Vegan lemon cake using WHOLE lemons including the rind and pulp. This eggless lemon cake is gluten-free, grain-free and made with only 5 key ingredients!
This oil-free cake uses only common pantry ingredients. It's bursting with lemon flavor because it uses lemon juice, pulp AND rind! However, if you prefer a vegan cake without a whole lemon, see my lemon olive oil cake or easy lemon blueberry cake.
What to expect from this recipe
TEXTURE: This whole lemon cake is super moist and has a texture like a lemon pound cake, French financiers or friands.
FLAVOR: More complex than your typical vegan lemon cake which uses just fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. This whole lemon cake is packed with lemon rind which is naturally full of essential oil (according to Healthline) so the lemon flavor is outstanding! For a refined palate, this is the best vegan lemon cake you can ask for!
PROCESS: You only need 5 ingredients and minimal equipment for this recipe! There's no mixing of dry and wet ingredients either.
5 ingredients for this vegan lemon cake
Conventionally, a whole lemon cake uses up to 6 eggs but with a simple substitution, we can make an eggless lemon cake! You will need:
Notes about the ingredients
Even though this cake is butter-free and oil-free, it's incredibly moist from the whole lemons!
If you're wondering why I chose potato starch (or corn starch) as a gluten-free flour and egg substitute, read my orange cake recipe post (section titled 'The simple magical ingredient.')
Non-vegan whole lemon cakes have a slight yellow hue from the lemon rind and eggs. However, for this eggless lemon cake, we can mimic the color with a little turmeric (completely optional). Turmeric's color is intensified through heat so it was perfect for this cake!
A complete list of ingredients, quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Boiling the lemons
This cake is easy to make! First, place your two lemons in a small saucepan of water. They don't need to be completely covered but there needs to be enough water to steam/boil and the lemons. Boiling the lemons helps soften the skin and pulp making them more digestible in the final vegan lemon cake.
When the lemons are soft and can be pierced without much resistance, drain the water and allow the lemons to cool down.
Roughly chop the lemons and remove all the seeds. The lemons should appear 'hollow' and the pulp will feel a little slimy which is completely normal. The lemons don't need to be chopped finely but just enough so they fit in your food processor.
Preparing the lemon cake batter
Place the chopped lemon in your food processor and blitz until it forms a rough puree. If you have a large food processor, your lemon puree might be more chunky. That's fine - we'll be processing them further!
Simply add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until combined. It will be a thick batter which is perfect! You may have little bits of lemon rind in your batter which add texture and flavor to your final vegan lemon cake.
If your batter is too thin, gradually add a few more tablespoons of corn starch/flour until it forms a thick batter. The texture should be like thick rice pudding or half-mashed banana. If it's any thinner, your lemon cake has too much moisture and may not bake well.
I usually wouldn't recommend mixing cake batters in your food processor as there's a risk of over mixing! Over mixing strengthens the gluten and makes a tough crumb in your final cake. However, this vegan lemon cake is gluten-free so you can mix the batter as much as you want!
As the batter is quite thick, you'll need to scoop it into your lined cake tin. The top can be smoothed with the back of a spoon :).
Baking the whole lemon cake
This cake doesn't have much liquid so we only need to bake it for 35-40 minutes. It's also a large and FLAT cake which doesn't need much time in the oven to fully bake!
How to serve this lemon cake
Just like my whole orange cake, this lemon cake is perfect for morning tea or afternoon tea! I personally prefer it plain as the cake is full of flavor (and moisture).
However, you can also serve it with dairy-free yogurt, ice cream or cream! You can also top the cake with a simple lemon powdered sugar icing/glaze such as the one I used for my lemon pistachio cake.
Questions and answers!
Yes absolutely! Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than regular lemons so feel free to adjust the amount of sugar, to taste.
If you're allergic to just almonds, try cashew flour/meal. Alternatively, you can use a combination of all-purpose flour and light-tasting vegetable oil. The whole lemon cake made with all-purpose flour is fluffier and has a more subtle lemon taste than the original. I've listed the ratios in the notes of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
I wouldn't recommend this. When you think about it, lemon juice and extract is only liquid whereas a whole lemon has lots of fiber and rind. If you're after a vegan lemon cake using only lemon juice, check out my lemon drizzle cake.
I haven't tried this myself but if you can chop the lemon FINELY as if you blended it, you will probably get the same result by making the recipe by hand!
The cake bakes very well in muffin tins and can be divided into smaller cake tins, of course with shorter baking times. However, baking the whole quantity of the cake in a smaller tin (for example 15 cm or 7 inches) may cause 'dense spots' throughout the cake.
Alternatively, check out my vegan lemon poppy seed muffin recipe!
See my other vegan lemon desserts
Vegan Whole Lemon Cake
- 2 x (~250g total) large-size organic lemons, with the rind still on and washed thoroughly (note 1)
- 2 ½ cups (250g) almond flour / blanched almond meal, (note 2)
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, (note 3)
- ¾ cup (85g) potato starch, or corn starch / corn flour (plus more if needed)
- ½ cup (120g) water
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp turmeric, optional for colour
Preparing the whole lemons:
- Thoroughly wash the skin of the lemons and remove the stems if they're still on. Add around 4 cups of water to a small saucepan and place the whole lemons in the water. Over medium heat, simmer the lemons for 30 minutes until you can pierce the skin with no resistance. Drain the water and allow the lemons to cool.
- Roughly chop the lemons and remove all the seeds.
- Place the chopped lemon in a food processor and blitz until it forms a chunky paste with small pieces of rind.
Preparing the lemon cake batter:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease or line a 20 cm (8 inch cake tin).
- Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the food processor. Process until the mixture is combined and quite thick, like the texture of thick rice pudding. If your batter is more runny, add 1 tablespoon (7g) of potato starch at a time and mix until it forms a thick batter. If in doubt, err towards a thicker batter rather than thinner batter (note 4).
- Scoop the cake batter into a your cake tin. Smooth the top with a spoon or spatula.
Baking the cake:
- Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer can be inserted into the middle and there is no wet batter on it (some crumbs are fine). Allow the cake to completely cool in the cake tin.
- To serve, dust the cake with icing sugar (Note 5). Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day, in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- The thinner the lemon rind, the better! Some lemons have a very thick rind which may give the cake a bitter aftertaste. I'd really recommend weighing your lemons for this recipe and sticking to ~250g. You can still boil half cut lemons if needed! The weight of an 'average' lemon varies country to country. I've seen large homegrown lemons which are 300g each!
- The total amount of almond flour can be substituted with 1 cup (125g) all purpose flour and ½ cup (125g) light-tasting vegetable oil such as sunflower or rapeseed.
- This amount of sugar creates a mildly sweet cake. You may decrease the sugar to ¾ cup (150g) but it will create a more dense cake which may be bitter. Also, some varieties of lemon may be sweeter so feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to taste.
- I'd recommend taste testing the batter at this stage. If it's too bitter for your liking, add ~¼ cup (50g) more sugar. Bitterness comes from lemons with a thick rind.
- Alternatively you can also:
- Drizzle a simple syrup on the cake. Combine 2 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp of sugar or maple syrup in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved or mixture has emulsified. Drizzle on the cake while it's warm.
- Top the cake with a simple icing, such as the one in my vegan pistachio lemon cake. Wait until the cake is completely cool before you ice the cake.
Some readers reported that their cake turned out too moist. This is due to excess moisture in the cake batter which is from inaccurately measuring ingredients (i.e. using cups) or water leaking into the lemons while they're boiled. I've added an extra step where you can add extra corn starch/flour to balance out the excess moisture.
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