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This Dreamy Lemon Vanilla Layer Cake Is Vegan & Refined-Sugar-Free

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Image by Alexandra Daum
May 1, 2021
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Cakes are, of course, usually made for celebrations, but that doesn't mean they should be relegated to celebrations only. And this bright lemony layer cake is just the sort of perfect-for-a-picnic cake that needs no special occasion.

"Oil-based, eggless cakes are a dream to make—no creaming sugar and butter, or beating eggs, or electric mixing required," writes Alexandra Daum in her new vegetarian cookbook Occasionally Eggs. "This cake has a nice lemon flavor and is easy to put together, despite the glamour of the finished cake." That glamour comes largely from topping the cake with edible flowers—like lilac blossoms, elderflower blossoms, and pansies.

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This recipe also makes smart swaps for traditional ingredients. Spelt flour takes the place of classic all-purpose flour, coconut sugar subs in for refined sugar, olive oil replaces eggs, and it uses alt-milk and coconut cream in place of dairy. Combined, these mean the final product is vegan and free of refined sugar. "Coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index (GI) than cane sugar or even maple sugar," Victoria Albina, N.P., MPH, told mindbodygreen. "Foods with a lower GI are more slowly absorbed, thereby reducing the health-damaging insulin spike."

This recipe is a perfect example of how making those small tweaks to favorite dishes—including desserts—can help make them a little bit better for you. This tasty lemon treat is also the ideal simple layer cake to whip up any time.

Lemon Vanilla Layer Cake

Makes 1 two-layer cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2½ cups light spelt flour
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups nondairy milk
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
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For the toppings:

  • 1 batch Whipped Coconut Cream
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups strawberries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch springform pan with coconut oil.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the milk, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before removing from the pan and cooling fully before assembling.
  4. To assemble the cake, cut it into two equal layers. Spread half of the whipped coconut cream between the layers, and the remaining cream over the outside of the cake. To make the layers as pictured, use an offset spatula to gently scrape the sides of the cake to remove any excess cream.
  5. Mix the honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Top the cake with the strawberries, then drizzle with the lemon-honey mixture. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated and will keep well, covered, for up to 3 days, but the cream will harden and soak into the cake slightly.
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Whipped Coconut Cream

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
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Method

  1. Chill the can of coconut milk for at least 24 hours. If you know you're going to be making whipped cream often, keep a can at the back of the refrigerator.
  2. Scoop the cream from the top of the can, leaving any remaining water behind. Add it to a large mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla, then whip at a high speed until soft peaks form.
  3. The cream is best used immediately, or at least applied immediately, as it hardens quickly if refrigerated again.
Excerpted from Occasionally Eggs: Simple Vegetarian Recipes for Every Season by Alexandra Daum. Copyright © 2021 Alexandra Daum. Photography by Alexandra Daum. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.