Say hello to spring with this zesty gluten-free lemon cake! It's packed with citrusy flavor and made from scratch with wholesome ingredients like almond flour, honey, and dairy-free yogurt. This recipe is complete with an easy honey lemon curd and buttercream frosting too!
I'm a huge fan of my girl lemon. She's zesty, she's citrusy, she's tart, she's just...fun! She makes an appearance quite often on the blog - like in my lemon poppy seed muffins, my lemon bunt cake, and even in these overnight oats.
It's high time we give her the opportunity to really show off in a three tiered layer cake don't you think!? Like the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make a cake! Or something like that.
Let me just go ahead and say that this gluten-free lemon cake does not disappoint! It's moist and flavorful with a creamy buttercream frosting and potent lemon curd drizzle on top. My girl lemon really outdid herself with this one!
This gluten-free lemon cake is pretty simple to make. You need a few standard pantry staples for the cake portion.
- Almond flour - This is used as the "base" of the gluten-free lemon cake batter. Make sure to measure your almond flour by spooning it into the measuring cup and then leveling it off.
- Tapioca flour - Used to add a little "fluffiness" to the cake. In needed, substitute with arrowroot starch.
- Coconut flour - This helps cut some of the density out of the batter. Gluten-free cake batter can sometimes be a little heavy. Coconut flour is often used to lighten it up so it's not too dense.
- Dairy-free yogurt - Plain and unsweetened is best! If needed, greek yogurt or low-fat regular yogurt will work too.
- Lemons - This recipe calls for both lemon juice and zest. Organic lemons are best for zesting as they don't have a wax-like coating on the skin. As always, fresh lemons are best but in a pinch store-bought lemon juice will work as well.
Lemon Curd Ingredients
Ever heard of lemon curd? It's seriously the BOMB! And easier than you think to make too. Here is what you'll need for the delicious and bold lemon drizzle on top of the cake.
- Honey - This ingredient is a little unconventional when it comes to lemon curd. Traditional lemon curd contains granulated sugar (and a lot of it). The honey in this recipe adds a mild sweetness to the curd and still allows the citrusy lemon flavor to shine through. If needed, you can substitute granulated sugar. Coconut sugar may work but it will make the color much darker.
- Egg + Egg yolks - I found this ratio to make the perfect not-too-thick lemon curd. Use pasture raised eggs for a bright and bold yellow color!
- Coconut oil - Again, this is typically not found in traditional lemon curd recipes. Instead, butter is what is normally used. Coconut oil functions the same but has a very mild flavor so the lemons can be the star of the show. Grass-fed or vegan butter can be substituted.
A light lemon buttercream is the perfect accompaniment to this gluten-free lemon cake. With only a few ingredients, it's super easy to whip up!
- Butter - I prefer grass-fed but any butter will work as well as vegan butter. Palm shortening is also a great substitute. Which ever you use, make sure it's softened to room temperature.
- Powdered sugar - This is what adds sweetness to the icing. I recommend using a high quality organic powdered sugar. If needed, powdered monk fruit can be substituted.
- Lemon - A little bit of fresh lemon juice is needed in this recipe. Fresh is best but store-bought can be used if needed.
Step by step directions
Step 1 : Mix the wet ingredients
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, dairy-free yogurt, honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, and vanilla. This is best done with a stiff whisk or the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer.
Step 2 : Fold in the dry ingredients
Add the almond flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, and baking powder to the mixing bowl. Fold into the batter until no flour clumps remain. Be sure not to over mix this step.
Step 3 : Add lemon zest
Add the lemon zest to the batter and fold into the batter to distribute evenly.
Step 4 : Pour into pans and bake
Grease three 6-inch cake pans with oil. I also like to place one of these liners in the bottom of each pan. Fill each pan ⅔ of the way full and bake in the over until golden and the edges are pulling away from the sides.
Let the cakes cool while you prepare the lemon curd and frosting.
