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
4.92 stars (123 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 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour
Total: 50 minutes
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!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

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Comments

  1. Oh wow, thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ve made lots of vegan cakes but the texture of this one is so different. Soft but strong enough for a layer cake. Melts in your mouth and zingy lemon is one of my favourite flavours. I made it with the buttercream and lemon curd just on the inside. Husband ate a quarter of the cake in one sitting!

    Glad I to trust it would work out as I made two , one to take to work tomorrow. I’m sure it won’t last the day out.

    How could I adapt to make a vanilla cake? I’m thinking it would be nice layered with raspberry jam and vegan whipped cream.

    1. You are welcome, Denise. I am thrilled the cake turned out wonderful for you, and that you and your husband love it! Your frosting sounds amazing! I do have a vanilla cake – check it out! Wishing you happy cooking!

      1. Thanks Nora . Needless to say the cake went down a storm at work and even the lady with a wheat intolerance couldn’t resist sampling it. I’m going to try your vanilla cake next. I’ve just ordered some more flour so as soon as it arrives I’ll be on it. I see from your vanilla cake recipe that you can use plain vegan yogurt instead of Aquafaba. Would that also work for this lemon cake? Also what’s the metric equivalent for that measure? When I change the vanilla recipe to metric it doesn’t convert the Aquafaba or yogurt measure to Mils.

        1. I’m glad it went over well at work! Yes, I discovered that vegan yogurt works just as well as aquafaba in both cakes actually. You can use that instead for the lemon cake if you want. It’s 125 grams for the yogurt, 118 for the aquafaba. Hope that helps!

  2. Truly one of the best cakes I’ve ever had in my entire life. Only substitution I made is lemon juice in place of apple cider vinegar. Thank you so much for this recipe, and really all of your recipes, you’re amazing!

    1. You are welcome, Jordan! Thank YOU for sharing your wonderful review and inspiring words! Wishing you happy cooking!

  3. So good! Vegan baking can be really challenging in terms of texture– I’ve had a hard time making cakes which are sturdy enough to layer and frost. Not a problem with this recipe! This cake was sturdy but also lovely and tender. I made the cake exactly as written and it was *perfect*, the frosting was delicious in flavor and after adding a bit more powdered sugar was a wonderful texture for frosting and decorating.

    I made this for my omni mom for her birthday and she loved it, and all seven of us (5 omni, two vegan) finished big slices! Will save this recipe as a favorite.

    1. Hi Rachel. Happy birthday to your mom! This cake is one of my mother-in-law’s favorites! Thanks for sharing your wonderful feedback and review! Wishing you happy cooking!

  4. How can I make this with Red Mill’s egg replacer instead of aquafaba? I saw someone used 3 eggs so maybe I’ll try it….or google one can’s worth of aquafaba equals how much egg substitute…not sure but impressed with your responses to questions so I thought I’d post. Also, lots of us in the U.S. use a scale for baking and lots of times I’m afraid metric conversions are wrong (like yours for this recipe was just updated 4 or so days ago). Just noting that I tend to go with the recipes where the author has done the conversion themselves rather than rely on the conversion button. Just trying to be helpful to you…just a pov from someone who bakes a lot. Have made many recipes from this site 👍🏼✌🏼☺️.

  5. I made this cake a while back and loved it. I’m in Australia and use the metric system, from what I recall I manually converted spoon measurements and used US cups. I just came back to make it again, switching to the metric measurements, and I’ve noticed a discrepancy with the imperial to metric conversion. Specifically, the way imperial teaspoon converts to metric.

    The recipe states that x2 teaspoons in the imperial system is the same as 1 tablespoon in the metric. A US teaspoon has 4.9 ml, the metric teaspoon is 5ml. This means that x2 teaspoons would be 10 ml, which is does not add up to a tablespoon (regardless of the system chosen).

