The ultimate ‘classic’ Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake. Moist and tender, exceptionally ‘lemon’, lastingly delicious and easy to make. Perfect served for tea time or special occasions. Optional dairy free.
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In search of the ultimate Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake
I’ve been in search of the PERFECT Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake. One that is light enough, lemony enough, and both moist and lasting enough to be given the thumbs-up from the Gluten Free Alchemist kitchen. I set out with no real intention of writing my own recipe… But after trying several different recipes on offer (none of which made me truly happy), I decided there was room for one more.
This particular Lemon Drizzle Cake has been through several iterations… I’ve made it with different flour combinations and ingredient ratios; with varying quantities of lemon juice added to the batter; and with everything from the all-in-one process to the standard creaming and reverse creaming methods. I’m happy that the recipe shared here is the BEST Lemon Drizzle Cake I’ve eaten… EVER. Gluten free or otherwise.
Why you’ll LOVE this Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe…
For those who already have a Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe… and wondering why on earth you should try a different one… let me help you out…
I appreciate it’s a bold claim to say that this is the ultimate Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake. But those of you who know me, will know I am ridiculously stubborn and won’t rest until something is as perfect as I can make it. And with that… Here are a few reasons why this recipe MUST be tried… It’s:
- Been created and recreated over and over again until it passes my highest standards… ie. That it’s better than any glutenous Lemon Drizzle Cake I’ve tried.
- Full-on lemony (assuming you love lemon) with bags of ‘zing’… Yet the sharpness is wonderfully balanced against gentle sweetness from the sponge and icing.
- Light and tender while still offering the traditional ‘close’ lemon drizzle texture (not too dry or dense or crumbly).
- Gluten free and also can be made dairy free.
- Easy to make, regardless of your baking skills.
- Moist and succulent so that it stays fresh.
- UTTERLY ‘need another slice’ DELICIOUS.
- Guaranteed to bring happiness to everyone who eats it.
- And of course… No one will EVER know that it’s gluten free (and that’s a promise).
Ingredients for making my Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake
So… What’s in my lemon drizzle cake and why have I chosen the ingredients used?
Gluten Free Flour Blend
The sponge uses a balanced combination of a gluten free flour blend, ground almonds and a very small amount of xanthan gum. I use my Gluten Free Alchemist white flour Blend A (which can be found at the bottom of my Gluten Free Flours and Flour Blending Page). Other good gluten free flour blends will also work well, but check to see whether they already contain xanthan gum (in which case don’t add any more).
The ground almonds bring moisture and structure to the cake as well as a gentle nuttiness. Natural oils in the almond ensure the sponge lasts longer too!
Raising agents are pretty essential to most cakes and Lemon Drizzle is no exception. The combination of baking powder and a little additional bicarbonate of soda ensures the perfect rise.
If you’re wondering whether to use self-raising flour instead, I don’t recommend it. The benefit of plain flour + raising agents allows for greater consistency and the ability to tweak the rise in a more calculated way.
I use white Caster Sugar for the sponge. In North America you can use either standard granulated (which is apparently finer than we get in the UK) or superfine sugar. Golden caster sugar is also an option, although it will result in a darker-coloured sponge, which may impact the beautiful yellow hue that shouts lemon!
Either granulated or caster sugar can be used for the lemon drizzle syrup. But for the icing, it is important to use icing sugar or (in the US) powdered/confectioner’s sugar. This will make the smoothest, silkiest icing to crown the cake.
Either block dairy butter or a dairy free block alternative can be used. Good dairy free alternatives include Stork Vegan Baking Block or Flora Plant Butter. I always use unsalted butter, so if using a salted version, remember to leave out the salt added in the ingredient list.
Make sure the butter has been brought completely to room temperature before mixing. This will ensure an even mix and help to prevent the cake batter from splitting.
IMPORTANT: This recipe uses 3 large eggs… That is UK Large size. But since eggs are weighed and sized differently around the world, you need to check whether your large eggs are the same size as my large eggs. The easiest way to do this is to weigh them (in the shell is fine!). To check how egg size compares from country to country, head over to my International Egg Size and Weight Comparison Guide.
EQUALLY IMPORTANT: Make absolutely sure that the eggs are brought completely to room temperature before they are used. Cold eggs may trigger a split or curdled batter.
