinkle the baking powder and salt on top of the flour and mix on low until well combined, about 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed with a spatula. Do not over mix.
  • Divide the batter equally in the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on wire racks for 5-10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen, and carefully invert the cakes onto your hand. Remove the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the vegan butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed, add in the 2 cups of the powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Beat on low, then switch to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Now add in the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar and mix. If the frosting seems too thick, add a tablespoon at a time of non-dairy milk. If the frosting seems too thin, add more powdered sugar until a desirable consistency is reached.
  • Frost the cake: Place one of the cake layers on your cake stand or plate. Frost the top evenly. Place the second cake layer on top. Top the second layer with more frosting, and frost the sides as well. Decorate as desired and serve!

Notes

  1. Aquafaba is the liquid in a can of chickpeas. Simply drain the chickpeas over a bowl and collect the liquid. 
  2. Cake flour is wonderful here if you can find it. The cake will come out fluffier with a fine crumb, but all purpose works if you don't have access to cake flour. Gluten free all purpose flour works quite well, too.
  3. Store leftover cake at room temperature for 3-4 days and make sure to cover any cut parts. Or keep it in the refrigerator for 1 week. It freezes perfectly as well.
  4. Cupcakes - Divide into liners and bake for 20-24 minutes.
  5. Consider adding a layer of vegan lemon curd to the middle, if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 532kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 65g | Vitamin A: 1081IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

*This recipe was originally published July 2018 and has been updated April 2021 with new photos and an improved recipe to make it even more moist and fluffy, and with clearer instructions for the aquafaba. I’m always working on improving my recipes!

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Comments

  1. Questions, as I love your cakes and plan to make this next Friday. Can just egg or.Ener-G egg replacer be substituted for Aquafaba? Second, I was going back-and-forth between the lemon cupcakes and the cake and I noticed that there is no egg replacer in the lemon cupcakes. What is the difference? Thanks much!

    1. Either recipe is good, for the cupcakes they are a bit more sturdy which I like. You can pick them up easier. JUST Egg or another egg replacer will probably work quite well but I haven’t tested it. The aquafaba makes the cake very moist and also light. Whatever you make I hope you love it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  2. I used this recipe only for the frosting which is delicious! I also used the frosting for an omnivore’s wedding cake with dairy butter – still delicious. Will try the actual cake at a later date when I have aquafaba.

    1. Hi Nora, my daughter-in-law is vegan and made this cake. It is ridiculously moist and so good. I would love to be able to reduce the sugar by about 1/2 cup. What do you think of that? My husband is diabetic and I am trying to cut out added white sugar. Thanks for any suggestions.

      1. Hi Becky. I’m thrilled to know you love the cake! I think cutting the sugar in half in the cake part would work, however, I can’t be positive as I haven’t tried it. For the frosting, to use less sugar, don’t any non-dairy milk and make sure your vegan butter is not too soft, just barely softened so you can mix it. This will help you not need so much powdered sugar. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi Nora,

    I just discovered your blog and let me thank you for those beautiful recipes!! i’ve already made a list and can’t wait to try all the recipes in it.

    The first recipe am willing to try is this lemon cake!! but am wondering if i can substitute vegan butter for the same amount of oil maybe coconut or sunflower beacuse it’s a bit difficult to find vegan butter where I live

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi there, thank you so much, glad you found me! Replacing the vegan butter in the cake itself should work okay, not quite the same though. You could use the base for my Vegan Funfetti Cake instead which uses oil, but instead of sprinkles add lemon zest, extract and juice instead of the apple cider vinegar. The frosting is a different story though, I’m not quite sure how to make a good buttercream type frosting without vegan butter. I hope you enjoy the recipes here!

  4. Hi Nora! I’ve tried your chocolate cake and it’s delicious! I’ll be making this one this weekend for a party of 30 people. Can I make a tiered cake with this recipe?

    1. I’ve never tried making a tiered cake with this recipe so I really don’t know, but I hope so! So glad you enjoyed the chocolate cake. Sorry I can’t be more help!

  5. Hi Nora,
    I always love your recipes. I made this lemon cake and it looked beautiful in the oven nice even top and then when it cooled the middle sunk. It’s tastes wonderful but can you give me an idea of why it sunk? The oven wasn’t opened during baking. Thank you

    1. It’s okay for the cake to sink a little bit in the middle. But if it sunk a lot, that could mean you didn’t let it bake long enough, or perhaps something was off with your measurements. Did you make any substitutions? Hopefully I can help!

      1. Mine fell as well, quite a bit. It still was amazing though! Best cake ever! I think that it might have been because when I cleaned the cup I used for baking powder, I noticed a little bit of it still stuck to the inside of the cup! Maybe a half a teaspoon. So I’ll try this again, and be more precise. I’m a seasoned vegan baker, but this was my first chiffon like cake.
        I made it for my son’s 25th birthday. Everyone enjoyed it, even though I had to put too much frosting on top! I made the luscious lemon curd for the middle layer, and if it falls again, I’m going to put that on the top!
        This cake is SUBLIME! Or shall I say sublemon?! 🍋

        1. Hi Kathleen. Sublemon! I love your play on words! Im glad the cake tasted amazing! It’s too bad it fell. Hopefully the next cake will turn out perfect! Happy birthday to your son! Happy baking in the upcoming new year!

  6. I just made this for my daughter’s birthday. (She loves anything lemon) Well it was a disaster. The lemon curd, which I chilled overnight) just oozed off the cake when I put the second layer on. Then the icing was so thin it wouldn’t stay on the cake either. Now it is chilling in the frig and I’m hoping I can salvage it somehow. What kind of vegan butter do you use? I used Earth Balance.

    1. I’m sorry to hear your having trouble with the cake! It sound like your cakes were still somewhat warm and not completely cooled when you layered on the lemon curd and frosted it. And make sure for the frosting you don’t melt the butter (I used Earth Balance a lot and it’s fine) or soften it too much. You don’t want a melty frosting, it should be thick but spreadable. But if your cakes are at all warm and not cooled completely, everything will be a mess like you’re describing.

  7. This is a great recipe. I usually don’t bother if a recipe calls for aquafaba, because it requires 2 lots of cooking – one for baking and one making something with beans or chickpeas, that I don’t use much. But this recipe is worth it. Also, if you’re Australian and want a substitute for cake flour, just remove 1 spoon of regular flour and replace it with a spoon of cornstarch, then sift and mix well. Getting fluffiness into vegan cakes is very hard, but this recipe manages it.

    1. Hi Desiree. I’m so happy that you love the lemon cake! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback and ideas!

  8. Love love love this recipe! My non vegan ? family members love it too! Can a sheet cake pan be used for this recipe ? 

    1. I’m so glad you love it! Yes, you could make it into a sheet cake, it will just need much less time in the oven, maybe only 15-20 minutes. Do the toothpick test to know it’s done and be careful not to over bake. Thank you!

  9. I’ve made this cake twice.  So far…  It is absolutely delicious!  In fact, my pastor made an announcement during our last potluck to find out who made it.  And mentioned it again during the weekly newsletter this week.  It is so moist and a lot fluffier than many of the vegan cakes I’ve made.  Love!

    1. Hi Heather. Wow, sounds like your cake is famous! I’m so glad it was a hit at the potluck! I love a good lemon cake with a passion. Thanks for taking time to share your wonderful feedback! Wishing you lots of happy baking!

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