Moist, soft, and buttery vegan lemon poppy seed cake that’s made with just a bowl and a whisk! Based off of my classic vegan vanilla sheet cake, this lemon poppy seed cake is bursting with bright citrus and nutty sweet almond flavor, and topped with the silkiest vegan cream cheese frosting! Easily made gluten free too!

bitten slice of lemon poppyseed cake

One of my favorite flavors of late winter and early spring is lemon. It’s like sunshine bursting through the clouds on a dreary day.

We have some amazing vegan lemon recipes on the blog and in my cookbook already, including vegan lemon pound cake, gluten free vegan lemon cake with cream cheese frosting, vegan lemon poppy seed muffins, and this amazing vegan lemon blueberry cake.

But now let me introduce you to the EASIEST recipe of them all (and truly amazingly flavorful!): the vegan lemon poppy seed sheet cake!

Why you’ll love this unbelievably vegan lemon poppy seed sheet cake:

  • This lemon poppy seed cake is BEYOND easy! You only need a bowl and whisk- not even a hand mixer!! How amazing is that?! I wanted to make it as easy as my small chocolate cake and small vanilla cake, and that’s what we achieved. Just pour the batter into an 8×8 cake pan and bake!
  • Unbelievably soft & fluffy texture: When I tell you this lemon cake has the ultimate light and tender crumb…I mean, it’s buttery, sweet, soft, and melts in your mouth. The crumb is tight yet soft and airy, leaving you feel lifted rather than weighed down. It’s a dream combination. Then the citrus zest just bursts through and is complemented by the almond notes and sweetness from the vanilla and sugar. This vegan lemon poppy seed cake is just a dream!
  • Deliciously zesty and perfectly sweet & tangy: We’re using only real lemon in here, like in my small batch vegan lemon cupcakes, and you wouldn’t believe the flavor. It’s perfectly zesty and sweet, and just the right amount of lemon!
  • Simple in ingredients: You don’t need any eggs nor dairy to make this lemon poppy seed cake. In fact, you don’t even need any special vegan egg substitutes. We’re just using dairy free yogurt, which is easy to come by! After that, the remaining ingredients are super familiar too: flour, sugar, vegan butter (melted and not room temperature!), and lemon! How simple, right?
  • No need to layer! I wanted this lemon poppy seed cake to be straight forward: you bake then frost! No need to assemble into a layer cake (although I do love my layer cakes!). This vegan lemon poppy seed cake is more of a snack cake- smaller than a sheet cake but still just as easy (and transportable!). This lemon poppy seed cake is perfect for Mother’s Day brunch, Easter, bridal showers, baby showers, or any summer or spring get together!
slice of lemon poppyseed cake with lemon curd

Lemon poppy seed cake components:

The lemon poppy seed cake: What an actual dream this lemon poppy seed cake is! Full of vibrant lemon and that crunch from the poppy seeds. It’s like the perfect blend of my lemon pound cake and lemon poppy seed muffins in one! The cake texture is light and tender, with the perfect tight yet fluffy and soft crumb. And the flavor throughout is a dream: tangy but beautifully sweet with a lightness from the vanilla and a hint of nuttiness from the almond extract. You’ll want to go back bite after bite!

The almond cream cheese frosting: This might be my favorite pairing of cream cheese frosting (aside from this peanut butter cream cheese frosting!). The almond extract’s sweet nuttiness pairs so well with the tang of the cream cheese. And because cream cheese frosting is a bit softer, it makes a wonderful frosting to top a sheet cake or snack cake with.

The decorations: I kept my lemon poppy seed cake super simple- just a sprinkling of poppy seeds and lemon slices (which leak some lemon juice onto the frosting, and give it even more flavor!). You can also top with candied lemon slices or peels, or edible flowers. The perfect spring cake decorations in my opinion!

frosted vegan lemon poppyseed cake on a cooling rack

Overview: How to easily make a vegan lemon poppy seed cake (step by step photos)

The lemon syrup:

To amplify the lemon flavor without using any lemon extracts WHILE still keeping the rise of our lemon poppyseed cake, we’re incorporating a lemon syrup.

This is so simple- like making a simple syrup, you heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is melted. Then brush the syrup onto the freshly baked lemon poppyseed cake. Let it cool completely before frosting!

Almond Cream Cheese Frosting Substitutes:

I personally think the almond cream cheese frosting totally makes this lemon poppy seed cake. It’s a bit more versatile than just plain vegan cream cheese frosting. However, you can absolutely go that route if you’d like!

If you’re not up for a cream cheese frosting, you can also sub in my classic vegan buttercream. That will also taste really lovely, since you have the tang from the lemon cake! This vegan strawberry frosting would be another great option too 🙂

slices of vegan lemon poppyseed cake

I then topped it with my favorite vegan lemon curd– AMAZING for an extra zesty flavor!

Can I make this lemon poppy seed cake gluten free?

Absolutely! Like most of my cake recipes, I love to offer a gluten free option if the cake isn’t already naturally gluten free. For this cake, I used King Arthur Measure for Measure gluten free baking flour. It’s amazing, and really does the trick.

sliced vegan lemon poppyseed cake on parchment paper

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If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. This helps others to find the recipes! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there as well!

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plate of lemon poppyseed cake

One Bowl Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.8 from 10 reviews
  • Author: Britt Berlin
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 9 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Moist, soft, and buttery vegan lemon poppy seed cake that’s made with just a bowl and a whisk! Based off of my classic vegan vanilla sheet cake, this lemon poppy seed cake is bursting with bright citrus and nutty sweet almond flavor, and topped with the silkiest vegan cream cheese frosting! Easily made gluten free too!


Ingredients

Scale

Lemon Poppyseed Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) dairy free milk, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup (360 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon zest, from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (225 g) salted vegan butter (I recommend Miyoko’s or Flora Plant butter), melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 g) dairy free yogurt, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 3 3/4 (450 g) cups all-purpose flour (or gluten free 1:1 baking flour + 1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt

Lemon Syrup:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice
  • 23 tbsp sugar

Frosting:


Instructions

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9×9 square baking pan or a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Rub the sugar with the lemon zest: In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together to release the lemon oils.
  3. Make the batter: To that same bowl, add in the vegan butter, sugar, lemon zest, dairy free yogurt, vanilla extract, and optional almond extract. Whisk to combine. Then Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt, and slowly pour in the dairy free milk as you whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. Whisk JUST until the flour is combined, then add in the poppy seeds and whisk throughout the batter.
  4. Bake: Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 37-40 minutes in the 9×9 or 30-33 minutes in the 9×13 pan, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. While the cake is baking: Make the lemon simple syrup by heating the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is melted, constantly stirring. Set aside until the cake is done baking.
  6. Cool: Remove the lemon poppy seed cake from the oven, and brush with the lemon simple syrup. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool COMPLETELY before frosting.
  7. Make the cream cheese frosting: Make the cream cheese frosting according to instructions, and add in the almond extract if desired.
  8. Decorate: Frost the cooled lemon poppy seed cake, and sprinkle more poppy seeds on top, as well as candied lemon peels and edible flowers if desired. Slice and enjoy!

Notes

Gluten free: I really only recommend using King Arthur Measure-for-Measure Gluten Free Flour or a similar blend with xanthan gum that also weighs 125 g per cup. Please note that Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 GF Flour will NOT work here.