This naturally gluten free Flourless Whole Meyer Lemon cake is made with the entire lemon, peel and all, in the Mediterranean tradition, it has a tender texture and an explosive lemon flavor.
I spent the day before we left clearing out the kitchen like I always do before a trip that’s going to be more than a couple of days long. I promised myself I wouldn’t cook anything so I could focus my attention on cleaning up, packing, getting the dog squared away with the pet sitter, and paying stray bills. That all went out the window when I saw I had four plump Meyer lemons sitting in the fruit bowl. You can’t throw Meyer lemons in the garbage. That’s a sacrilege.
My Flourless Whole Tangerine Cake was the inspiration here. Cakes made with whole citrus fruit are a Mediterranean specialty; they’re made with the whole fruit, peel and all. There is no wheat flour in this cake, just almond meal, so it has a fabulous moist dense texture and is naturally gluten free. In addition to the 3 whole lemons in the cake I added a touch of lemon extract and a super tangy lemon icing so this cake is really the essence of ‘lemony-ness’.
This flourless whole Meyer lemon cake is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a citrus fanatic like I am, I think you will love it. The fruit is boiled before pureeing, and that takes away any unpleasant bitterness in the peel. The combination of the whole pureed fruit and the almond meal makes for a very moist, but not soggy, cake.
Traditionally this kind of cake would be served plain, maybe with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but I went over the top with a puckery lemon icing. I originally added it because the surface of my cake was a little jagged and wasn’t very attractive for photographing, but I’m so glad I did, it makes the cake extra special. It’s the kind of cake you can serve to guests, or eat, sliver by sliver, all week long.
A note about flavor — I am a big fan of pure flavor extracts. I’m talking about pure natural extracts, not artificial flavorings. I think they add a nice boost in certain cases and in this case the lemon extract just enhances the citrus flavor of the cake. It’s handy to have a selection in your cupboard, especially as we go into the holiday and baking season. In addition to almond and vanilla I keep spearmint, peppermint, lemon, orange, rum, and coconut extracts around. I’m searching for maple extract, which is a little harder to find. There are lots of varieties available, ranging from pistachio to watermelon and cardamom. Just remember to say away from anything with the words ‘artificial’ or ‘imitation’ on the label. Olive Nation has a great selection if you’re interested.
If you love gluten free desserts, try some of my others, I love this Belgian Flourless Chocolate Cake, I’ve been making it for years, and it’s always a hit with guests. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flourless Coconut Cake is an unusual gluten free cake for coconut lovers.
Reader Rave ~
“I absolutely love LOVE love this recipe and made it many times. But today I tried something different. I made cupcakes. Worked perfectly. A muffin tin was used but I poured the batter into larger sized paper muffin cups. Wasn’t sure how much to put in each and guessed, filled about 2/3 up and got 11 (of the 12) filled. Perfect. Was able to peel the paper off without any issue and the resulting cupcakes were super moist and as good as the larger sized cake.” ~ Andrew
Flourless Whole Meyer Lemon Cake
- 3 or 4 large Meyer Lemons, approximately 12 oz, total to yield 1 cup of whole lemon puree
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups almond meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp lemon extract
for the lemon icing
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- Set oven to 325F
- Wash the lemons and put them in a pot. Cover them with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes.
- Drain the lemons and let them cool until you can handle them. Cut them open and remove the seeds, but keep everything else. Do this on a plate so you can retain all the juices. Once you have removed all the seeds, put everything into a food processor. Process until finely pureed. You may need to pulse the machine at first, and scrape down the sides as necessary to get everything smooth. This will only take a couple of minutes. You will need one cup of lemon puree for the cake.
- Beat the eggs and the sugar until pale in color. Add the lemon extract.
- Fold in the almond meal, baking powder, and lemon puree. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Turn the batter into a greased 9" springform pan. Smooth out the surface so it is even.
- Bake for about 50 -60 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then gently release the sides of the pan and remove the cake to finish cooling.
