Lemon Loaf Cake (Vegan/GF)

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Partially sliced loaf of vegan lemon cake

If you’re a lover of lemon cake like we are, this recipe is a must-try! It’s fluffy, perfectly sweet, and plenty tart thanks to lots of fresh lemon juice and zest!

I’ve been wanting to share a lemon cake recipe ever since I had a slice of lemon cake for my birthday many years ago. The pillowy, lemony cake layered with buttery citrus frosting never left my mind. I wanted to create a healthier alternative to enjoy at home.

And while this cake is vegan and gluten-free, you won’t be able to tell! It’s incredibly moist and tender, has a delicate crumb, and is perfectly tart-sweet. Plus, it comes together in just 1 bowl with simple ingredients you likely already have on hand. Let us show you how it’s done!

Gluten-free flours, applesauce, lemons, maple syrup, avocado oil, vanilla, and baking powder

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Cake

It all starts with mixing the wet ingredients — lemon zest and juice, applesauce, avocado oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. The generous dose of lemon makes this cake scream of spring, while applesauce and avocado oil add moisture, maple syrup adds sweetness, and vanilla gives it a little something extra.

Whisking lemon juice, lemon zest, applesauce, and avocado oil in a bowl

Next we add our new favorite flour combination for creating moist and fluffy gluten-free cakes: almond flour, potato starch, and cornstarch. It’s truly magical. And if you enjoy it (trust us, you will), you’ll also love our 1-Bowl Vegan Coffee Cake (GF, Oil-Free) and Easy Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes (Gluten-Free)!

Lastly, we add in baking powder to help it rise and sea salt to enhance all the flavors.

Pouring vegan lemon cake batter into a loaf pan

While the cake is baking, we prepare the perfectly sweet-tart lemon glaze by combining lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar.

Whisking lemon glaze ingredients in a small bowl

Once cooled, it’s time to drizzle the cake with the glaze and prepare to hear some serious wows and yums from everyone who gets a slice!

Drizzling lemon glaze over our lemon loaf cake

We hope you LOVE this lemon loaf cake! It’s:

Perfectly sweet
Moist
Tender
Bright
Tart
& SO delicious!

It’s the perfect cake to celebrate the arrival of spring and take to baby showers, Mother’s Day celebrations, and beyond! It would also be incredibly beautiful topped with fresh berries or decorated with sprinkles.

Slicing into a gluten-free lemon loaf cake

More Vegan Cake Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Partially sliced loaf of vegan lemon cake with lemon glaze

Lemon Loaf Cake (Vegan/GF)

Fluffy, tender lemon cake made in 1 bowl! Vegan and gluten-free and topped with a stunning 3-ingredient glaze. Perfect for spring and beyond!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Showing the fluffy texture of our vegan lemon cake
4.86 from 61 votes
Prep Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 12 (Slices)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 Month (unglazed)
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon zest (~3 ½ large lemons as original recipe is written)
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 3/4 cup potato starch* (not potato flour)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

GLAZE

  • 1 ½ tsp lemon zest (zest from ~1/2 a large lemon as original recipe is written)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cup organic powdered sugar, sifted (to reduce clumps)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line a standard-size loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • To a large mixing bowl, add lemon zest, lemon juice, applesauce, avocado oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
  • Add almond flour, potato starch, cornstarch, baking powder, and sea salt and whisk again until well incorporated and no lumps remain. The texture should be thick and look similar to cornbread batter (see photo). If too thick, thin with a little bit of dairy-free milk. If too thin, add a little more almond flour.
  • Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool completely in the pan — about 1 hour. Wash your mixing bowl to prepare glaze.
  • While the cake cools, make the glaze in the clean mixing bowl. Zest lemon and set aside. Whisk together vanilla extract and lemon juice, then begin adding sifted powdered sugar 1/4 cup (28 g) at a time, mixing until no lumps remain. Once all the powdered sugar is added, add zest and mix once more. Set aside.
  • Once the cake is completely cooled, remove from the pan and gently remove parchment paper. Place on a serving plate and, starting near one end of the cake, slowly pour glaze over the cake, letting it drizzle down the edges slightly.
  • Enjoy immediately with a cup of tea or some dairy-free milk! Store leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 2-3 days (we find it best within the first 1-2 days). Cake can be frozen for up to 1 month, ideally without glaze. Let thaw before slicing.

Video

Notes

*We did not test other starches, but in place of potato starch, a blend of coconut flour and arrowroot starch may work. Or possibly oat flour.
*In place of cornstarch, arrowroot may work.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with all of the glaze.
*Prep time includes cooling.

