This gluten-free lemon cake is like sunshine on a plate! It truly is the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever made.

My #1 tip for this cake is to use buttermilk powder for a light and tender crumb! Check out this blog post for all the tips to make an unforgettable gluten-free lemon cake.

A slice of lemon cake being taken out of the cake on a cake stand

Calling all lemon lovers! If you’re a fan of lemon dessert, you’re sure to love this gluten-free lemon layer cake.

The cake combines fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract to make for a pop of lemon flavor unlike any other lemon cake I’ve tried.

Plus, the unique frosting is the ultimate combination of buttercream and traditional cream cheese frosting. It’s the best of both worlds and great for special occasions any time of year.

If you love lemon, try these recipes for gluten-free lemon cookies, gluten-free lemon pie, gluten-free lemon bars or lemon posset.

For more light gluten-free desserts try these recipes for gluten-free coconut cake, gluten free trifle, gluten-free pound cake or this gluten-free angel food cake.

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Why You’ll Love this Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

  • Bursting with lemon flavor
  • Ultra light and tender crumb
  • Great for spring parties
  • Can be made as a layer cake or 9×13 sheet cake

For more gluten-free cake recipes try this gluten-free red velvet cake, gluten-free German chocolate cake, gluten-free vanilla cupcakes or gluten-free pineapple upside down cake.

You also might like these collections of gluten-free Easter desserts and gluten-free cake recipes.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Dry Ingredients You’ll Need for the Cake

Here are the dry ingredients you’ll need to make this gluten-free lemon cake:

Coconut cake dry ingredients on a countertop
  • Gluten-free 1:1 baking flour: It’s important to choose a high-quality 1:1 baking flour for this recipe. This is my favorite brand. It makes all the difference in the texture of the cake! (NOTE: DO NOT use Cup4rCup gluten-free flour for this cake. It makes an overly gummy cake!)
  • Cornstarch: Using part gluten-free 1:1 baking flour and part cornstarch creates the consistency of cake flour. The cornstarch helps to lighten the cake! 
  • Baking powder: Baking powder is an important leavening agent to create a light, fluffy cake crumb.
  • Salt: I like to use fine sea salt for all of my gluten-free baking.

Wet Ingredients You’ll Need for the Cake

Here are the wet ingredients you’ll need to make this gluten-free lemon cake:

Lemon cake ingredients on a countertop
  • Sugar: Domino granulated fine sugar is my favorite, but any granulated sugar will work!
  • Lemon zest: In my opinion, the best lemon desserts always include lemon zest! It adds an extra punch of flavor you simply can’t get with lemon juice alone.
  • Butter: I always like to use salted butter for baking. It adds more depth of flavor than regular butter. Room temperature is best for creaming with sugar!
  • Oil: You can use vegetable oil or canola oil in this cake recipe.
  • Buttermilk powder: Buttermilk powder is the magical secret ingredient in this recipe! Something about the powdered buttermilk gives the cake an extra light and tender crumb. I highly recommend using it instead of regular buttermilk.
  • Water: Room temperature water helps thin the batter and combine all the ingredients for a light, tender cake.
  • Egg yolks: I like adding egg yolks separately from egg whites. Egg yolks add richness, and whipped egg whites create a fluffy, light cake.
  • Lemon extract: If you’re a true lemon lover, you can never get enough! Lemon extract takes the cake to the next level, adding more depth and delicious lemon flavor.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla is the perfect balance to tart lemon flavor in this cake.
  • Egg whites: Whipping the egg whites creates a light, fluffy cake with a texture that can’t be beat!
  • Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar helps stabilize the egg whites by keeping the proteins from sticking together. Now you know!

You also might like these lemon muffins!

Ingredients You’ll Need for Lemon Frosting

Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious lemon frosting:

Lemon cake frosting ingredients on a countertop
  • Powdered sugar: Any brand of powdered sugar will work for this frosting!
  • Butter: I always like to use salted butter for greater depth of flavor. Use room temperature for easier blending with the powdered sugar.
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice adds the bright, tangy lemon flavor that makes this cake so amazing! Fresh is best!
  • Vanilla extract: I like to add real vanilla extract for best flavor.
  • Cream cheese: Use room-temperature cream cheese to make a smooth frosting. Full-fat has the best flavor and texture!

How to Make Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Make the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper, then grease again.
Dry ingredients in a bowl and zest and sugar on a plate
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the sugar and lemon zest to a bowl and use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar. This helps to release more essential oils from the zest.
Sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl, and egg yolks and extract added to the bowl
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the zest/sugar, butter and oil. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Add in egg yolks one at a time and mix until combined after each addition, then mix in lemon and vanilla extracts. Scrape down the bowl.
Buttermilk in a measuring cup with a hand mixing it, and dry ingredients and wet ingredients in a bowl
  • Whisk together the buttermilk powder and water until combined. (I usually end up doing this in my blender!)
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, and blend just until combined. Add half of the buttermilk, and mix just until combined. Mix in another 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by the remaining buttermilk. Finish by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture.
Egg whites whipped in a bowl, and egg whites added to the cake batter in a bowl
  • In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip 6 egg whites with cream of tartar on medium-high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.
  • Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold 1/3 of the egg whites into cake batter at a time and fold just combined after each addition (don’t over-mix and deflate egg whites).
lemon cake batter in three round pans, and baked lemon cake in three round pans
  • Divide batter among prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting

Frosting in a bowl, and a frosted cake
  • In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined.
  • Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin, and more lemon juice if the frosting is too thick.
  • Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with the 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Storage Instructions

  • To store: This gluten-free lemon cake will stay moist and soft for up to 2 days. To store, simply cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature (or store in an airtight container). This cake keeps much longer than other gluten-free cakes, which is another reason I love this gluten-free cake recipe!
Gluten-free lemon cake on a cake stand with lemons on top and on the side

FAQs

What does lemon do to a cake?

