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
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.
UPDATE: Lovely Lemon CUPCAKES
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!