Lemon for the zingiest Lemon Drizzle Cake
If you were in any doubt about the full-on zinginess of this Lemon Drizzle Cake, then read on…
For the lemon sponge, we use the zest of 3 (yes THREE) lemons… In my opinion, the larger the better. Then there’s lemon juice added in the form of homemade buttermilk (a combination of lemon and milk (dairy free is fine))… This helps to guarantee a moist and tender crumb as well as adding flavour. But again, the buttermilk MUST be brought to room temperature (or gently warmed) before adding to the batter.
Next… Lemon juice (the equivalent of about 2 good-sized lemons) is used for the drizzle syrup. AND a drop of lemon is used to make the white icing topping (with (of course) a little sprinkled zest for decoration).
But here’s the thing… I tested varying combinations of lemon juice in the sponge batter and found that if you push it too far (yes… there is a ‘too far’), then the mixture curdles no matter what you do to try and ‘save’ it. Nothing to do with adding either the baking powder or the almonds… If it looks curdled, it’s likely to be curdled! Too much lemon = a sponge which is dense, acidic, grainy and not at all nice.
So… I’ve balanced the lemon in the ‘buttermilk’, added plenty of zest and ensured the best zing possible with the syrup and additional icing!
Why massage the lemon zest into the sugar?
Although you can simply add the lemon zest to the bowl when creaming the butter and sugar together, I recommend massaging it into the sugar in the bowl first (and before adding the butter). Why? Because if you want your gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake to have the best lemon flavour, then you need to release and infuse the lemon oils into the batter.
The easiest way to do this is to:
- Weigh the sugar into the mixing bowl…
- Grate and add the lemon zest (as finely as possible) using a zester, Microplane or fine grater.
- Use the back of the mixing spoon to crush and massage the zest against the sides of the bowl and into the sugar, until the sugar starts to look yellow in colour.
Do I have to completely line the whole tin to make a Lemon Drizzle Cake?
Yes. I did several experimental bakes where I only lined the base of the tin… The lemon cake became too brown and a little dry on the outside. Lining the whole tin gives the sponge greater protection from the harsh heat of the oven… (And it makes it WAY easier to remove from the tin).
To line the tin:
- Take a large sheet of baking paper (large enough to fit the base and up the sides of the pan).
- Place the loaf tin in the centre and draw round the base with a pencil.
- Fold along each of the drawn lines.
- Cut diagonally from the corner of the baking paper to the drawn corners of the base of the tin.
- Fold up the sides and overlap the corners so they form a box shape.
- Insert the baking paper ‘box’ snuggly into the tin.
- Trim any excess paper that overhangs or ‘gets in the way’.
Making the BEST Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake – Top Tips for success
Making Lemon Drizzle Cake is easy, as long as you follow the recipe and the instructions and don’t go ‘off piste’ (unless you know what you’re doing). The most common reason for a recipe not working ‘like the picture’ is because the instructions weren’t followed.
But whether you’re an experienced baker or novice, it’s always good to get some tips from the recipe’s creator. So here’s what you need to know to make a gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake that people will swoon over…
Tips for making Lemon Drizzle Cake sponge
- Line the whole tin! (I’ve covered the why and how above).
- Make sure ALL the ingredients have come fully to room temperature before adding to the cake batter.
- Massage the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon to release the lemon oil for the best flavour.
- Beat the butter and lemon sugar for several minutes until super-light, creamy and fluffy for the best rise (most people don’t beat for long enough).
- Fork beat the eggs to blend together in a small bowl before adding to the batter.
- Add the egg to the mix a little at a time and on a LOW whisk setting to reduce the risk of curdling. Low and slow!
- No matter how careful you are, the mix may still start to curdle as the last of the egg is added. If it starts to split, catch it quick… Add a spoonful of flour and very slowly beat through to encourage the moisture and fat to combine properly.
- Use a cake tester or cocktail stick to check when the cake is done. It should take about an hour… But all ovens are different, so test to be sure (see below).
Tips for cooling, drizzling and decorating
- When the cake is done, leave it in the tin for 10 minutes (while you prepare the drizzle). This ensures the sponge stabilizes and keeps the moisture in.
- Make sure the drizzle is ‘applied’ to the cake while the sponge is still warm.
- Pierce DEEP holes… LOTS of them. And brush the drizzle over the top little by little to give it time to soak in (without losing it all down the sides of the cake).
