General · Recipes

Lovely Lemon Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream Frosting

Happy birthday Dad! It was my dad’s birthday on Friday, so I figured I’d make him a cake for the occasion. The way that I most like to show my love and appreciation is through food, and this year Dad gets a fabulous vegan lemon coconut cake.


I’ve always had a sweet tooth. And nothing changed since I decided to move to a fully plant-based vegan lifestyle. In fact, I have had several vegan treats before I even decided to make this change and was always so impressed with them. I can remember one time, several years ago, that my mom and I picked up some vegan pumpkin bread from the farmer’s market in downtown San Jose. The fact that it was vegan isn’t why I chose it; it just looked moist and delicious. And it was. SO. good. Like, I kept talking about it. And I still remember it with fondness.

Fast forward a few years and I had a boss that was a vegan with a sweet tooth. So when I wanted to bring in treats to the office, I challenged myself to make the treats veganized. And I was always SO happy with them. I made these amazing lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and I can’t find the recipe for (wahhh). And I made these chocolate cupcakes several times. I’ve actually never made the frosting or caramel syrup from her recipe though. One time I just dipped them in melted chocolate with coconut oil as a ganache-style frosting, and one time a made a vegan buttercream frosting.

So, because of these previous experiences, I knew I wouldn’t be missing out on anything in the sweets department when I gave up eggs and dairy. In fact, I might even like vegan treats better. They’re never dry, they’re dense and packed full of flavor.

Let’s get to the star of this show. The lemon cake. I didn’t take too many pictures because I wasn’t planning on highlighting this cake on the blog. I just thought it would be a good birthday cake for Dad. But whoa – it’s put-this-on-the-blog good.


I used this recipe as the basis for my cake, but with a slight tweak here and there. I always find lemon desserts to be overly sweet. I actually find many dessert recipes to be overly sweet, but that’s probably just me. As for the lemon treats, maybe it’s because the baker is making up for the tartness inherent in the lemon. Or maybe it’s because that’s just the way it’s always been done – overly sweet. Either way, I knew I’d have to cut it down a bit.

The main tweak I made to her recipe is cutting the sugar by more than half. And I didn’t go the “cream cheese” route. I didn’t want to use a vegan substitute for cream cheese. I’ve found them to all be full of weird, long-named ingredients I can’t pronounce. I try to cut down the processing in my food as much as I can, where I can.

I decided to make a coconut whipped cream frosting. I’ve always liked those regular white cakes with strawberries and whipped cream frosting. So I figured I could use the coconut whipped cream as a frosting. And we even had some shredded coconut in the pantry I could use to decorate the cake! If I make this again, I think I’ll toast the shredded coconut. That would have made the flavors even more delicious and complex. Plus it’ll be a nice contrast in color and could bring a crunchy texture to the fluffy frosting and dense, moist cake.


My parents and I have all been sneaking to the fridge to grab pieces of this throughout the day. My mom had a slice in the backyard with her book. I had a slice just because I opened the fridge… You know, it’s just so tempting!

Without further ado, here is the recipe in all its glory:

Lovely Lemon Layer Cake

  • 2 cups almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3 cups flour*
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar**
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ c oil (I used olive)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • ¼ c lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon)
  • Whipped Coconut Cream Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut for topping
Preheat your oven to 350. Spray two 8″ cake pans with nonstick spray and line with a parchment paper circle. To make the circle, pull out some parchment and place the cake pan face up on the sheet. Draw a circle around the bottom with a pen or pencil and cut just inside the mark. Place that inside the sprayed pan.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a bowl. In another bowl combine the milk, oil, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Somehow, we only have one cake pan in my house, so I had to bake them separately. It was a long evening in the kitchen just baking these cakes! Bake for 30-35 minutes – until the center of the cake no longer jiggles and it springs back when touched.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly in the cake pan for 5 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to cool. If you have the time, or have thought ahead, wrap each cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours until well chilled. This makes them easier to handle and stack. If not, just make sure they’re not warm to the touch or your frosting will melt into a gloopy mess.
Place the first round on your cake plate, or whatever serving vessel you can find, and spread an even layer of frosting evenly around the cake. Top with the next layer, the rest of the frosting. Spread it around the sides. This won’t be one of those smooth layer cakes because of the whipped, fluffy frosting. If you want a smoother cake, I recommend a buttercream frosting (just beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1.5 cups powdered sugar).
I didn’t measure out the shredded coconut. I just picked up a couple handfuls and pressed them into the sides of the frosted cake. You have to be careful here because the frosting is delicate (hello whipped cream!), and can easily come off on your hand if you push too hard.
I hope you enjoy! Let me know if you try this out!
*I used a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flours. It was literally all the flour we had in the house. I’d recommend 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose, or use all AP if that’s all you have. I bet you could make this gluten free too, just subbing in a GF flour mix.
**The original recipe called for TWO CUPS of sugar so I cut it down quite a bit. I think it could even do with less – maybe  1/2 or 1/4 cup. The nice thing about vegan baking is that you can taste the batter all the way through without having to worry about the raw eggs! Start out with a lesser amount of sugar and taste it at the end for sweetness. If you want more, just add it in.

Whipped Coconut Cream Frosting

  • 2 cans (14 ounces) FULL FAT coconut milk, chilled overnight
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract*

Chill your coconut milk at least 12 hours or overnight. It has to be full fat, regular coconut milk. The light doesn’t have enough fat in it to separate out the coconut cream. Which is the good stuff. You need the coconut cream (the fatty, delicious part) to separate from the lighter milk.

Open the cans without shaking and you’ll see a solid layer of white coconut cream. Scoop that out until you get down to the thinner milk and set that aside. You can use the leftover milk for curries, dressings or marinades later. Feel free to ask me if you need some inspiration.

Scoop all that cream from both cans and put it in the bowl of your stand mixer. Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer if that’s all you have. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this with a whisk unless you’re counting this as arm day, and have plenty of time!

Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla (or other flavors you’d like) and beat again until stiff peaks form. It will look like typical dairy whipped cream – that’s what you’re going for in terms of consistency.

I am in love with this whipped coconut cream. And it’s super white – much brighter than whipped dairy cream. And so pretty 🙂

*If you want to play around with the flavors, you can add other flavor extracts (like almond or peppermint), ground spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg) or cocoa powder.




Follow the same recipe for the cake and frosting, but bake the little beauties in a cupcake mold. This will get you about 18 regular size cupcakes. Bake them for 15-20 minutes, checking at 15. Just make sure they’re not wiggly and cooked all the way through (stick a toothpick in the center of your biggest one and it should come out clean).

I enjoyed these because they’re the perfect little portioned out treat. And the frosting is to die for. I can’t wait to slather it all over every baked good I make again!


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