Pillowy, moist, tender, and effortless to make in under an hour! Top this one-bowl gluten-free lemon poppy seed cake with silky less-sweet cream cheese frosting for a bright and balanced dessert.
Find more gluten-free cake recipes here!
There's a reason lemon and poppy seeds are a classic combination. Lemon's bright citrus notes complement poppy seeds' nutty, floral flavor. And when the two meet in moist and tender cake batter, magic happens.
I originally shared this gluten-free lemon poppy seed cake recipe on social media in collaboration with La Tourangelle a couple of years ago. It became a favorite in my kitchen as well as some of my readers, so I'm giving it a home here on TBG!
This cake could hardly be easier to make. The batter is whisked up in a single bowl and baked in a pan in under an hour. It's a casual cake that's quick to whip up on a weeknight. It makes enough to share with a small gathering or family but it doubles easily to feed a crowd.
As with all of my recipes, I use a blend of gluten-free flours to add big flavor and create the perfect fluffy & tender texture without the use of any gums. You can find more info about baking with alternative grains and flours in my cookbook.
Now let's make GF lemon poppy seed cake!
Ingredients & Substitution Suggestions
A blend of GF flours gives this GF lemon poppy seed cake a lofty texture and plush, tender crumb. I've included substitution suggestions; it's always best to sub by weight when it comes to GF flours! This is the kitchen scale I use.
- Sweet rice flour makes the cake lofty and cohesive.
- sub GF AP blend (such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1)
- Millet flour adds buttery flavor and whole grain goodness.
- sub sorghum flour
- Oat flour adds tenderness and a bit of earthy flavor.
- sub sorghum flour
- Tapioca flour makes the cake bake up light and fluffy!
- sub arrowroot flour
- Lemon zest and juice add bright citrus notes. I love using Meyer lemons for their sunny, floral flavor but regular lemons are lovely here too. Or use half lemons and half tangerines for Meyer lemon-ish flavor!
- Sugar sweetens the cake and adds moisture. I used organic granulated sugar here. For refined sugar-free, sub by weight maple sugar or coconut sugar (the cake will be darker if you use coconut sugar).
- Oil adds moisture and keeps the cake soft and tender even when chilled. I used grape seed oil here, but sunflower or mild olive oil work well too.
- Sour cream adds richness, tanginess, and the acidity affects the texture of the cake too. You can use crème fraîche, Greek yogurt (the cake will be slightly less rich/moist), or for dairy-free use rich coconut yogurt or DF sour cream.
- Baking powder and baking soda add lift.
- Salt sharpens the flavors.
- Poppy seeds add a bit of crunch and a beguiling nutty/floral flavor. You can leave them off for a simple GF lemon cake!
How to Make GF Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
This cake is made using just 1 bowl and a whisk or spatula. The recipe takes about 10 minutes of prep and 35 minutes to bake, meaning it can be in and out of the oven in under an hour.
This recipe makes enough batter for one 8-inch square cake which can be cut into 9 squares or 12 smaller slices. The batter can also be baked in a loaf pan, a 9-inch round pan (or 8-inch round for a thicker cake), or in 10-ish muffin tins for cupcakes.
To feed a crowd, double the batter and bake it in a 9x12-inch pan, multiple layers, or a bundt pan.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake for Everyone
Whether you need to avoid gluten, dairy, refined sugar, or all of the above, this cake is for you! It's lovely alongside a cup of tea or coffee for a dessert or afternoon snack.
One time I doubled the recipe and divided it between three 8-inch round pans. I brushed each baked layer with limoncello liqueur and layered the cake with cream cheese frosting. It made a festive layer cake for a family member's birthday party. The cake was a huge hit and nobody could believe it was GF!
Whether you make this gluten-free lemon poppy seed cake to share at a gathering or just for yourself, I hope you love it as much as we do!
Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free lemon poppy seed cake, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and star rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.
Lofty Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed CakePrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- ¾ cup (150 g) organic granulated sugar*
- zest of 2 large lemons (Meyer or regular)
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons neutral oil (grape seed, sunflower, or mild olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup (115 g) sour cream, crème fraiche, or Greek yogurt*
- ½ cup (78 g) sweet rice flour* (Mochiko)
- ½ cup (65 g) millet flour* (Bob's Red Mill)
- ½ cup (50 g) GF oat flour* (Bob's Red Mill)
- 2 tablespoons (14 g) tapioca flour* (Bob's Red Mill)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper on all sides.
- In a large, deep bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar feels damp.
- Whisk in the eggs to combine, then whisk in the oil, sour cream, and lemon juice until smooth.
- Place a strainer over the bowl and sift in the sweet rice, millet, oat, and tapioca flours with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Whisk until combined, then whisk in the poppy seeds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread smooth.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 30-35 minutes.
- Let the cake cool to room temperature, 1-2 hours. Turn the cake out, peel away the parchment, and place the cake upright on a serving platter or board.
- Spread the cake with the frosting, decorate the top with poppy seeds, lemon zest, or lemon slices, and serve!
- Sugar: sub maple sugar or (for a darker cake) coconut sugar
- Sour cream: sub rich coconut yogurt such as Culina or Cocojune, or plant-based sour cream (for dairy-free)
- Sweet rice flour: sub GF AP blend (such as Bob's 1 to 1)
- Millet flour: sub sorghum flour
- Oat flour: sub sorghum flour
- Tapioca flour: sub arrowroot flour
- Frosting: sub vegan cream cheese frosting for dairy-free or paleo cream cheese frosting for DF & refined sugar-free
- The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store at cool room temperature or refrigerate.
- The frosting can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate until needed, then soften to room temperature before serving.
- Frosted cake can be stored airtight for up to 4 days in the fridge.
- Bake a single recipe in an 8x8-inch pan, a 9-inch round pan, 10-ish muffin cups, or a 8x4 or 9x5-inch loaf pan.
- Double the recipe and bake in three 8-inch pans, two 9-inch pans, one 9x12-inch pan, or in a bundt pan.
- Double the cake recipe and divide it between three 8-inch round pans (or two 9-inch pans) lined on the bottoms with parchment.
- Shorten the baking time as needed.
- Brush the baked cake layers with limoncello liqueur.
- Double or triple the cream cheese frosting and use it to spread between the layers and to decorate the cake.
- Lemon cake decorating inspo can be found in my paleo lemon cake recipe post!