- If possible, use a ‘baking syringe’ to encourage the drizzle to absorb deep into the sponge via some of the holes. This will give the best moisture retention and the zingiest lemon flavour. (I have a tiny pet medicine syringe that I use only for baking).
- Use ALL the drizzle syrup… Patience is the key to ensuring that little by little it is absorbed.
- Cool the cake while its base is still on the bottom of the baking paper and rest a clean piece of baking paper on the top of the cake too (to keep the moisture from escaping, but without it ‘sweating’).
- For the best lemon hit, top with icing… It’s the perfect balance of sweetness with extra zing to take Lemon Drizzle Cake to the next level.
- Don’t add too much lemon to the icing sugar… It needs to be thick and just spreadable so that it drips (rather than pours) down the sides of the cake.
- Top the white icing with lemon zest for extra pizazz.
How will I know when my Lemon Drizzle Sponge is baked?
The gluten free lemon sponge takes about an hour to bake (for a large 2-pound loaf cake). For a 1-pound loaf it’s around the 40 to 45 minute mark. But regardless of instructions, it’s always important to keep an eye on ‘when it’s done’, as ovens vary. And you don’t want to over-bake it.
When it’s close to the finish time (and the cake looks well-risen and ‘set’), gently open the oven enough to give the top a touch (being careful not to get burned). If the sponge is feeling firm, use a cake skewer or cocktail stick to poke into the centre (quite deep). Assuming the skewer/stick comes out clean, the cake is done. If on the other hand, there is batter or lots of wet crumbs attached, then the cake needs to be baked a little longer. Give it another 3 to 5 minutes (dependent on how ‘wet’ the batter is) and then re-check.
Lemon Drizzle + Lemon Icing – The ultimate lemon hit
I’m pretty sure that some of you are thinking you don’t need drizzle AND icing. And yes… you could probably get away with just the drizzle and still have a fabulous cake. But my advice is don’t!
There is something about the zest-sprinkled lemon icing that not only looks gorgeous and centrefold delicious, but seriously takes our Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake to the realms of heaven. It’s the ultimate lemon hit. Although the icing is only made with a drop of lemon juice, the heavenly combination of sugar and sharp is addictively good.
And oh… The soft and silky contrasting melty texture of the icing against the sponge. It’s to die for!
How to store your Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake
Providing it’s not been over-baked, this Lemon Drizzle Cake will stay fresh and tender for 3 to 4 days (at least). Store in an airtight container at room temperature (not in the fridge).
It’s not a cake that I have tried freezing, but should you wish to do so, I would recommend it is frozen before topping with the white lemon icing. Icing doesn’t freeze well. Once defrosted, you can then ice it fresh.
Ready to make Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake?
The recipe for my exceptionally delicious gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake can be found just below… (Scroll down an extra inch or two to the recipe card). Do let me know what you think (or shout if you have any questions) with a comment at the bottom, or by contacting me on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest).
If you love lemon treats, we have lots more recipes to explore too…
- Lemon Amaretti Cookies
- No Churn Lemon Meringue Ice Cream – either dairy or vegan
- Lemon Tray Cake
- Gluten Free Blueberry Scones with Lemon
- Citrus Curd
- Zesty Lemon Meringue Roulade
- Lemon Blueberry Cake with Eton Mess Topping
- Gluten Free Lemon Panettone
- No Bake Lemon Tart with Dark Chocolate and Ginger
- Berry Trifle with Lemon
And for everything else, our Gluten Free Recipe Index is packed with ideas and recipes for your gluten free kitchen.
All shared with my love
Lemon Drizzle Cake
- microwave or hob and saucepan
- cake skewer
- flat knife/spatula
Gluten Free Lemon Sponge
- 190 g caster sugar
- 3 Lemons (finely grated zest)
- 65 ml milk (or dairy free alternative) preferably full fat (whole) milk or a higher fat dairy free option
- 1 tbsp lemon juice to make the buttermilk (15g)
- 170 g plain gluten free flour blend eg. Gluten Free Alchemist Blend A – See NOTES
- 50 g ground almonds
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- 2 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch fine sea salt
- 200 g unsalted butter (or dairy free block alternative) – softened
- 3 large eggs At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
Lemon Drizzle Syrup
- 110 g granulated sugar (or caster sugar)
- 70 g lemon juice
Lemon Icing and decoration
- 100 g icing sugar (confectioners/powdered sugar)
- 3 to 4 tsp lemon juice (approx 15 to 18 ml)
- zest of half a lemon to sprinkle
Gluten Free Lemon Sponge
- Completely line a 9×5 inch (2 pound/900 gram) non-stick loaf tin with baking paper. (Or two one-pound tins). This can be done by taking a sheet of baking paper; placing the tin centrally and drawing round the base; folding along the drawn lines; cutting diagonally to the drawn corner points; inserting neatly into the tin and trimming any excess paper that overhangs.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
- Weigh the caster sugar into a mixing bowl and add the finely grated zest of three lemons.
