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.
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!
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!
Can you make this cake Gluten Free?
You can if needed, the outcome is slightly different but pretty good. Use a quality gluten free all purpose mix for best results, definitely not almond or coconut flour, they will not work.
Hi there! I have not tried this yet, but I intend to. I was wondering whether it would work okay with caster sugar?
Yes, caster sugar is just a fine sugar right? Should be perfect. Enjoy!
Am eager to make this cake for a birthday but due to soy and all nuts allergies, would oat beverage work? If not, what other alternatives are there?
Thanks so much.
Yes, oat milk will work just fine. Thanks and I hope you enjoy it!
Just made this cake for my daughter’s 16th anniversary. Had no lemon extract so l hoped my fresh lemon juice and a lemon glaze with plenty of lemon gratings would do. I used Aquafaba and beat it till foamy. I used a good gluten free flour. Trader Joe’s.
The two layers baked fine and seemed done after 35 minutes, but the texture was dense, not fluffy and not a delicate crumb. It was quite tasty but not lemony enough. The lemon glaze l drizzled over the cooled layers helped the flavor a bit.
I wonder if folding in a stiffly beaten aquafaba very gently at the end of all the mixing is the way to go. I was careful not to overmix, but l want a far lighter fluffier cake, and am hoping that a leavening change is the answer.
Hi Jeannie! So I can tell you the issue with the cake being dense most certainly has to do with the gluten free flour. It just doesn’t work the same as cake flour. While it can work quite well, it largely depends on the brand you use and will turn out a bit different. Some have made it gluten free with success though! I’ll have to do a gluten free vegan lemon cake sometime. Thanks!
I love this cake, Made it for my daughter who is Vegan, my entire non-vegan family members LOVED it too. Can you tell me how many cupcakes I will get from one batch??? Making them for a grad party 🙂
I’m so glad everyone loves the lemon cake, thanks! You will get about 24 cupcakes. 🙂
This is my go to recipe for all things cake! Want churro cake? Just add cinnamon and add one more vanilla tsp instead of lemon extract. Everyone loves this cake. I do have a question though… I’m making a wedding cake and want to make sure it’s very moist. Could I do some batches with oil and some with butter and mix them. Or just use oil? If I do use only oil is it a 1:1 swap?
Thanks for loving the cake! I haven’t tried it using all oil so I’m not sure how that will turn out honestly. I like using a mix of vegan butter and oil for flavor and texture. The cake is so moist as written, I don’t think you need to change a thing. 🙂
Oh I just saw that the recipe was updated to both oil and vegan butter with 1/4 cup more cake flour and less acv in the buttermilk. Can’t wait to try it!
Hi Nora! If I don’t have apple cider vinegar, what do you recommend subbing it for? I have white distilled vinegar and also read I could sub w lemon juice?
Yes, white vinegar or lemon juice works well. Thanks!
Is there a reason why the cakes don’t rise that much? They definitely are more moist but the tops of the cakes stay a bit gummy. What am I doing wrong lol. It’s still delicious nonetheless
I’m not sure, I haven’t had that issue. Make sure you are baking them long enough, because oven temps can vary.
5 stars! Loved this cake. Mine did not rise much either, but have no idea why.
I am thinking of making this cake as a birthday cake for my mom. The only thing is we love our cakes to be a bit moist. Could I make some lemon flavoured syrup and pour in on top of the layers or will I destroy the consistency of the whole thing?
This cake is seriously moist, so I think you will love it! You could probably use lemon syrup though, I don’t think it would ruin it especially if you like it very moist. Thanks!
I will start by saying that I am not vegan, nor is the main recipient of this cake, but some who will be enjoying it are and I want to please everyone. I baked this recipe as-is once, and while the results were tasty, the cake was too delicate inside, with a tougher exterior. I made a few changes and baked again and am much more pleased with the structure of the cake. Here’s what I did differently:
-Decrease sugar to 1 cup
-Decrease oven temp to 325 F.
-Use 50% AP flour, 50% cake flour
-Reduce aquafaba over heat by about 1/3 if using canned. After reducing, then measure out the 1/2 cup called for.
-Add 1/2 tsp citric acid to aquafaba when beating to stabilize. Cream of tartar works as well but the citric acid has the dual purpose of also punching up the lemon flavor.
If I wanted to add blueberries to the cake how would I go about it using this cake recipe? Thanks in advance!
You can simply fold in some fresh blueberries at the end of making the batter. Maybe a cup or a bit more. It works well!
Can I use lemon juice instead of lemon extract?
You could, but the cake will not be as strongly lemon flavored, as extract is far more potent that lemon juice.
I have this cake in the oven, and am so excited to see how it turns out! I noticed that it’s almost the same (but also a little bit different) from the vegan vanilla cake. Much more Aquafaba in this one than the other. I have a quick question: I was really afraid to over mix, so I ended up with a few little lumps. Is that normal or is it better to mix for longer till the batter is smooth? Will it make a difference if I alternate adding the flour and buttermilk in 3 portions like I do with my other cakes? Sorry for all the questions!
