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Last Updated on April 5, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
I’m so excited to share this vegan lemon cake with you! I’ve been working on vegan olive oil cake recipes for a while now, with mixed results, but this recipe is definitely a keeper! It’s so moist and fluffy, and bursting with pistachio and lemon flavors. And it’s topped with a pistachio-lemon glaze and more crushed pistachios!
This is an ideal vegan lemon cake for a dinner party, small get-together, or just to treat yourself! And best of all, it’s dairy-free, egg-free, and delicious!
How do you make a vegan cake more moist?
Make it a vegan olive oil cake! OK guys, it’s no secret that I love olive oil cakes. One of my favorite recipes on this blog is my Orange-Rosemary Olive Oil Cake. The use of olive oil in a cake adds richness, flavor, and keeps the cake from drying out. If you’ve ever had a cake that seemed dry and crumbly, chances are that cake was made with butter. Butter has a higher water content than oil, and as that water evaporates, the cake dries out a bit. Also, oil is liquid at both room temperature and when chilled, so if you store your olive oil cake in the fridge it will keep a soft, moist texture.
Vegan cakes are no exception — because they are made without eggs or dairy, they sometimes lack the rich, moist consistency that we want in a cake. But this vegan olive oil cake has no such problem — with both extra-virgin olive oil and applesauce mixed into the batter, it’s got a rich, fluffy texture that you’ll love.
Another reason I love this vegan olive oil cake is the addition of pistachio oil. I adjusted my orange rosemary olive oil cake recipe to replace some of the extra-virgin olive oil with toasted pistachio oil, to achieve that pistachio flavor without using an extract. The result is a soft and moist crumb, a balanced nutty and lemony flavor, and a truly show-stopping olive oil cake!
Best, of all, this vegan olive oil cake is so easy to make! Because there’s no butter, the ingredients can easily be mixed together with just a bowl and a whisk. And it’s a single layer cake, so it’s even easier! You just have to try this vegan cake!
- lemon zest & juice – brings that bright lemony flavor.
- granulated sugar – gives this vegan lemon cake just the right amount of sweetness.
- extra-virgin olive oil – I used La Tourangelle Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for this vegan olive oil cake, which I love for its bright, fruity flavor.
- toasted pistachio oil – I used La Tourangelle toasted pistachio oil, and the flavor was perfect!
- unsweetened applesauce – this adds a bit of density and moisture to the batter in place of eggs.
- vegan milk of your choice — I used soy milk, but oat milk or almond milk would also work.
- pure vanilla extract – I definitely recommend using a high-quality vanilla for this vegan lemon cake. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- all-purpose flour – be sure to measure your flour by weight using a kitchen scale, or using the spoon-and-level method.
- baking powder & baking soda – our leaveners help to give the cake lift, and create a light and fluffy texture despite the absence of eggs.
- salt – helps to bring out all these flavors!
For the Pistachio-Lemon Glaze:
- toasted pistachio oil – the same La Tourangelle oil as above.
- fresh lemon juice – a little more lemony goodness to top off this lemon olive oil cake recipe.
- powdered sugar – gives our glaze the sweetness and texture it needs.
- chopped roasted pistachios and lemon zest – this topping finishes off the elegant look of this vegan lemon cake, and adds a nice lemony crunch to each bite!
Toasted Pistachio Oil
For this vegan lemon cake, I used toasted pistachio oil to achieve the nutty pistachio flavor while adding to the moist texture of the cake. I chose La Tourangelle pistachio oil, and I really enjoyed the flavor, but you can use whatever pistachio oil you prefer. If you can’t find pistachio oil, feel free to substitute a teaspoon of pistachio extract, but then you’ll need to add in another 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
As I mentioned, this vegan lemon cake recipe is a one bowl, one whisk situation. That means that you won’t have to plug in any tools or wash out any mixing attachments. Just grab a bowl, a whisk, and your 8-inch cake pan and you’re ready to start baking! Here are a few more tools you might need:
Step by Step
The steps for this vegan lemon cake couldn’t be easier!
- First, press your lemon zest and sugar together in a large bowl. Rub them well with either a spatula or your fingers to release all that lemony oil.
- Add the rest of your wet ingredients, whisking between each one.
- Sift in your dry ingredients and fold them to combine. Be careful not to overmix at this point — too much mixing can activate the gluten in the flour and keep your vegan lemon cake from getting as fluffy and light as we want it to be.
- Pour into your baking pan and bake!
Tips and F.A.Q.
This one is! Not all olive oil cakes are vegan — some, like my Orange Rosemary Olive Oil Cake or my Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Crystallized Ginger are made with eggs and dairy milk. But many of them are, because the use of olive oil provides a great substitute for butter. You’ll definitely find that to be the case for this vegan lemon cake! You’ll just want to check the ingredients for the olive oil cake you’re interested in to make sure it’s vegan.
Olive oil is known as a healthy fat, high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. For that reason it’s generally considered to be more healthy than butter. I’m not sure that would classify this vegan lemon cake as healthy for that reason alone — there are still plenty of other ingredients that go into it. But it may be a better choice for those of us who are trying to avoid butter.
This cake can be stored at room temperature wrapped loosely in foil or plastic wrap. It also freezes well, wrapped in foil and plastic wrap, for up to 2 months.
It sure is! This vegan olive oil cake is absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself! It’s got a rich, moist texture that rivals any cake out there, vegan or not. And the flavors of the lemon and pistachio are so great together — you’ve gotta give it a try!
If you like this vegan olive oil cake, you’ll definitely want to try my pistachio lemon white bean dip! It’s a savory recipe, but it has a lot of the same flavors as this cake — lemon, roasted pistachio, and extra-virgin olive oil. Plus, like this lemon olive oil cake, it’s vegan!
You should also check out a recipe that has been a big hit with Chenée Today readers, my Strawberry-Banana Sorbet! It’s another vegan recipe (as long as you don’t use honey as your sweetener) and it’s so delicious and easy! It’s perfect as a summertime treat!
Equipment you may need
- 2 tbsp lemon zest - from about 2 medium lemons
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil - (see note)
- 2 tbsp toasted pistachio oil
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ⅔ cup soy milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract - 2g
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour - 228g
- 1½ tsp baking powder - 7g
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp kosher salt - 2g
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub sugar and zest together to thoroughly release oils.
- Whisk in olive oil, pistachio oil, applesauce, soy milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, mixing between each addition.
- Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and fold until just combined.
- Transfer batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 35 minutes. .
- Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
- For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, pistachio oil, and lemon juice in a bowl. Spread over cooled cake and top with chopped pistachios and lemon zest.
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