Nutrition (1 of 12 servings)

Serving: 1 slice Calories: 178 Carbohydrates: 35 g Protein: 0.1 g Fat: 4.6 g Saturated Fat: 0.5 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g Monounsaturated Fat: 3.2 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 278 mg Potassium: 54 mg Fiber: 0.3 g Sugar: 21.4 g Vitamin A: 4.4 IU Vitamin C: 5.8 mg Calcium: 64 mg Iron: 0.2 mg

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  1. Kathy says

    So good! I used tapioca starch instead of the cornstarch and the loaf was still perfect :) I agree with the baker who said the glaze recipe produced too much for one loaf. Next time I will half the recipe.

  2. Rebecca M. says

    This was fabulous. My husband’s grandmother makes a traditional version that I’ve been trying to mimic for him for years. This one got a five star review from everyone in the house, including kiddos. I didn’t have powdered sugar in the house. I ground coconut sugar in my vitamix to substitute. The color matched the cake, otherwise it tasted wonderful.

  3. Cedella Janczak says

    I’m a terrible GF baker, in all honestly, but this loaf was a 10/10! Instead of potato starch, I used 3/4 cup of tapioca starch and it worked just fine! I read a comment that was talking about making the loaf into cupcakes, and I might have to do that!!!!

    ***if anyone has had the Starbucks Lemon Loaf, does it taste similar?***

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad it turned out well, Cedella. Thank you for sharing! The Starbucks loaf is a bit sweeter, but similar.

  4. Alaina says

    Delicious! I made a minor sub and it worked out so well, I thought I’d share.
    Instead of potato starch, I did about 1/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour and thinned as needed with unsweetened almond milk before baking. It took the full 40 minutes to bake, but the rise and texture were both great!

  5. Ham says

    Made this today because had a lemon that needed be used up. I only had one large lemon and it came out just fine. I subbed maple syrup for honey and corn starch with arrowroot starch. I used a 8×8 pan and baked for 30 mins and turned out superb. It’s a good amount of sweetness, moist, and delicious. Awesome recipe!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed this. Thanks so much for the great review and for sharing your modifications!

  6. MaryKate says

    I made this with my only sub being orange zest for lemon (because what I thought was frozen lemon zest was orange. Oops!). Overall the texture is really great — but even though my toothpick came out clean at the longer baking time, the center of my loaf collapsed and there’s a raw bit in it. I’ll definitely try baking it longer the next time, though, as it’s worth making. Also, FYI, orange zest with almond is also a nice mix.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thank you for sharing your experience! Baking longer should help for next time. Love the orange zest almond combo!

  7. Ashley says

    Hi there! Wondering if the potato starch can be left out and substituted with more cornstarch. Would this work with texture? How about bake time? Thanks for all your help!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ashley! We haven’t tried this without the potato starch and we aren’t sure if it will work. The potato starch gives a lot of fluffiness and lift to the cake that other starches don’t often provide. Let us know how it goes if you give any subs a try!

  8. Andie says

    Hello! I would like to swirl in a raspberry compote (to make lemon raspberry pound cake). I’m curious if you have tried this and if the compote would change the overall baking and structure? I’m thinking maybe 1/2 cup.
    Thanks so much!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Andie, we haven’t tried that, but we think it might cause the loaf to not bake up fully in the center. Perhaps adding a little more of the flours to compensate for the excess moisture would help? Let us know if you try it!

  9. Meg says

    Hi I just made this loaf and it turned out fantastic!!!! I added a 1/2 tbsp of oil so it would be extra moist and boy was it good I ate the whole thing in 2 days! I skipped the icing it had all the flavor and sweetness without it. Thank you for your recipes!!! 😊

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Meg! Thank you for your kind words and lovely review! xo

  10. Jayme says

    This turned out well for me. I used arrowroot instead of cornstarch and didn’t have any real issues, it was moist and lemon-y. Not a lot of rise, but that’s okay. The only thing I would say is that you could easily cut the glaze measurements in half, I don’t think I used even a third of it before my loaf was drowning in it. So other than wasting ingredients, I’m happy with this and would make it again :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad it turned out well! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Jayme! xo

  11. Natasha says

    Such an amazing recipe! I used arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch, and took it out at exactly 35 minutes. It was so nice and light, and surprisingly not too almond-y (which I was worried about). I might make these into cupcakes next!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! Thanks so much for the great review and for sharing your modifications, Natasha. So glad you enjoyed!

  12. Leen says

    Flavor was good. but a little too dry. also the cake crumbles easily. Is it supposed to crumble? As I try to pick up the slices it just crumbles in my fingers and I’m not trying to crush it or anything

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Leen, it sounds like it may have dried out too much (possibly baked too long?). Did you make any modifications to the flours?