- Make the icing while the cake is cooling. Combine the sugar with the butter and lemon juice. Beat until smooth and creamy. Adjust the texture by adding more sugar or more lemon juice. If you prefer a less tangy icing, use less lemon juice and add a little milk or cream. Spread the icing on the completely cooled cake.
Questions and Reviews
Is there a difference between almond flour and almond meal? If so, what is it?
They’re similar, almond flour is just ground a little finer, and often from blanched almonds (without skins) ~ while meal is a little coarser, and sometimes contains almond skins. You can use either, but almond flour yields a finer texture.
There have been a lot of questions about whether or not coconut flour can be used. Yes, it can–but it cannot replace ALL the almond flour. You can replace 1 cup of almond flour with 1/2 cup of coconut flour plus 1 extra egg. Both texture and flavor were good!
You can also bake this in a 9″ round metal cake pan. Grease the pan, cut a strip of parchment as wide as the interior, and make sure it overlaps on either side. Then grease the parchment. Let the cake rest for the 10 min after baking, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and use the parchment overhang to carefully lift it out and place it on the rack for the rest of the cooling period.
One of your users mentioned using 1 cup applesauce plus the juice and zest of 2 regular lemons. I did exactly that (i had no Meyer lemons, sadly) and it worked great.
Finally, if you use Swerve, be aware that it’s not really a 1-for-1 substitute. You’ll need more like 1-1/3 cups of Swerve or the cake will be less sweet.
Great info Sue, thanks!
Could this be done in a regular 9″ round cake pan, Pyrex specifically? I don’t have a springform or tart pan with removable bottom.
The issue is that it’s a delicate cake. If you lined it with parchment on the bottom you might be able to remove it, but not sure. You could also just serve it in the pan. Be aware that glass tends to cook hotter than other types of pans so watch that when baking.
Can you use regular lemons instead of Meyer ? Thanks for your help
You can try, but regular lemons have thicker, more bitter rinds.
This has become one of my all time favorite recipes and I’ve made in a good 8-10 times. But my icing always looked less appealing than your photo’s for some reason. The lemon seemed to ‘separate’ a bit. Tasted amazing but didn’t look pretty. So I’ve come up with this slight modification and it still tastes great but now looks smooth and attractive. I think the big trick is the Cream Cheese which when mixed well with butter, prior to adding sugar makes a really smooth icing (or is it a frosting whatever the difference is). The zest gives it a great flavor and allows a slight reduction in lemon juice so it’s not too watery. :
NEW lemon icing
2 oz full-fat cream cheese, a little softer than room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, a little softer than room temperature
180 grams confectioners’ sugar, more if needed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
lemon juice from 1 med lemons, Add as necessary to keep thick correct consistency
1/4 teaspoon Pure lemon extract
In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add in the confectioners sugar. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon extract, and salt; beat until combined. Increase the speed back to medium and mix until creamy, about 2 minutes until very light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. If the frosting seems too thin, add a little more confectioners’ sugar, starting with one tablespoon at a time; if the frosting seems to thick, add in a little cream cheese, starting one tablespoon at a time.
Here’s a pic of the final product with the new pretty icing:
Just lovely, I’m going to try your frosting next time, thanks SO much for the detailed feedback!
I made this for a Passover Seder last night and everyone loved it! Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe!
Thanks for taking the time to come back and comment Michelle ~ have a wonderful Passover 🙂
Any reason I couldn’t double the recipe and make a layer cake with the lemon icing between layers?
This cake has a different kind of texture from a regular cake, Lynda, very dense and moist. I guess you could do it as a layer cake, it would just be very rich.
Can you substitute low carb sugar for regular sugar?
I think if you use the granulated form, in equal amounts, it should be fine.
I made the cake and it sunk in the center. Any thoughts?
It sounds like it wasn’t cooked long enough, Marlene. Ovens vary so much, and your batter could have been a little more liquid. Check your oven temperature with a thermometer to make sure it’s on point.
From Nika Hazelton’s Kitchen
Dessert Orange Cake
She says it is Sephardic and uses 6 eggs
I will try Meyer Lemon. Sounds great.