This Gluten Free Lemon Cake is a lemon lover's dream! It's a soft eggless lemon cake that's surrounded by a delicious lemon buttercream frosting! It's tangy yet sweet; the perfect blend of flavors! Not only is it gluten free and eggless, but it's nut free and can easily be vegan!
Even though it's a layer cake, this gluten free lemon cake is light and sweet with a lovely tang. The perfect cake for summertime or anytime really!
Reasons to Love this Cake
- Allergy Friendly- This cake is gluten free, nut free, egg free and can easily be dairy free (vegan).
- Soft & Fluffy- This cake is super soft and delicious just like my Lemon Raspberry Cookies.
- Lemons- This cake batter needs about 3 medium size lemons just like in my Lemon Sugar Cookies. If you love tangy desserts, check out my Key Lime Cookies!
- Lemon Buttercream Frosting- This Lemon Buttercream Frosting is creamy and sweet with a little tang!
For the Cake
- Gluten Free Flour- If you also have nut allergies, make sure to use a brand that’s made in a nut free facility. I really love to use this one because it’s nut safe but it does contain dairy.
- Milk of choice- If there are no dairy allergies or if you’re not vegan, you can use regular whole milk. For non dairy, use a non dairy milk of your choosing.
- Pure Vanilla Extract- Make sure the vanilla you use is pure and gf.
- Vegetable Oil- Adds moisture into this cake; there is no butter or vegan baking stick.
- Lemon- This cake batter has lemon zest and lemon juice.
For the Frosting
- Butter/Vegan Baking Stick- Make sure to use unsalted room temperature and not melted. Melted will make the frosting runny and it won’t even be fixed by putting it in the fridge.
- Lemons- You only need about 2 medium lemons for the frosting.
- Vanilla- Make sure to only use pure vanilla extract that is gluten free and vegan. If you use one that is not pure, the frosting will have a chemical taste.
- Water- This frosting uses water instead of milk!
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
Substitutions and Variations
How to Make this Vegan
- Use a gluten free flour that’s free from dairy.
- Only use a non dairy milk of choice.
- Use vegan baking sticks in the frosting.
- Read the label on your sprinkles to ensure they’re gluten free, nut free and vegan.
This recipe has not been tested with these substitutions and/or variations due to celiac disease and food allergies. If you change any of the ingredients, please let us know how the recipe turned out in the comments below!
How to Make Gluten Free Lemon Cake
Here are the step by step instructions to make this cake!
Step 1: Prepare the Lemons
Make sure you wash and dry them.
Then zest all 3, and juice 2. You should have 2 tablespoons of zest and ¼ cup of lemon juice.
Step 2: Whisk Together the Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl whisk together the gluten free flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt. Set aside.
Step 3: Mix Together the Wet Ingredients and Brown Sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk of choice, light brown sugar, vegetable oil, lemon juice and the vanilla.
Step 4: Add the Wet Ingredients into the Dry
Slowly add the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. It if gets too thick, switch to a spatula.
Step 5: Scoop the Batter
Using a spatula, divide the batter equally between two greased and parchment lined 8 inch cake pans; smooth the tops with a butter knife.
Step 6: Bake the Cakes
Bake the cakes in the center rack at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes until golden on top and slightly springy when carefully touched.
Remove cakes from the oven and let them cool in the cake pans.
Step 7: Cut the Cakes
Once the cakes have cooled completely, take them out of the pans and slice them in half horizontally to create 4 thinner layers of cake.
If the tops of your cakes have domes, you can very carefully slice them off to make the tops flat.
Step 8: Make the Frosting
In a large bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand held mixer, beat the room temperature butter or vegan baking stick until it is smooth and creamy. About 2-3 minutes.
Add in the vanilla and lemon zest and beat till combined.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in half the confectioners’ sugar, half the lemon juice and half the water. Beat until combined. It will look chunky at first.
Then add in the second half of the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and water and beat until combined again, creamy and smooth.
If the frosting seems too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time. If it seems too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. We don’t want it runny.
Assembling the Cake Tips
Step 1: Divide the Frosting
Separate the frosting into 5 equal sections.
Step 2: Frost One Layer
Place one layer of cake on a cake plate/stand. Scoop ⅕ (about 1 cup) of frosting on top of the layer and use an icing spatula to spread it around.
Step 3: Repeat the Process
Place another layer of cake on top; repeat this same process. Do this with 3 layers of cake.
Step 4: Frost the Top and Sides
Once you get to the top layer of cake, place it bottom (or flat) side up so the top of the cake is nice and flat.
Use an icing spatula to frost a super thin layer on the top and the sides.
This is your crumb layer so the cake is easier to frost.
Step 5: Chill
Pop the entire cake in the fridge uncovered for 15 min so it is more stable to work with.
Step 6: Frost the Cake
After 15 min, take the cake out of the fridge and frost the rest of it.
I used my icing spatula to make marks all over. You don’t have to do this decorative step…it’s completely up to you.
Decorate the Top
Step 1: Make Swirls
Put the remaining frosting into a piping bag.
Make swirls all around the edge of the top of the cake.
