This vegan lemon poppy seed cake is so quick and easy to make, coming together in just one bowl. With vibrant, fresh lemon flavours and that iconic nutty crunch from the poppy seeds, you’ll never guess this loaf cake is dairy free and egg free!
Loaf cakes are so easy to make, they come together in one bowl and are much more forgiving than layer cakes making them a great option for beginner bakers or those short on time.
This version celebrates the flavour of lemon poppy seed muffins by bringing together the tangy flavours of lemon with the nutty crunch of poppy seeds into a simple cake. Finished off with a sweet and zippy lemon glaze this is the perfect cake for warm afternoons alongside a cup of tea or coffee.
Lemon cakes are one of my favourite ways to use up any lemons I have laying around without a dedicated purpose. It’s such a fresh flavour that is perfect for the summer and spring months when chocolate feels a bit heavy.
Loaf cakes are usually a little bit more dense than a layer cake due to the technique of combining all ingredients together in the same bowl, rather than a traditional cake method of creaming together butter and sugar first.
Other than that, the only real difference is the shape of the pan. If you don’t have a loaf pan, you could use a bundt pan instead and adjust the cook time as necessary.
This cake isn’t overly sweet, making it the perfect cake for those people who don’t like ‘sweet’ cakes/desserts. Even the glaze has a real tang to it which balances out the sweetness and just brings everything together.
You’ll need just 10 basic ingredients to make this lemon and poppy seed loaf, all of which should be easily available and quite likely pantry staples.
- Canola oil – this cake uses no butter, instead using oil to provide moistness and a tender crumb that is the perfect texture.
- White sugar – for sweetness and to keep the cake tender.
- Vanilla extract – enhances the flavours of the cake.
- Lemon juice and zest – using both the juice and zest will help give this cake the punchy flavour of lemon. If you want it to be even more though, you can increase the amount of lemon zest. I always use fresh lemon juice and recommend this for the best flavour.
- Almond milk – my preference for baking but you could use your favourite milk instead.
- Plain flour – or all purpose flour in the US. I haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour.
- Baking powder + bicarbonate of soda – as this recipe contains acidic lemon, we’re using both baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to ensure the cake rises and has a fluffy texture.
- Poppy seeds – not only adding texture, but flavour to our cake. Poppy seeds absorb moisture so I don’t recommend increasing the quantity in this recipe or you’ll end up with a dry cake.
- Icing sugar – to make the glaze!
You won’t believe how easy it is to make this lemon poppy seed cake. All you need is your favourite loaf pan, a large bowl and a whisk. No electric mixer required!!
Start by whisking together the canola oil, white sugar and vanilla extract. Add in the lemon juice, lemon zest and almond milk and keep on mixing until combined.
To the bowl, sift in the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk until JUST combined. It’s really important not to overmix at this step. If your batter is a bit lumpy, that’s totally ok. Add in the poppy seeds and mix through until evenly dispersed in the batter – again doing this gently to prevent overmixing.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until the top is golden and a skewer when inserted just comes out clean. If the top is getting too brown, you can place some aluminum foil over the top lightly to protect it.
Once you’ve removed the cake from the oven and it’s cooled, you can pour over the glaze. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice and drizzle over the top of the cake.
You can decorate the cake however you want – I’ve done mine using dehydrated lemon slices, but fresh lemon slices would also work! I’ve put some instructions on how I dehydrated the lemon slices in the recipe card notes, but I found this blog post on how to make dehydrated citrus really helpful.
Yes! This cake is perfect for freezing. If you’re making it ahead of time for guests, I’d recommend freezing just the cake and then making the glaze fresh for the best results. Otherwise you can freeze any glazed slices.
To freeze, wrap either the full cake or the individual slices in two layers of glad wrap and then a layer of aluminium foil to protect it from any moisture. Let defrost on the kitchen counter before unwrapping.
Yes, if you wanted something a bit extra, instead of the simple lemon glaze you could use a vegan cream cheese frosting. You can use the cream cheese frosting recipe from my red velvet cupcakes.
More vegan cake recipes:
Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
For the cake:
- ½ cup canola oil
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- zest from 2 lemons
- ¾ cup almond milk
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
For the glaze:
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan forced and line a 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with baking paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the canola oil, white sugar and vanilla extract. Add in the lemon juice, lemon zest and almond milk and continue to mix until combined.
- To the wet ingredients, sift in the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Add in the poppy seeds and mix through until evenly dispersed in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden and a skewer when inserted just comes out clean. If the top is getting too brown, place some aluminum foil over the top lightly to protect it.
- Once the cake is cooked, let cool for a few minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the glaze. Whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice. Once the cake has cooled, pour the glaze over the top of the cake. Slice to serve.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.