Vegan Lemon Cake with “Wow”

A certain bakery makes a lemon cake with a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and softness. This undeniable “wow” factor is attested by their repeat customers, many who purchase lemon cakes as gifts.

Their secret lemon cake recipe took untold hours of development and tweaking. As you would expect, it contains lots of fresh lemons. Unfortunately, the cake is also loaded with eggs and butter and copious amount of sugar.

Putting aside sugar for later, my primary mission was to demonstrate it is possible to make a heavenly lemon cake “cruelty-free” (without eggs or dairy products). I assumed a pioneering vegan baker must surely have done it already…

Lo and behold almost every vegan lemon cake recipe I could Google was Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Vegan Genoise Cake or a variation of it. The other honorable mention went to the Lemon Gem Cupcakes in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Vegan With A Vengeance.

  • Bryanna’s recipe was so precise that I didn’t dare mess with the ingredients (other than halfing them, as it was written for a 2-layer cake). However–not having the 9 inch pan called for–I baked a single cake in a 10-inch pan and it turned out too thin.
    • Taste-test feedback was that the lemon flavor was good, buy it was too sweet and a bit sticky, perhaps because it was overdone? I plan to attempt it again in a smaller pan.
  • In the case of Lemon Gem cupcakes, I reduced the sugar a bit, from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup. I also mistakenly added lime zest instead of lemon (pre-measured frozen zest was not labeled) and used almond instead of vanilla extract.
    • My surprise volunteer tasters liked the moist spongy consistency, however the lemon juice in the lemon-lime-almond cupcakes was imperceptible. Needless to say, they weren’t the “gems” that Isa intended!

In my tireless quest for a vegan cake with wow, I plan to revisit both recipes, as well as try a vegan gluten-free lemon cake recipe I found and try to adapt a non-vegan gluten-free recipe containing mashed potatoes, no less! So, please keep an eye on this spot, and share any of your experiences for the benefit of all vegan lemon cake lovers out there.

Now to the sugar issue: I often mention a vegan diet is not necessarily a healthy diet, because just as there are many junk foods in the standard American diet (SAD), there also junky vegan foods–those that are full of empty calories (high in processed fats, sweeteners, carbs) and salt.

Ultimately, a healthy diet is one that’s whole-food and plant-based. For further guidance, I highly recommend the “Four Pillars of Healthy Eating” developed by Whole Foods Market:

1. WHOLE FOOD

Choosing whole foods is a simple way to ensure that what you eat is micronutrient dense and free of unnecessary additives. A “whole food” is any food in its most essential, pure, delicious and basic form: an asparagus spear, a lemon, a scoop of quinoa, or a fillet of salmon. Whole foods are the best ingredients for creating tasty and healthy meals, and, diets loaded with whole and unrefined foods may help keep you healthy.  Choose whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, unrefined and unprocessed foods. Eliminate artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats from your diet.

2. PLANT-STRONG™

No matter what type of diet you follow — including those that incorporate dairy, meat and/or seafood — begin to reconfigure your plate so that the majority of your meal is made from an abundance of plant-based foods. When you eat more plants — like raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains — you’re helping your body get the key micronutrients it needs to function at its best.  Emphasize plant-based foods, no matter what type of diet you generally follow. Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body, which leads to feeling satisfied.

3. HEALTHY FATS

Get your healthy fats by eating whole plant-based foods like nuts, seeds and avocados. Then, work to minimize (or eliminate) the amounts of extracted oils and processed fats you cook with on a daily basis.  Choose whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados) when looking for a micronutrient dense source of healthy fats. Minimize or eliminate extracted oils and processed fats (like margarine).

4. NUTRIENT DENSE

Build your meals around recipes that emphasize plant-based foods. Choose foods rich in micronutrients when compared to total caloric content.

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