  13. Tracy says

    I would love to try this recipe but we have nut allergies in our household. Can you suggest any substitutes for the almond flour please?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tracy, that’s tricky. What about trying to sub a seed meal, such as sunflower, plus a little coconut flour (or can you not have coconut?)?

      • Tracy says

        Ooh, sunflower meal is a good suggestion. We can have coconut so coconut flour would work too. Do I replace the almond meal with sunflower meal 1:1 or do you recommend using almond meal + coconut flour?

      • Paula says

        I used 3 lemons off my little Meyer lemon tree, the recipe was easy to make and came together quick in my kitchen! Love that! I baked it 40 minutes and it turned out dry. After reading the comments I should have not baked it as long. I will make again with a shorter baking time. We loved the flavor and it is definitely worth another bake! Love your recipes, thank you!

  14. Danielle M says

    Very easy, great flavor and the baking time was perfect at 35 minutes. I wish it were just a little more moist, but still a winner for being vegan and GF.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re glad you enjoyed it, Danielle! You could bake a little less time or add more applesauce or oil to help it be more moist next time. Hope that helps!

  15. Lona says

    I made this last night and the taste is great, but the cake itself is almost too dry to chew and swallow. I didn’t even bake it the full time suggested. My only change to the recipe was that I added only 1 1/2 TB lemon zest due to lack of lemons. Should that have made such a difference?
    I wondered if you have any insight?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hm, so strange! You didn’t modify the flours at all? We wouldn’t think the lemon zest would make a difference. Our only other idea would be if it was over-baked?

      • Lona says

        Thanks. I thought about the possibility that I’d over-baked it but I took the pan out of the oven with a minute to spare. Next time I think I’d remove it from the pan to cool; maybe the hot pan continued the baking.

  16. Jennifer Yang says

    I’m going to remake this again, because I believe it will be good like all the other minimalist baker recipes! But for some reason, it was quite salty, and the glaze was too liquidy even when I added extra powder sugar. When I poor it on the cold loaf, the glaze just soaked into the break instead of on top like the video. Should I reduce salt for the loaf, and add more sugar for the glaze?

  17. Abi says

    I needed this cake to lift my spirits in the depths of winter and to use up 5 lemons I have somehow ended up with. This cake is delicious! Most and so much flavour! The almond flour gives it a nice texture. I didn’t have potato starch so I ground up oats and they worked really well. The glaze is so yummy as well although I didn’t use all the sugar it asked for. I’m always looking for new gluten free recipes so this is definitely a keeper! Thanks for another great recipe!

  18. Iris says

    This was a hit! I didn’t have potato starch so I used arrowroot flour and it turned out great. The only adjustment was that I needed to bake it closer to 50 minutes in my oven. It turned out chewy, moist and delicious. Will definitely make again!

  19. Ellie says

    Wow. The flavor of this is wonderful. Not too bold, not too understated. I added some aging blueberries I had in the fridge, which I highly recommend. Otherwise stuck to the recipe. I’ll definitely make this many more times.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Ellie! Blueberries sound like a delish addition too =) Thank you for sharing! xo

  20. Mariana says

    Amazing recipe!! I used the 24g of lemon zest and arrowroot instead of cornstarch bc I didn’t have at home and added and extra spoon of lemon juice and it turned out amazing!! So delicious, tender, perfectly sweet and lemony!

  21. Kei says

    Hi, I would like to make the recipe in a cake pan instead of a loaf pan. Do I need to make any adjustments? If so, what are they? Thank you.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Kei! We haven’t tried that but it should work… we think you may need to reduce the bake time by ~10-15 minutes so it doesn’t get over-baked, but we’re not sure. Everything else should be the same. Let us know how it goes!

    • Carmi says

      This came our great! I baked it for 40-45 min, it came out moist not dry at all and sweet enough for me that there was no need for the glaze. I did spoon and level the almond flour, potato starch, corn starch. I also combined all the dry ingredients first and then added it to the wet ingredients. The batter consistency was not as thick as the video, but I was really happy with the outcome. Thank you for this recipe!!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi M! We haven’t tried this without almond flour, and we don’t know if it will work. It’s possible that another nut flour such as cashew or coconut could work, but we would recommend starting with much less. Let us know how it goes!

  22. Katya says

    Hi! I would love to cook this cake, but was wondering if I can replace almond flour with almond meal? I can’t find almond flour where I am. Thanks a lot!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Katya! Almond meal is typically a bit more moist and dense than almond flour, so we would suggest using maybe ~1/2 cup less, but we think it will work! Let us know how it goes!