    Would it be safest to manually convert to metric from US measurements, if this is what the recipes are based on?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Georgie, thank you for your comment. You are right, the metric conversions were not complete for this recipe and there was a discrepancy. I updated it and it is now correct. When you click the metric button, you will now see the teaspoons and tablespoons converted to ml. I hope that helps and thank you so much for catching that. Happy baking!

  6. We made this for my daughter’s seventh birthday. She said she liked it so much she wanted it for her next birthday too! Our aquafaba failed on the first attempt (first time using S&W beans) but worked the second time with a pinch of cream of tartar. Thanks for sharing these recipes.

    1. You are welcome, Anne! How wonderful your daughter loved the cake! Happy birthday to her! Thank YOU for sharing your fabulous review and feedback! I appreciate you using my recipes!

  7. Nora, I rarely leave reviews but I’ve made several of your cakes now so just had to tell you how impressed we are. Every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious. My daughter is gluten free and dairy free and my daughter-in-law is dairy free. Your cakes are always the ones requested for birthdays and the rest of us who have no dietary challenges enjoy them just as much. I just made this lemon cake (substituted 3 eggs for the aquafaba since we didn’t need it to be vegan) and WOW! The cake was so fluffy and the buttercream frosting perfect…so much lighter than using real butter. Your chocolate cake recipe has been made several times and I get raves from all who eat it. Thank you so much for providing these great desserts that I can make for my family. You’re our “go to” when we need a recipe. Suzette

    1. Thank YOU Suzette, for taking your time to share your amazing feedback and review on my cakes! I feel so uplifted to know you are all enjoying the recipes! Wishing you lots of happy baking!

  8. My mom made this cake for my husband’s birthday. She added a raspberry compote filling and decorated with sugared raspberries and lemon rind. It turned out absolutely amazing – very light and refreshing for summer!

    1. The cake sounds beautiful and delicious! Thanks for sharing this wonderful cake idea, and for your fabulous review! Happy birthday to your husband!

  9. I was disappointed because I love all your recipes and this didn’t turn out for me. It crumbled taking out the pans and then transferring to a plate after cooling on a rack the layers just broke into pieces. I don’t know why. I consider your recipes almost foolproof, they always turn out for me but not this time. ☹️ Not sure what happened.

    1. I’m sorry to hear this Elaine! It can be tricky transferring cakes from the pans to a cooling rack. Make sure to let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before trying to remove them. Then it’s just about making sure your pans were greased well AND lined with parchment paper on the bottom, or else they will break. You need to run a knife around the edge and then transfer in one swift motion, quickly and carefully, so they don’t break. You could also make this cake in a 9×13 inch pan so there is no transferring needed.

    1. Probably around 45 minutes or a bit longer. When a toothpick comes out with no wet batter in the middle, it’s done.

  10. This cake, the frosting, and the lemon curd were absolutely delicious, but it was very crumbly when I took it out of the pan. Do you have any suggestions for next time? Could I try adding a little more aquafaba as a binder? Thanks!

    1. It’s hard to know exactly what happened without being there but it sounds like the batter was over-mixed or the cake was over-baked. That, or the cake was too warm when it was taken out of the pan. A warm cake is a crumbly one! For next time, only mix the ingredients until they just come together. You’ll know it’s done baking when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs stuck to it. Lastly, let the baked cake cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack. Hope this helps!

  11. Hi Nora! I’ve made this cake many times and it’s always a huge hit! Next time, i’m thinking of adding poppy seeds. How much do you think I could safely add? Thank you!

    1. Hi Brenda . I have not tried this cake with gluten free flour, however, it could work. It largely depends on the brand you use, and, it will turn out a bit different. Some have made it gluten free with success! Thanks, and I hope this helps!

  12. Can you substitute fresh squeezed lemon instead of pure lemon extract? If so how much freshly squeezed lemon juice?

    1. Yes, but the lemon flavor may not be as strong. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice instead of the extract.

      1. Thank you so much. I used 6 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and it was fantastic, light fluffy and just enough lemon. It didn’t affect the texture of the cake either.

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