This soft & moist Vegan Lemon Loaf Cake is topped with a sweet and zesty lemon icing for the ultimate lemon dessert. Move over Starbucks, because this dairy-free & eggless lemon bread is here to steal your thunder.
Like my Lemon Curd Overnight Oats and Vegan Lemon Tart, this loaf cake was a highly requested recipe on my Instagram. The batter is easy enough to make in one bowl and the icing on top really makes this cake the perfect sweet & zesty lemon drizzle cake.
Ingredient notes & substitutions:
- Lemon Juice & Zest: MUST be fresh. No bottled lemon juice should be used in this recipe as it really affects the end flavor. Fresh is always best for lemon desserts!
- Applesauce: This acts as our vegan egg substitute in this recipe and helps to give this cake a moist tender texture. It also provides a subtle sweetness to the lemon loaf so we don't have to overload it with sugar!
- Vegan Butter: Unlike my other loaf cake recipes, we are using room-temperature butter vs. liquid oil. This is because it provides extra volume and a really buttery texture to this lemon pound cake.
- If you prefer to use liquid oil, olive oil or another neutral oil will work in this recipe. You won't be able to cream it, so the lemon bread will end up denser, but still super delicious!
- I DO NOT recommend using coconut oil for this bread. It tends to solidify easily and does not mix well.
How to make a vegan lemon loaf
Rub sugar with lemon zest:
Add the sugar and lemon zest to a bowl. Then, use your hands to rub the lemon zest into the sugar.
This helps to release the oils & flavors of the zest and really makes the cake extra lemony! Feel free to add more zest if you want an even stronger flavor in this lemon loaf cake.
Cream sugar, zest, & vegan butter:
Next, add the room-temperature vegan butter to the bowl and cream with the sugar and zest using an electric mixer for about 2 minutes until fluffy.
This step is crucial for building structure in the loaf and leads to a much lighter and fluffier texture once baked.
P.S.- you can use a liquid oil or melted butter in place of the room temperature butter, but keep in mind it will lead to a denser lemon bread.
Add in wet ingredients:
Once creamed, add the plant-based milk (I used oat milk), unsweetened applesauce, lemon juice, and vanilla bean paste to the bowl. Then, mix them together.
The batter will be semi-separated and clumpy at this point, but that's okay! It will all come together once the dry ingredients are added.
Gently mix in dry ingredients:
Add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl. Make sure to add the flour first and the other ingredients on top.
Mix the batter using a standing/electric mixer for about 1 minute. Don't do this any longer or you risk overmixing the batter!
Then, switch to a spatula and fold in any remaining clumps of flour until you have a smooth batter. It's VERY important to switch to a spatula so you don't form too much gluten when making the lemon cake batter.
Add to pan & bake
Add the lemon batter to a parchment-lined loaf pan. You can pour it directly in, but since it's a pretty thick batter I prefer adding it in with a large cookie scoop.
Then, use the spatula to smooth the batter evenly within the pan.
Add the pan to the oven and bake for 48-50 minutes or until the cake is cooked through and browned on top.
Then, remove the lemon bread from the oven and let cool completely before icing.
I let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then I move the lemon loaf to a wire rack to continue cooling. This helps to prevent the bottom from getting mushy from excess moisture.
Make the lemon icing & serve
Once the lemon loaf cake has cooled, it's time to make the vegan lemon icing. Whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and plant-based milk until you have a thick lemon icing.
Drizzle the lemon icing over the lemon loaf until it's completely covered. Let the cake rest a bit so the icing has time to harden.
Then, slice this perfect dairy-free lemon cake & enjoy!
FAQ & Tips:
Can I make this lemon drizzle cake gluten-free?
Yes! While I personally haven't tried it, a gluten-free 1:1 baking mix like this one from Bob's Red Mill should work in this recipe.
Please keep in mind that other flour alternatives like coconut or almond flour will NOT work in this recipe.
Can I make this vegan lemon cake refined sugar-free?
I haven't tried it, but if you do use a sugar alternative keep in mind it will change the texture of the cake.