- Using the back of a mixing spoon, mix the zest evenly into the sugar, crushing it against the sides of the bowl to release the lemon oil.
- In a small bowl or jug, weigh/measure the milk and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes or so, to turn into buttermilk. (It will become clumpy). Make sure it has been brought to room temperature (or is gently warmed to 'tepid') before adding to the batter.
- Weigh and mix together the flour, ground almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
- Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl with the lemon-sugar and beat together using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
- In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork to combine.
- Add the egg (a drop at a time) to the creamed butter and gently beat between each addition until well blended. If the mix starts to look like it may curdle, add a spoon of the flour and slowly beat through.
- Add about a third of the buttermilk to the bowl with a third of the flour mix and gently fold through.
- Repeat the process with the next and final third of the remaining buttermilk and flour, folding each time until just combined. (Be careful not to over-mix).
- Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for approximately 55 minutes to an hour, until the cake feels 'set' and a skewer/toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, with a few crumbs attached.
- Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, while you make the drizzle syrup.
Lemon Drizzle Syrup
- Mix the sugar with the lemon juice in a heat proof (microwavable) bowl (or in a saucepan).
- Gently heat either in a microwave or on the hob until the sugar starts to dissolve. Remove from the heat, stir and set aside.
- Lift the cake out of the tin with the support of the baking paper lining and peel back the sides of the paper (leaving the cake still attached to the base of the paper lining).
- Pierce lots of deep holes all over the top of the cake using a skewer.
- Brush and drizzle the lemon syrup a little at a time across the top of the cake, allowing it to soak into the sponge. Try to encourage the drizzle into the holes, using a baking syringe or similar if you have one. It seems like a lot of drizzle, but use it all. If it is applied bit by bit, it will be willingly soaked up by the sponge.
- Set the cake aside to cool completely and then transfer to a serving plate.
Lemon Icing and Decoration
- When the cake is cool, weigh the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the lemon juice a drop at a time, stirring through until the icing sugar has dissolved into a thick paste. Only add enough lemon to make the icing just spreadable, or it will dribble off the cake.
- Use a flat knife or spatula to spread the icing across the top of the cake, encouraging just a little to the sides so that it dribbles over the edges.
- While the icing is still soft, finely grate a little lemon zest across the top.
- Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
Lemon Drizzle Cake shared with
- Fiesta Friday #480 with Angie
- Full Plate Thursday #639 with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
- What’s for Dinner #415 with The Lazy Gastronome
Christy Garrett says
I love how refreshing tasting a lemon cake is. I’ll have to make one. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Christie. It’s perfectly tangy and delicious. Enjoy! xx
Helen at the Lazy Gastronome says
I love anything lemon!! Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party – Hope your having a great week.
Thanks Helen. Me too! xx
elizabeth a fraccaro says
I am used to using almond flour, but not ground almonds. Do they need to be blanched before grinding?? thanks
I’m not sure where you live, but I think there is often some confusion about the various types of ground and ‘floured’ almonds, as they seem to be called different things around the world.
The ‘ground almonds’ I use in the UK are coarse-ground from almonds that have been blanched and skinned.
I hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything else.
elizabeth a fraccaro says
I am used to using almond flour but not ground almonds. Do these need to be blanched before grinding, or do you grind them with the skins on?? thanks!!
I do love a lemon drizzle cake and your gluten-free version looks lush. I’ve not tried rubbing lemon zest into sugar before, but am intrigued. Next time I make anything sweet with lemon I’m going to try it.
Thanks Choclette. Definitely try the ‘rub
in the zest’ method. Anything that releases the oils has to be a good thing! xx