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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
- What is aquafaba? Aquafaba is the liquid in a can of chickpeas. Simply drain the chickpeas over a bowl and collect the liquid.
- Can it be made gluten free? Yes! Replace the cake flour with a 1:1 gluten free flour. It works out quite well!
- 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.
Want more vegan lemon desserts?
Vegan Lemon Cake
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
- 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!
- Aquafaba is the liquid in a can of chickpeas. Simply drain the chickpeas over a bowl and collect the liquid.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cupcakes - Divide into liners and bake for 20-24 minutes.
- Consider adding a layer of vegan lemon curd to the middle, if desired.
*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!