Lemon juice reacts with the baking soda or baking powder to create a lighter, fluffier crumb in any cake recipes. It’s a key ingredient that makes this one of the most delicious cakes!

Does lemon juice affect cake rising?

If you add too much lemon juice to a cake batter, it could negatively affect the cake rise. However, this recipe includes the perfect amount of lemon juice, ensuring the cake is light, fluffy, and rises perfectly.

What flavors go well with lemon cake?

Lemon cake goes great with my cream cheese frosting recipe. You could also pair lemon cake with berries, such as blueberries or raspberries.

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • Buttermilk powder is the magical secret ingredient in this recipe! Something about the powdered buttermilk gives the cake an extra light and tender crumb. I highly recommend using it instead of regular buttermilk.
  • Adding the dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients ensures the flour absorbs into the batter. This prevents dry, grainy gluten-free lemon cake.
  • Using part gluten-free 1:1 baking flour and part cornstarch creates the consistency of cake flour. The cornstarch helps to lighten the cake!
  • Never let the cake cool completely in the pan—this will make it very difficult to get out! For best results, let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  • You can bake this cake in a 9×13 pan if you want to skip the effort of making a layer cake!
  • This cake features an AMAZING frosting that’s a cross between a cream cheese frosting and a buttercream frosting. It’s the best of both worlds! This 7-minute frosting is another delicious option for this lemon cake! You could also try topping it with candied lemon slices.
A slice of gluten-free lemon cake on a plate

MOre Gluten-Free Cake Recipes

I hope you love this gluten-free lemon cake as much as we do! If you try this recipe, be sure to leave me a comment/rating below. It helps me and others so much! Happy baking!

Order my gluten-free cookies cookbook today
Gluten-free lemon cake on a cake stand, with a large slice out of it and with lemons on top and on the side
5 from 24 votes

Gluten-Free Lemon Layer Cake

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 servinves
This gluten-free lemon cake is like sunshine on a plate! It truly is the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever made.
My #1 tip for this cake is to use buttermilk powder for a light and tender crumb! Check out this blog post for all the tips to make an unforgettable gluten-free lemon cake.

Ingredients

CAKE DRY INGREDIENTS:

CAKE OTHER INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar 400 grams
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest usually the zest of 2-3 lemons
  • 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk powder I use SACO
  • 1 1/2 cups water room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

FROSTING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup butter 230g softened to room temperature
  • 8 ounces full-fat brick style cream cheese 224g softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar 600g
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt to taste

Instructions 

MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper, then grease again.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the sugar and lemon zest to a bowl and use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar. This helps to release more essential oils from the zest.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the zest/sugar, butter and oil. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Add in egg yolks one at a time and mix until combined after each addition, then mix in lemon and vanilla extracts. Scrape down the bowl.
  • Whisk together the buttermilk powder and water until totally combined. (I usually end up doing this in my blender!)
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, blend just until combined. Add half of the buttermilk, mix just until combined. Mix in another 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by remaining buttermilk. Finish by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip 6 egg whites with cream of tartar on medium-high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.
  • Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold 1/3 of the egg whites into cake batter at a time and fold just combined after each addition (don’t over-mix and deflate egg whites).
  • Divide batter among prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

MAKE THE FROSTING

  • In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined.
  • Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and pinch of salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin, and more lemon juice if the frosting is too thick.
  • Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with the 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Slice, serve, enjoy!

Notes

RECIPE NOTES
  • Buttermilk powder is the magical secret ingredient in this recipe! Something about the powdered buttermilk gives the cake an extra light and tender crumb. I highly recommend using it instead of regular buttermilk.
  • Adding the dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients ensures the flour absorbs into the batter. This prevents dry, grainy gluten-free lemon cake.
  • Using part gluten-free 1:1 baking flour and part cornstarch creates the consistency of cake flour. The cornstarch helps to lighten the cake!
  • Never let the cake cool completely in the pan—this will make it very difficult to get out! For best results, let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  • You can bake this cake in a 9×13 pan if you want to skip the effort of making a layer cake!
  • This cake features an AMAZING frosting that’s a cross between a cream cheese frosting and a buttercream frosting. It’s the best of both worlds! This 7-minute frosting is another delicious option for this lemon cake!

Nutrition

Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 265mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 404IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 1mg

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Hi, I’m Erin!

BS Food Science,

MS Nutrition

I believe you can make amazing, gluten-free food with everyday ingredients that everyone will enjoy. I’m here to share my tried-and-true recipes with you!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Mine didn’t rise as much as your picture but I think it’s because I used a lemon emulsion as opposed to lemon extract. I think that the extract is more acidic which is what reacts with the baking powder in order to get the cake to rise. What brand of lemon extract do you use?

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