Fluffy, tender, and flavorful, this Vegan Lemon Loaf is delicious and easy to make. This is no lemon-scented imposter; it’s a super lemony, tart and sweet dessert that’s sure to impress.
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Hey Internet, do you ever watch that Great British Baking Show on Netflix? My husband and I love watching it.
Of course, I realize it’s British name is different and they had to change it because of trademark laws, but I still love the show even though it has some other faults I don’t want to chat about now. Cough misrepresentation cough.
Anyway, one of the judges did remark once on a lemon dessert a contestant had made. The contestant had put a LOT of lemon flavor in their cake. The judge said something along the lines of, “that’s the right amount of citrus--I want to be punched in the face by that citrus.”
Well, I kinda feel the same way. Except that I run a blog, and I’m not just baking for my tastes, I’m trying to bake for a wide variety of people’s palates. It’s kinda tough honestly.
You’ll notice in my savory recipes, that I always say that the amount of garlic is “to taste.” That’s because it's my taste to add an entire head of garlic (like in my vegan garlic noodles, lol).
So, this recipe is written for a moderate amount of lemon flavor. I will indicate how you can get more, and it’s easy to customize to your tastes.
But make no mistake, this is not just a lemon scented store bought bland thing. This is a vegan lemon cake that I made in a loaf pan (because it’s so easy!) that is packed with real lemon flavor but balanced by sweetness and a delightful firm yet fluffy crumb.
Also semantics, but this recipe is only called a loaf because it’s baked in a loaf pan and you can slice it like bread but I wouldn’t call it vegan lemon bread, I’d call it loaf or cake.
Alright, so let’s jump into this recipe.
What You’ll Need
Let’s start with all the normal stuff. It’s a cake, so there’s no surprise here that you’ll need flour, organic sugar (non-organic may not be vegan), baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
To make this gluten-free, use a good quality gluten-free replacement flour. I have good success with King Arthur Baking Company Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour or Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour.
Also if you’d like to use coconut sugar instead of cane sugar as it’s less refined, go right ahead. Use a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that the color may be darker.
Now, for liquids, I’m using homemade vegan buttermilk. It only takes two seconds to make--all you need is a plant-based milk and an acid like vinegar or citrus.
For this vegan lemon cake, I recommend unsweetened non-dairy milk and lemon juice. Technically, you only need 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per 1 cup of non-dairy milk to make vegan buttermilk, but I went ahead and used ¼ cup lemon juice for more lemon flavor.
Now keep in mind that fresh lemon juice actually loses some of its flavor in the oven, which is why we’re bring it back into the icing anyway.
Finally, to make this rich and fluffy, I am using coconut cream. The cake doesn’t taste like coconut. Softened vegan butter will also work, but if it’s salted I’d cut slightly back on the salt.
If you’d like a lower fat cake, you can sub this with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana.
Oh, and it’s optional, but I add a tiny pinch of turmeric to give it a nice natural yellow color. You can’t taste the turmeric at all.
For an icing or glaze, use organic powdered sugar, non-dairy milk, and more lemon juice.
If you’d prefer a more tart lemony flavor to your glaze, use just lemon juice and powdered sugar. It will be less opaque but much more lemony this way. That’s what I personally prefer, actually.
How to Properly Measure Flour
We want to measure our flour by weight, not by volume. When you scoop flour out of a bag or tin with a measuring cup, you're packing it in there and not necessarily getting the same amount each time.
What's better is to use a food scale with a tare function (allowing you to zero out the scale after you've put the bowl on it so your bowl isn't playing a factor in your equation.
Working in grams, put your bowl on the scale and zero it out. Scoop the flour into the bowl until you reach the desired measurement.
Tips for Making Vegan Lemon Loaf
- Note: this cake works well in a 1 pound loaf pan but would also work fine in a 9” round pan, or even in a 12 slot muffin pan. The baking time will vary depending. A loaf pan takes about an hour whereas the 9” round would take 30-40 minutes and the muffins take about 25-30 minutes.
- Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius) and lining a loaf pan with parchment paper so you have two flaps sticking out. Alternatively you can grease the pan with oil spray but I find it makes the cake a little greasy on the outside.
- Make the vegan buttermilk: In a small bowl or measuring cup (I prefer the measuring cup since it has a spout), stir the lemon juice and non-dairy milk together and let sit for a few minutes. It will separate--that’s good. Just give it a brief mix before pouring it into the mix later (I’ll tell you when).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the optional turmeric powder. I recommend running the turmeric (if using) through a small fine mesh strainer because if you get clumps in there it will show as bright orange spots on your finished cake. Ask me how I know.
- Now make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the vegan buttermilk, coconut cream (or softened vegan butter), lemon extract, and lemon zest.
- Stir until completely combined and add the mixture to your lined pan. If using a muffin pan, divide the mixture up between the slots in your pan. Bang it gently but firmly on a hard surface a few times to shake out any air bubbles and place in the oven.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and an inserted cake tester or long toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove the baked cake from the oven and let sit in the pan for about 15 minutes, then carefully remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely. It’s best to use the wire rack instead of a plate or counter. The plate or counter can collect moisture from the warm cake and cause it to be soggy or slogged on the bottom.
- If you’d like to add icing, add SIFTED organic powdered sugar, lemon juice, and non-dairy milk to a bowl and mix well to make a thick icing that you can spread on top of the completely cooled cake. If you’d rather do a glaze, make it runnier with more liquid. If you want the super tart lemon-y icing, use lemon juice and powdered sugar but no non-dairy milk. This is my preference but not the pictured cake since I had to test it both ways. The glaze can be added when the cake is still somewhat warm if you prefer, but a warm cake will melt icing so it’s just whatever you prefer.
- Store the cake covered on the countertop for up to 4 days or freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
More Vegan Cakes
Liked this vegan lemon cake recipe? I think I have a few other vegan cake recipes you might like. Try one of the following next:
- Vegan Matcha Pound Cake
- Vegan Hummingbird Cake
- Coconut Cake
- Vegan Coffee and Walnut Cake
- Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- Gluten-Free Vegan Banana Bread
- Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake
- Vegan Apple Cake
- Gluten-Free Vegan Carrot Cake
I really hope you like this recipe! I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who was happy to eat up all the extra cake we had from testing.
This vegan lemon loaf is:
- Sweet but not too sweet
- Moist (sorry)
- And really easy to make!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!