This Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is light, fluffy, moist and bursting with flavor. It’s also a 1 bowl loaf cake – meaning quick and easy prep and even easier clean up. Bake this spring favorite this week for an easy breakfast treat or dessert.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Quick: The lemon cake is a quick bread and made without yeast. No need to wait for the dough to rise, chill, or set. It’s quick and easy!
- Fresh: Although this cake works well as dessert, it’s bright and light enough from the fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and coconut to be enjoyed as a breakfast treat, too.
- 1 bowl: The cake batter comes together in 10 minutes in 1 bowl. Couldn’t be more easy.
- Make-ahead friendly: This lemon poppy seed cake lasts for up to 5 days when stored at room temperature. Make it on Sunday morning and enjoy a slice all week long. Or, if you’re bringing it to a party, like a Mother’s Day Brunch or Easter gathering, make it a day ahead of time.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- shredded coconut – The shredded coconut in this cake not only provides delicious earthy notes of coconut, but also helps this cake retain moisture! Be careful to only use finely shredded, desiccated coconut. Coconut flakes will not work and should not be substituted.
- canned coconut milk – The rich and creaminess of a can of coconut milk works perfectly here to emulate the flavors of pound cake without dairy products. You could use a lower fat plant-based milk option here, but I recommend the canned coconut milk as nothing is quite as creamy.
- vegan yogurt – I typically like to use unsweetened Kite Hill yogurt. It has a great consistency, is tangy and I can use any leftover yogurt in other recipes, like Vegan Apple Cake, Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Scones, or Vegan Pumpkin Scones. Any unsweetened vegan yogurt should likely work.
- lemon juice and lemon zest – When I first tested this recipe, the loaf was moist and buttery, but it wasn’t lemony enough. The second time around I really increased the lemon zest and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Don’t skip this. It’s a game changer.
- flour – I developed this recipe using a combination of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The combination increases the nutritional value of the cake without making the cake too dense. I have not tested this recipe using gluten free flour and can’t recommend it at this time.
- poppy seeds – Do not substitute the poppy seeds with chia seeds or any other seed. Chia seeds absorb water and are gelatinous, which will completely change this texture of the bread.
Step By Step Instructions
- Mix dry ingredients: Whisk together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, quinoa, poppy seeds, shredded coconut, cane sugar, baking soda, and sea salt.
- Add in wet ingredients: Into the bowl with the dry ingredients, add the coconut milk, yogurt, melted coconut oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
- Mix to combine: With a silicone spatula, gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Avoid over mixing or stirring quickly. Doing so is going to whip excess air into the batter and over activate the gluten, which will result in tough stringy batter.
- Bake: Pour the poppy seed cake mixture into a 9×5 loaf pan. I lined the bottom of my loaf pan with a piece of parchment and then buttered the sides for easy removal!
- Cool completely: After baking remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to sit in the baking pan for about 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a baking rack.
- Prepare the frosting glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Then add in the lemon juice and coconut milk and mix to combine, forming a glaze.
- Drizzle glaze over cake: Drizzle the glaze over the lemon poppy seed cake, then sprinkle on shredded coconut, if desired.
No, I wouldn’t. The vegan yogurt is serving two purposes – providing the tanginess you would get from traditional buttermilk and binding this bread together without the use of eggs.
Yes. I really prefer the coconut oil as it compliments the shredded coconut and coconut milk, but vegan butter will work.
Using room temperature ingredients makes for a lighter, fluffier, more tender poppy seed cake. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together as nicely and will not be the same! It will also harden your coconut oil and make your cake oilier in certain spots and drier in others. Trust me!
I’d take the ingredients out of the refrigerator 1 hour prior to baking your lemon poppy seed cake!
Tips for Success
- Store this vegan lemon poppy seed cake at room temperature. Once refrigerated, the cake gets far more dense and not as good. Storing at room temp will keep it moist and fluffy!
- I said it before, and I’ll say it again…Don’t skimp on the lemon zest!
- Gently fold the ingredients together when mixing. Overly mixed batter will result in a dense, tough lemon poppy seed cake.
More Vegan Baking Favorites to Try
Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Lemon Icing (optional)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ tablespoon coconut milk
- ½ cup shredded coconut - or enough to cover the top of the loaf (your preference!)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9x5 baking pan with a piece of parchment paper. See photo in post for reference. I buttered the two sides not covered with parchment paper with vegan butter.
- In a large mixing bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients (quinoa, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, shredded coconut, cane sugar, poppy seeds, baking soda, and salt).
- Create a well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients (coconut milk, vegan yogurt, lemon juice, coconut oil, lemon zest, and vanilla extract) into the dry ingredients. Gently fold together until the wet is incorporated into the dry.
- Transfer loaf batter to your parchment lined baking pan and spread evenly.
- Bake for 60-75 minutes, tenting the bread after 45 minutes to prevent it from browning too much on top. You know the loaf is finished baking when a knife comes cleanly out of the loaf.
- Allow the lemon loaf to cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to cool completely on a baking rack.
- If you are icing your loaf, mix together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and coconut milk until smooth. Pour on top of the completely cool lemon loaf. Sprinkle on shredded coconut to your liking. Enjoy!
- Storage: Store this lemon loaf in an airtight container or gallon ziplock bag at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- I have not tried freezing this loaf.
- Using room temperature vegan yogurt and coconut milk is crucial to preventing the coconut oil from hardening in the batter and keeping this loaf light and fluffy.
General note about salt
Please pay attention to the type of salt called for in the recipe (if applicable). Not all salts are made equal and cannot be substituted 1 for 1. If you are substituting table salt for kosher salt, you will need to cut the amount called for in the recipe by at least half.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
This recipe was originally published on May 5, 2020 and has been updated on March 12, 2022 to include new photos, ingredient notes, step by step instructions, and tips for success. The original recipe remains the same and is inspired by Erin Ireland’s Vegan Lemon Loaf from her bakery, To Live for Foods.