Step 5 : Prepare the lemon curd
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the lemon curd. First, put the egg, egg yolks, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a pot over medium heat. The key is to have the element high enough to heat the mixture but you don't want to boil it (you'll end up with scrambled eggs!).
Mix the mixture well with a whisk to break up the eggs. Continue to whisk until the mixture begins to simmer just a bit (again, don't let it get to a boil). The mixture should look like the below picture. I should be slightly thick and start to develop a little foam at the top with bubbles.
Once the mixture begins to simmer slightly, remove it from the element and add in the vanilla and coconut oil. Stir until the coconut oil is melted into the lemon curd.
Pour the lemon curd into an airtight container and place it in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour. It should be ready after the cake has completely cooled down and you've iced it!
Step 6 : Prepare the icing
For the icing, first beat the butter in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and 1 cup of the powdered sugar and continue to beat. Spoon in 1 Tbsp of almond milk to the bowl while the mixer is still running. Then add the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar in ½ cup intervals, scraping down the sides of the mixer as needed.
The consistency should be light and creamy. If needed, add another tablespoon of almond milk. If the consistency is too thin, add another ¼ cup of powdered sugar until you reach your desired texture.
Step 7 : Ice the cake
After the cakes are completely cooled, it's time to ice the cake! Place one layer on a cake turntable with a large scoop of icing on top. Use an uneven spatula to even out the icing layer. You want this layer of icing to be fairly thick as we're just doing a simple crumb coat on the outside.
Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat, adding another thick layer of icing. Finally, put the third cake layer on top and add the remaining icing on top. With the uneven spatula, spread the icing all over the top and sides of the cake with a thin coat of frosting. Scrape some extra icing off the sides to get a "naked cake" look.
Lastly, pour about ½ a cup of the lemon curd over the top of the cake (you will have a good amount of lemon curd left over).
Allow the lemon curd to slowly make its way over to the sides of the cake. Then use a (clean) uneven spatula to help "push" a little over the edge of the cake. This is how you get a nice drip effect!
This three tiered gluten-free lemon cake serves 12 - 16, depending on the size of the slices. To get clean even slices, use an extra sharp knife and dip it in some warm water beforehand. Wipe off the excess water and then make a cut. Clean off the knife after each cut and repeat with the warm water.
To store this cake, place it in an airtight cake container and store it out on the counter. It will keep for up to 5 days.
You can also keep the cake on a cake stand with a dome top but, because it's not airtight, it will only stay fresh for 2 -3 days (so eat it fast!).
If you have room in the fridge, this is my preferred way to store this gluten-free lemon cake. The lemon curd will chill back up so it's slightly thick and the buttercream frosting will have a nice chill to it! It will keep for up to 5 days when stored in the fridge.
What to do with leftover lemon curd?
This recipe makes a decent amount of lemon curd. Because you only need about ½ cup to pour over the top of the cake, there will be some left over. You can easily serve it along side the cake and allow people to drizzle extra over top of their slice!
The good news is lemon curd keeps really well! It will stay fresh in the fridge about a month! I recommend freezing some for emergency situations too. It will keep in the freezer for about 6 months (!!!).
Here are some great ways to use lemon curd:
- Drizzle it over some vanilla ice cream
- Use it as a crepe filing
- Drizzle it over my cranberry cheesecake
- Use it as an icing over my lemon poppyseed bundt cake
- Swap the blueberry filling in my blueberry pop tarts with the lemon curd
- Or just enjoy it by the spoonful 😉
Frequently asked questions
I have not tried this recipe with any flour other than almond so I can not say for certain. If you'd like to try it, a gluten-free 1:1 flour is how I would go about substituting.
Yes, a low fat greek yogurt works well in this recipe in addition to regular low fat yogurt. Just make sure to use plain and unsweetened?
Luckily the lemon juice and dairy-free yogurt do a great job keeping this cake super moist! It's probably the moistest gluten-free cake I've made yet!
Be sure to check out these other delicious cakes:
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