This moist and delicious vegan lemon cake with whipped coconut cream frosting is decorated with edible lilac flowers and is perfect for spring!
Old-fashioned deliciously fragrant lilacs are one of my favorite spring flowers that just happen to be edible. Fresh lilacs don't have a strong flavor, but their beauty makes up for that. They can go with almost everything from sweets to salads without overpowering the dish. I love using them in my recipes each year like my lilac syrup and lilac gin fizz recipes, and they are perfect for decorating cakes when they are in season.
I couldn't resist decorating this simple vegan lemon olive cake with freshly picked lilac blossoms. Fresh lemon zest and lemon juice bring out the bright lemon flavor of this simple recipe. I also threw some into the batter, like confetti, although their pretty purple color faded when baked. This is a mini 4-inch cake, but it's layered so basically, it serves the same as one 8" cake. If you want to make a full two-layer cake just double the recipe.
Looking for more ways to bake with lilacs? Try my vegan lilac strawberry shortcake or my lilac raspberry scones this spring. Or substitute violets with lilacs in my wild violet sugar recipe to make lilac sugar.
for the cake:
- white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose flour may be used instead)
- baking powder
- baking soda
- kosher salt
- whole cane sugar or granulated sugar
- extra virgin olive oil
- non-dairy unsweetened yogurt
- lemon zest
- lemon juice
- pure vanilla extract
for the frosting:
- canned coconut cream
- confectioner's sugar
- optional: lemon zest
- fresh lilac flowers for decoration
Prepare the Cake:
First, preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C and grease and flour 3 mini 4-inch spring-form cake pans or one 8-inch cake pan.
Sift the dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl and set aside Whisk together the wet ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until they are evenly combined. Fold in a handful of fresh lilac flowers if you wish.
Divide the cake batter evenly between cake pans. Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. If making an 8" cake bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes then remove them from the pans and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
Prepare the Frosting:
The night before refrigerate a can of coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk to separate the cream from the water. Scoop out the solid coconut cream with a spoon when you are ready to decorate the cake.
Whip the chilled coconut cream, powdered sugar, and lemon zest into soft peaks until the sugar dissolves.
Decorate the Cake:
Spread the whipped coconut cream between each layer of cake and on the top, placing lilac flowers on top of the cream between each layer.
For a "naked" cake look spread a thin layer of the cream around the sides of the cake, creating a crumb coat.
Arrange fresh lilac flowers on the top of the cake and around the base.
Hint: Watch the video below for the step-by-step process of making this cake recipe.
- Edible Flowers - replace lilacs with other spring edible flowers such as violets, pansies, violas.
- Flours - all-purpose flour may be used in place of white whole wheat flour
- Sweeteners - use whole cane sugar, panela, or maple sugar to keep the cake refined sugar-free, or use granulated sugar
- Gluten-free - use a 1-to-1 gf flour such as Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to make this gluten free
- Lemon Flavor - optionally add ½ teaspoon of lemon extract for even more lemon flavor
This easy cake recipe does not require any special equipment. You'll need a large bowl and whisk to mix the batter. Use a mesh strainer to sift the dry ingredients and a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing bowl.
A small offset spatula is helpful to spread the coconut cream frosting.
Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eat within 3 days.
The baked and unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in freezer-safe bags and then frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw the cakes in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.
Lilac Cake Questions:
Are all lilacs edible?
Yes, the flowers of the species Lilac or Syringa spp. (the common species is vulgaris) are edible.
Where do I find lilacs?
Lilacs were originally brought to North America by European immigrants and can now be found growing wild in abandoned lots and old gardens. If you don't have a lilac bush growing in your own yard you can forage for them in said abandoned areas or if you see them in a neighbor's yard it never hurts to ask if you can clip a small bouquet. If you do the latter it is nice to offer payment to the owners. Remember that when you clip off lilacs you are pruning them so only take a few stems from each plant. Be mindful of where you are foraging that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides or is in the path of water runoff from roadways.
When do lilacs bloom?
Lilac season begins in May and lasts through mid-June here in the Northeast US.
Can I use lavender instead of lilacs?
If you'd like to make a lavender lemon cake instead use fresh lavender flowers to decorate the cake. Lavender has a very strong flavor so use fresh or dried culinary lavender sparingly if adding it to recipes.
Vegan Lilac Lemon Cake
- 140 g 1 cup flour white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 100 g ½ cup whole cane sugar
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup non-dairy unsweetened yogurt
- zest of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Coconut Cream Frosting
- ½ cup cold separated canned coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- optional: finely grated zest from 1 lemon
- 2 loosely packed cups of lilac flowers removed from stems
Prepare the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Grease and flour 3 mini (4") spring-form cake pans or one 8-inch cake pan.
- Sift dry ingredients together into a bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together in a measuring cup. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until combined. Fold in a handful of fresh lilac flowers if you wish.
- Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. If making an 8" cake bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes then remove them from the pans and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
Prepare the Frosting:
- Whip coconut cream and sugar (and lemon zest if adding) into soft peaks.
- Spread whipped coconut cream between each layer of cake and on the top, placing lilac flowers on top of the frosting between each layer.
- For a "naked" cake look spread a thin layer of the cream around the sides of the cake, creating a crumb coat.
- Arrange fresh lilac flowers on the top of the cake and around the base.
For more ways to use edible flowers check out these recipes:
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