Cane sugar is very moist and ultimately moister than coconut sugar or maple sugar. If swapping out the sugar, it may make this vegan lemon bread a bit dry.
Can I make variations of this lemon cake?
Of course! A few fun things to try would be turning this into a raspberry lemon loaf or blueberry lemon loaf by adding one cup of berries to the batter.
You can also add my vegan lemon curd to this bread for an even more lemony flavor!
You can even add 2-3 Tablespoons of poppyseeds to make this a lemon poppyseed loaf or, better yet, just make my Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Muffins instead!
Lastly, you can substitute orange juice & zest or lime juice & zest for the lemon to make this a differently flavored citrus loaf.
How do I store this lemon bread?
This bread can be stored wrapped in tin foil or in a closed container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
It can also be stored in a closed container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days or sliced and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Keep in mind, refrigerating this cake does tend to dry it out, so freezing is always best.
If freezing I recommend storing the slices of cake between parchment paper so they do not stick together.
I can't wait for you to try this soft, moist, & delicious Vegan Lemon Loaf Cake! It's the perfect easy & dairy-free lemon bread and great to have for breakfast or a mid-day treat. Enjoy!
More vegan lemon desserts you will love:
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Vegan Lemon Loaf Cake
Lemon Cake Batter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest zest of 1 ½ large lemons
- ½ cup room temperature vegan butter
- ½ cup plant-based milk soy or oat milk work best
- 5 Tablespoons lemon juice juice of about 1 ½-2 lemons
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 2 cups+ 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon plant-based milk add more if needed
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest optional, as garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 1 pound loaf pan with parchment paper. If your loaf pan isn't non-stick, you will also want to lightly grease the sides with vegan butter so it does not stick.
Make the lemon batter:
- To make the batter, start by adding the sugar and lemon zest to a bowl. Use your hands to rub the lemon zest into the sugar to release the zest's oils.
- Next, add the room-temperature vegan butter to the bowl. Use an electric mixer or standing mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and zest together until fluffy (about 2 minutes).
- Then, add in the remaining wet ingredients including the plant-based milk, lemon juice, applesauce, and vanilla bean paste/extract. Mix together for another minute. Please note: The batter will be separated and lumpy at this point, but that's okay! It will all come together once the dry ingredients are added.
- Add the dry ingredients to the bowl starting with the all-purpose flour and then pouring the baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top.
- Use the electric standing mixer to roughly mix everything together for 30 seconds-1 minute. Then, switch to a spatula and continue to fold the dry ingredients into the batter until no streaks of flour remain. It's VERY important to switch to a spatula here or you risk overmixing the batter and forming too much gluten.
Bake the lemon loaf:
- Add the lemon cake batter to the parchment-lined pan. It is a pretty thick batter, so you will need to use a spatula to smooth it out evenly within the pan.
- Then, add the loaf pan to the oven and bake for 48-50 minutes or until the lemon loaf is cooked through and evenly browned on top.
- Remove the cooked cake from the oven and let it cool in the loaf pan for 5-10 minutes. Then, transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Removing it from the pan to cool ensures the cake doesn't get soggy on the bottom from excess moisture pooling in the pan while it cools.
Make the lemon icing:
- Once the lemon loaf has cooled completely, make the icing.
- Add the sifted powdered sugar, lemon juice, and plant-based milk to a bowl and whisk together until a thick, yet smooth, glaze forms.
- Pour the icing over the cake and use the spoon or a spatula to spread it out as needed. If desired, you can top the icing with an additional teaspoon of lemon zest.
- Let the cake sit for a few minutes so the icing can set. Then, slice & enjoy!
- Please see the blog post for substitution ideas and recipe tips.
- Feel free to add more lemon zest to the batter if you would like a stronger lemon flavor!
- This cake is also great topped with vegan lemon curd or dried lemon slices.
- Leftovers can be stored wrapped in tin foil or in a closed container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- It can also be stored in a closed container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days or sliced and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Keep in mind, refrigerating this cake does tend to dry it out, so freezing is always best.
- If freezing I recommend storing the slices of cake between parchment paper so they do not stick together.