Step 2: Add Decorations
Sprinkle some gluten free/nut free/vegan white nonpareils or sprinkles on top of the frosting swirls.
I also love to put some lemon slices just for decoration and some lemon zest.
Expert Baking Tips
- Smoothing the Batter- Many gluten free flour batters have a way of staying exactly as they are placed, when baked. If you leave it misshapen, that’s how it will remain when baked. When the batter is in the cake tins, gently smooth the tops with a butter knife.
- Use Real Fresh Lemons- I know it's tempting to use store bought lemon extract for this cake and frosting, but please do not. The cake will have a chemical taste if you don't use fresh squeezed lemon juice.
- Prep The Lemons Ahead of Time- Before you begin the recipe, make sure you prep your lemons. Take 3 medium size lemons and wash and dry them. Use a zester and zest all 3 lemons. Then cut 2 of the lemons in half and juice them, making sure there are no seeds. You should end up with about 2 tablespoons of zest and ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then do the same with the lemons for the frosting. For more detailed frosting instructions, check out the full recipe for Lemon Buttercream Frosting.
Most gluten free baked goods are best made the same day, but you can make this cake and frosting the night before and assemble it in the morning.
If making the night before, take the two cakes out of the cake pans, let them cool completely then wrap them foil and place them in a zip top bag in the freezer.
In the morning, take them out of the freezer and let them come to room temperature (still wrapped in foil) on the counter, prior to assembly.
Yes this recipe makes 18 cupcakes.
Bake them at the same temperature for 24 minutes until tops are golden and springy when gently and carefully poked.
Yes! You can make the frosting the night before.
Store it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.
When ready to use, bring the frosting to room temperature and rewhip if you want to regain that creaminess.
Yes. If you use lemon extract, the cake will have a chemical taste.
No you don't but keep in mind your cake will have a very mild lemon flavor.
Storing and Freezing
Since gluten free and eggless baked goods are best the first day, we want to try to keep this gluten free lemon cake as fresh as possible.
Once the cake is cut into, it’s best to cut the entire cake into slices, wrap each slice in foil and store in a zip top bag in the fridge.
This is if you will be eating all the slices the next day.
Also, I would remove any lemons on top of the cake prior to wrapping the slices. They can make the icing very wet.
When ready to eat, let the slices sit on the counter, in the foil for about an hour or until the cake is room temperature and soft.
Warm each slice in the microwave for 10 seconds if need be.
If not eating all the extra slices in the next day, take the slices wrapped in foil and in the zip top bag and freeze them.
I would remove any lemons on top of the cake prior to freezing. They can make the icing very wet when they defrost.
You can keep the slices frozen for up to 30 days.
When ready to eat, leave the slices out on the counter for 2 hours prior to eating or until the cake is room temperature and soft.
Warm each slice in the microwave for 10 seconds if desired.
Other Lemon Recipes You'll Love
Gluten Free Lemon Cake
For The Cake
- 2 ¼ cups gluten free flour (I use one with xanthan gum)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 3 medium lemons)
- 1 ¾ cups milk of choice
- ½ cup light brown sugar , packed
- ¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons, vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For The Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter or vegan baking stick, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from about 2 medium size lemons)
- 8 cups confectioners' sugar
- 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (about the juice of 1 medium lemon)
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons water , room temperature
For The Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Wash and dry the lemons. Then zest all 3, and juice 2. You should have 2 tablespoons of zest and ¼ cup of lemon juice.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk of choice, the light brown sugar, the vegetable oil, lemon juice and the vanilla.
- Slowly add the milk mixture into the flour mixture and use a spatula to combine as it gets thick.
- With a spatula, scoop half the batter into one pan and the other half into the other pan. Smooth the tops with a butter knife.
- Bake cakes in the center rack for 35 minutes.
- Let them cool in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, we are going to cut them in half horizontally. Now we will have 4 thin layers of cake.
For The Frosting
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand held mixer, beat the room temperature butter or vegan baking stick until it is smooth and creamy. About 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the vanilla and lemon zest and beat till combined.
- Add half the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and water and beat until combined. It will look chunky at first.
- Beat in second half of the confectioner's sugar, lemon juice and water until combined, creamy and smooth.
Assemble The Cake
- Place one layer of cake on a cake plate/stand. Scoop ⅕ (about 1 cup) of frosting on top of the layer and use an icing spatula to spread it around.
- Place another layer of cake on top; repeat this same process. Do this with 3 layers of cake.
- Once you get to the top layer of cake, place it bottom (or flat) side up so the top of the cake is nice and flat.
- Use an icing spatula to frost a super thin layer on the top and the sides. This is your crumb layer.
- Pop the entire cake in the fridge uncovered for 15 min so it is more stable to work with.
- After 15 min, take the cake out and frost the rest. I used my icing spatula to make marks all over. You don’t have to do this decorative step…it’s completely up to you.
Decorate The Cake
- Put the rest of the frosting in a piping bag and make swirls all around the edge of the top of the cake.
- Sprinkle some gluten free/nut free/vegan white nonpareils or sprinkles on top of the frosting swirls.
- I also love to put some lemon slices just for decoration and some lemon zest.