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 (104 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!

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. Guess who forgot the baking powder… ? it still tasted good. Didn’t rise as much but thankfully since I whipped the aquafaba more than you said to, it gave it a tiny bit of lift. 

    1. Hi Jenny. I’m glad the cake was still good! Thank you for sharing, and I hope your next cake turns out perfect!

  2. Your chocolate cake is a winner! I’ve made it 3 times in the last couple of weeks.
    Everyone asks for the recipe. I’m going to try this lemon cake and I’m wondering if i could use applesauce as the egg replacement like in your amazing chocolate cake?

    1. Thank you for your wonderful feedback on the chocolate cake. I’m glad you are loving it! As to the lemon cake, you could try 1/2 cup of applesauce maybe, or another vegan egg replacer, such as Bob’s Red Mill. Even flax eggs might work (2 tbs ground flax plus 5 tbs water). The cake won’t be quite as light and fluffy but I think it would work pretty well! Happy cooking!

  3. Nora, your baking recipes are absolutely delicious!! I made 18 cupcakes using this recipe and they were fantastic. I am such a huge fan of your chocolate cake recipe that I make that for friend’s birthdays regularly, but I wanted to try lemon as spring is around the bend. These were so good that some folks ate two in a row! Perfect amount of lemon taste. The frosting is fabulous too. I couldn’t find cake flour but used Bob’s Red Mill Organic All Purpose baking flour and they were moist and delicious. I also cut the sugar on the cupcakes down a little because we try to eat lower sugar (I used slightly more than 1 cup) and then I made half batch of frosting which gave each cupcake a perfect coating for lower sugar. Thank you for your incredible recipes. You make birthdays so special!

    1. Hi Hilary. I am so happy to know that you are loving my cakes, and that they make your birthdays special! The lemon cake is one my mother-in-law’s favorite cakes! I agree it is a perfect cake to welcome spring! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review and comments! I wish you lots of happy cooking!

  4. Hi Nora, I am planning making this lemon cake for my daughter in law’s birthday. She can eat butter but not cows milk or eggs,can I substitute real butter for the vegan?

  5. Hey Nora! Goodness, I could comment on so many of your recipes! Anyway, I picked this one because, well, it’s cold here in Wisconsin, and I wanted something to remind me of those sticky, hot summer days. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your recipes with the world. They are amazing, delicious, simple enough (heck, if I can make these, anyone should be able to!!), and have been incredibly helpful on my vegan journey. I’ve been making your desserts and sharing them with my family. You are such a blessing. I know you’ve got some ebooks out, but if you ever were to release a print version, I would TOTALLY get it. And would also gift them to others. 😉 Thank you, Nora!!

    1. Hi Yias! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment and feedback, I appreciate it! I’m so glad you enjoyed the lemon cake, and that you’re enjoying my other recipes as well. 🙂 I hope to have a print cookbook one day. You are so kind, thank you for making my day!

  6. Thank you Nora for this recipe. It came out spectacular and it became my entire family’s new favorite coffee cake (I did not make the frosting).

  7. Absolutely delicious! I am always looking for vegan recipes because of my daughter’s egg and dairy allergies. I have made this cake twice now and the effort is well worth it.

  8. I’ve made this cake so many times and it is amazing. It makes great cupcakes too! We even changed the extracts and made an almond and orange cake with this base recipe and it is just perfect. People always ask for this recipe! Sometimes we add strawberries and blueberries and this cake is a perfect base for some fruit!

    1. Yum, the almond and orange combination sounds delicious! I am so glad you are loving the cake! Thank you for taking time to share your fantastic review and comments! Happy cooking!

  9. Hi Nora–this looks delicious! I am looking for an orange cake recipe–do you think substituting orange would work in this recipe? Thanks!

  10. Do you have a similar chocolate cake recipe? This recipe has become my go to cake recipe because it’s so moist and fluffy.

  11. I made this cake as directed except I made and added the lemon card to the middle layer. The cake looked beautiful at first but then cracked and the top layer split into three and started sliding off! This happened before serving it, it was a disaster! Tasted amazing but what did I do wrong???

    1. Hi Gemma, it sounds like the cake was a bit warm perhaps when you frosted it. And if you put too much lemon curd in the middle, and no frosting, it probably made it slippery as well. You have to make sure the cake layers are completely cool before frosting, if they are even a tiny bit warm still, this sort of thing will happen. I’ve been there! And for the middle, I would use a layer of frosting as well as a thin layer of lemon curd. that will help it stay together. You can also refrigerate the cake right after frosting. This will also make pretty and clean slices when you cut into it. Hope that helps!

      1. You could try 1/2 cup of applesauce maybe, or another vegan egg replacer, such as Bob’s Red Mill. Even flax eggs might work (perhaps 2 – 2 tbs ground flax plus 5 tbs water). The cake won’t be quite as light and fluffy but I think it would work pretty well!

  12. I made this for a family dinner and it was delicious. My son has a dairy and egg allergy which makes this a perfect recipe for him. This cake is so moist and tasty, nobody would ever know it is vegan. I did use cake flour as suggested.

  13. This recipe turned out amazing! I don’t need any other lemon cake recipe. The perfect sweetness, the tender crumb…wonderful! Thank you!

  14. Whenever I try to make cake recipe is they end up tasting king of like bread, even if I measure exactly. any tips? By the way love your recipes 🙂 

  15. Hi Nora! 
    I have just made this cake twice and it is absolutely amazing!! However… both times my cake has ended up cracking and crumbling??? Any suggestions??
    Thanks
    Kelly

    1. I haven’t had this problem before, and I make this cake a lot! If it’s cracking while baking, you may be over baking it. If you mean it’s delicate when you remove it from the pan, then you just need to handle it more gently. It is a moist cake, which is what makes it so good, but that means it’s rather delicate. Wait for the cakes to cool in the pans for a bit, then CAREFULLY transfer to a cooling rack (I do this in one swift motion, for all my cake recipes). Make sure you are lining the pans with parchment and greasing well so this is easy. And when moving the layers around to frost, handle them super gently. Again, this is good advice for all cake recipes. 🙂 Hope that helps!

    1. Yes it will work. The cake is a bit softer and buttery tasting using vegan butter, but it will still work using oil.

  16. This cake and frosting were both delicious together! The cake was a true lemon flavor compared to other cakes that don’t have that true flavor. The frosting was rich and creamy but still had a tartness from the lemon. All in all, a wonderful cake! I would definitely make this again. My only question is if I could use gluten-free flour in the recipe instead of flour with wheat in it.

    1. I’m so glad you loved the cake! Thanks for sharing your review and lovely comments! You can make the cake gluten free. 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. I hope this helps!

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