Yes, it’s very similar because the cake recipe turns out so fluffy, light and beautiful. 🙂 A few little lumps are fine, it’s best not to over mix the batter. If you want to alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk you totally can. I just like to keep things simple.
Aloha Nora ?
I love all your recipes but this one is exceptional!! I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about using “aquafaba” but it worked beautifully!! The cupcakes came out so light and fluffy! I was sure to scoop only the foam once beaten into measuring cup as you suggest. I also used King Arthur’s Cake Flour and chose not to use food coloring. Rather than making a cake I made cupcakes filling the muffin papers only 3/4 full and I cut the frosting recipe in half since I was making cupcakes instead of a cake. These were a HUGE hit, absolutely delicious!! ??
Hello Lorri! Isn’t aquafaba amazing!! I’m thrilled to hear the cupcakes were a hit! Thank you for taking your time to share your review!
Best ever cake I’ve made. My daughter is vegan so I’m a beginner vegan Baker. Have made it 5 times and get raves all the time. Can’t believe its vegan. Thank you.i
Thank you for sharing, Isabel! I’m glad you’re loving the cake! Let me know how it goes for you if you try my other recipes! Happy cooking!
Hello, it looks extremely fluffy and i would like to try it but can i substitute Aquafaba?
Hi there, it might not be as fluffy if you do, aquafaba keeps it nice and light/fluffy. You could probably use two flax eggs instead (2 tbs ground flax + 5 tbs water) or another egg replacer but it will certainly affect the texture of the cake.
Nora, this recipe is brilliant! My partner doesn’t bake ever but made this for my birthday yesterday. He followed the recipe exactly and it was like a delicious lemon sponge. Thank you for this lovely recipe, soooooo moist and tasty but so light! Cheers Nora!
Happy birthday to you, Chrissy! Thanks for sharing your wonderful review! I’m so glad you loved your lemon birthday cake!
I have a question….
Can you use spelt flour instead of cake flour?
I’m not sure how it would turn out with spelt flour. It would likely be quite dense instead of fluffy.
This cake came out perfect! It was fluffy, and not too sweet. I made the lemon filling and put that on the middle layer. Buttercream on the outside of cake. Thank you so much for perfecting the recipe and instructions!!!
I’m glad this came out perfect for you, Meri Jo! I’m glad to know it worked deliciously wonderful for you! Thank you for taking time to share your comments!
I love the look of this recipe and I was wondering if it could be converted into a swiss roll cake?
Hi there! I’ve never tried it so I’m not sure. It’s a rather delicate cake so it might be a little tricky, but I don’t know it could work.
I made this cake today for my son’s birthday, and it was delicious! I really loved the lemon butter cream frosting. I didn’t add food coloring to the cake, but added just two drops to the frosting for a very pale, delicate yellow. The parchment in the pan bottoms was genius, and the cakes came out without a hitch. This cake is very moist, and I’ll definitely make it again. Thank you!
This cake looks so delicious!
I’m allergic to chickpeas and so I’m assuming I can’t have the aquafaba. What would you recommend using instead (and amounts)?
I’m also thinking of making a raspberry cream cheese buttercream frosting with fresh raspberries. What would you recommend?
Any advice is appreciated 🙂
I haven’t tried another egg replacer here so it’s hard for me to say for sure what will work well, but you could try using something like Bob’s Red Mill Egg Substitute, using 2 “eggs”. Maybe 1/2 cup applesauce or 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax plus 5 tablespoons water.) Hope that helps! I’m sure you could use my vegan cream cheese frosting and add fresh raspberries, it just might get runny so be careful about that. Sounds amazing though!
The perfect lemon cake! The flavor is perfect, not too tart and the cake is light and decadent! Thank you for another amazing recipe, Nora!
Thank you for sharing your wonderful review Petria! I’m glad you love the lemon cake!
Hi Nora I really would prefer not to use the granulated and powdered sugar what can I substitute it with?
Hi Leeza, I am not very familiar with sugar substitutes, but I think there are some out there that are okay, such as monk fruit, etc. But I haven’t done any testing with them so it’s hard for me to know what would work. You would need a powdered sugar like substitute for the frosting for sure.
Do you think using coconut sugar in place of granulated sugar will work?
Yes, I think so. The cake will probably be a little more golden brown though.
Do you think this cake would stand up ok to having lemon curd between the layers?
Absolutely! It’s delicious!
Can I do this in a 9×13? If so, what is the suggested cook time & temp?
Sure, same temp and about 45-50 minutes should do it.
This is a delicious cake and I’ve made it before, but I was making my moms birthday cake with this recipe and when I took the cakes out of the oven, they were crumbling. Parts of the cake fell off!
This cake is quite delicate especially right out of the oven, so you do need to handle the cakes carefully. Grease the pans well, put a circle of parchment paper on the bottom so they don’t stick at all. Also, let them cool in the pans for a bit before trying to remove them, and when you do, just carefully but swiftly flip them onto parchment paper or a cooling rack. If you hesitate, they may break, but this is true for all cakes. Hope that helps!