This gluten-free lemon cake is like sunshine on a plate! It’s the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever made! With a light and lemony cake and a whipped cream cheese frosting, this cake is worthy of any celebration!

If you’re looking for a lemon cake brimming with fresh lemons, lemon zest, and a moist crumb, this recipe delivers. Even better yet, it comes together quickly and is made with pantry staples.

A piece of lemon cake on a plate.

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.

By swapping butter for sour cream and oil, you get a soft, pillowy crumb that’s always moist. Unlike some dense gluten-free cakes, this one is light and fluffy.

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.

For another light gluten-free dessert try this gluten free trifle, gluten-free pound cake, gluten-free lemon bars or this gluten-free angel food cake.

Why You’ll Love this Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

  • Bursting with lemon flavor
  • Soft, pillowy crumb
  • Made with easy-to-find, gluten-free ingredients
  • Mades a stable, reliable cake
  • 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 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

The biggest trick to making a delicious gluten-free lemon cake is to use a combination of sour cream and oil for richness instead of butter, which always makes for crowd-pleasing, fluffy cakes.

I also use this trick in this gluten-free birthday cake. Butterfat causes gluten-free flour to clump up and make a denser crumb. Sour cream is also the key ingredient in this gluten-free coffee cake!

overhead shot of ingredients to make the vanilla cake

Here are a few more notes on the key ingredients. If you have any additional questions feel free to leave me a comment below!

  • Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour: This gluten-free cake turns out best when you use a high-quality 1:1 gluten-free flour blend. Look for a gluten free all purpose flour blend that contains xanthan gum so the cake has the structure it needs. This is my favorite brand for this recipe.
  • Sour Cream/Oil: Adds richness and tenderness to the cake without weighing down the crumb.
  • Baking Powder: I use a good amount in this recipe for the perfect rise.
a lemon zester, lemon, bowl of lemon zest, bowl of lemon juice, and lemon extract on a table.
  • 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.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice helps to tenderize the crumb and create moist lemon cake. It’s the secret ingredient in my gluten-free pumpkin bread as well.
  • 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.

How to Make Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Make the cake

step by step photos of how to mix together the gluten free cake batter
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In the large bowl of a stand mixer, add the room temperature eggs and white sugar. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • With the large mixing bowl running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. (You want to do this slowly so you don’t loose the air that you’ve mixed in. This will create a light gluten-free cake!)
  • Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
step by step photos of how to make add the dry ingredients to the cake batter
  • With the mixer on low, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix to combine. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and continue to mix. Add ½ of the milk followed by the last ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining milk and stir until totally combined. (You want to add the dry ingredients alternately with liquid ingredients so the flour absorbs into the batter.)
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • If using 8-inch round cake pans, let the cake cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then turn out the gluten free lemon cakes onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting or Buttercream?

cream cheese frosting in glass bowl

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!

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!

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

  • Adding the dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients ensures the flour absorbs into the batter. This prevents dry, grainy gluten-free lemon 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 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!
A piece of lemon cake on a plate with a fork cutting into it.

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!

A piece of lemon cake on a plate.
5 from 8 votes

Gluten-Free Lemon Layer Cake

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Servings 12 servinves
This gluten-free lemon cake is like sunshine on a plate! It's the BEST lemon cake I've ever made! With a light and lemony cake and a whipped cream cheese frosting, this cake is worthy of any celebration!

Video

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar 380 grams
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil 100 grams
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • ½ cup sour cream 120 grams (regular or light)
  • 3/4 cup milk 187 grams (I use 2%)

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 two 8-inch round pans or one 9×13 pan. I also like to line the bottom of the 8-inch round pans with a circle of parchment paper then grease again.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. (You want to do this slowly so you don’t lose the air that you’ve mixed in.) Mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and lemon extract.
  • With the mixer on low, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix to combine. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and continue to mix. Add ½ of the milk followed by the last ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining milk and stir until totally combined. (You want to add the dry ingredients alternately with liquid ingredients so the flour absorbs into the batter.)
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
  • If using 8-inch round pans, let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then turn out the cakes 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

MAKE IT DAIRY-FREE: Use dairy-free sour cream and dairy-free cream cheese along with almond milk to make this cake dairy-free. I like the brand Kite Hill for dairy-free sour cream/cream cheese. 
  • Adding the dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients ensures the flour absorbs into the batter. This prevents dry, grainy gluten-free lemon 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 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!

Nutrition

Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 365mg | Potassium: 248mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 80g | Vitamin A: 617IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 1mg

Categories: ,

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!

You may also like

Comments

  1. I hope I can make this recipe! It looks absolutely delicious! I have two questions for you. Can I use cashew milk versus regular milk as I have a dairy allergy and can I use grapeseed oil? Thanks so much!

    1. Yes that cashew milk will work in place of the milk. You can also use dairy-free sour cream (I like Forager) in place of the sour cream. I hope this helps!

  2. can you substitute swerve or other sugar substitute instead of sugar as I am diabetic

    want a lemon birthday cake Like this one and the write up are great but a lot of sugar

  3. 5 stars
    Made this and added blueberries, it was absolutely delicious. Such a wonderful recipe, and the frosting especially is delicious!!

    1. Blueberries sound like a delicious addition! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. If I use almond flour how much xanthan gum should I add to it? Thank you so much, I’m baking this cake next week for my sister’s birthday!

    1. Unfortunately almond flour won’t work in this cake! Almond flour has a higher fat content and different properties. I would use a gluten-free 1:1 baking flour instead 🙂

  5. Would melted butter work in place of the oil?
    (By the way, this is my favorite gluten-free website.)

    1. I’m so glad you like the recipes! Butter doesn’t work as well in gluten-free cakes. It causes crumb to clump up and become gummy. Oil works much better for a light and fluffy crumb!

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! My grandma has many dietary restrictions, but this was a big hit at Mother’s Day last weekend. My non GF dad raved about it!

  7. Can I use buttermilk instead of milk? It’s my first time making a gluten free cake! I’m super excited!

    1. Yes that should work! I would reduce the amount of lemon juice by half if you use buttermilk though 🙂

  8. I’m currently making this and can’t wait to try it. I only have one round cake pan. Can I refrigerate the batter and bake the layers one at a time?

  9. I made this today – it is absolutly delicious. I made a mistake and put the cream cheese in the cake batter instead of the sour cream but it still turned out lovely- maybe even better. So then I didn’t have enough cream cheese for the frosting so I use half the recipe for the frosting ( i used half of my husbands cream cheese ) it was still enough to cover 9×13 cake . thanks so much for this recipe.

  10. I have lemon paste. I wonder if I could use it in this recipe and if so, how would I use it. I love your gluten free cake. They always taste like regular cakes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating