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
My cake is in the oven right now, I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Using whole citrus is intriguing and I love the taste of Meyer lemons, so different than regular lemons. And I’m so jealous of all of you with Meyer lemon trees – wow!
I subbed Swerve (erithritol) and stevia (20 drops) for the sugar, and same for the frosting only the powdered version. When you use erithritol, which is less sweet than sugar, you should always add stevia or another sweetener to make up the difference. Combining sweeteners also negates some of the stranger aspects of the individual sweeteners, like the coolness of erithritol or the bitterness of stevia.
Also, I used 4 lemons and had some puree left over. I’m going to make coconut lemon popsicles with it using coconut milk. Yum!
I am all ready to make this yummy sounding cake, but I am doing it for 140 people. do you think I can do it in large rectangular pans? Would it effect the cooking time?
Honestly I’m not sure, Sheri. I think if you are making this cake for a large group of people your best bet is to make several cakes instead of trying to enlarge the recipe.
This cake sound delicious and an excellent use for the lemons on my tree. Would it be possible to bake it and then freeze it? If so, what is the best way to defrost it. Thank you.
I think it should freeze well, Deb. I would take it out, loosely cover it, and let it defrost on the counter.
Thank you. I am going to try it this week.
Oh, and I wouldn’t frost it before freezing, better do that at the last minute…
Would it be possible to use coconut flour? I read that almond meal isn’t very good for you–it slows down your metabolism and encourages inflammatory responses in the body!! If not, I’ll make it anyway 😛 I LOVE dense cakes!
Honestly I don’t know about using coconut flour, I know it’s extremely absorbent, so you may not need as much flour, and you may need to add more liquid. Sorry I can’t be more certain, I just don’t have a lot of experience with cakes and coconut flour, but please let me know if you do try it!
Baked the cake, spread a layer of lemon curd on it and then topped it with meringue. Came out fantastic. A lemon meringue cake.
Wow — I might have to try that and blog about it 🙂
It’s in the oven and I’m very excited! I was a bit confused on the lemons as I wasn’t sure if you meant 3 (12 ounces each) lemons or 3 lemons =12 ounces total. I happen to have very huge Meyer lemons on our tree each weighing 12 ounces or more and one was perfect. Just thought I’d throw this out there for the next person who may wonder as well. I’m also excited that this cake is gluten-free, dairy free, chicken egg free (I used duck eggs) as well as sugar-free. I used xylitol (made from hardwoods) and I put some in the blender with arrowroot powder to make powdered sugar. Thanks for sharing a great recipe!
I clarified it in the recipe, Cindy, thanks, it’s 12 oz total. I’d love to see your massive Meyer lemons, what a fabulous tree you must have! I hope the recipe turns out for you with your adjustments, let us know.
I love this cake but it has a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I used Erithritol in the cake which is only 70% as sweet as sugar so maybe that’s the reason. Or perhaps the rind of our big Meyer lemons is more bitter than the normal sized ones. I don’t know but it’s delicious nonetheless.
It’s been a while since I’ve made the cake, but I do remember that the flavor of whole citrus cakes is a little bit bitter, however that is supposed to be part of their charm. Substitutions can be tricky, so that could have had something to do with it. Meyers should be the least bitter of all, though, but I’ve never encountered ones as big as yours sound!
I made your cake. OMG. It’s SOOO good!!
Many thanks for putting it on Pinterest where I could find it. I’ll be doing that again one day!!
Thanks for letting me know, Amy, I appreciate it!
Amy, why does yours look “grainy” or beige in color and Sue’s looks dense, moist and a pure lemon color? Based on looks alone they look like different cakes. Not trying to insult just wondering what the difference might be.
I guess I should have explained that in the post. I just came back to read the recipe and found your comment, so I thought I should respond.
It’s simply the different almond flour I used. Most almond flour is made from skinned almonds, giving it the beige color, and Sue’s cake looks like a regular flour cake.
I don’t know where you are in the world, but if you’re near a Trader Joe’s, next time you go in, look for their almond flour, which is about $5 a bag (last time I bought some) versus $9 to $15 a bag, depending on where you buy it.
In Trader Joe’s almond flour, the almonds are ground as is, including the little brown skin on them. Less labor, less expensive. It’s still almond flour, but with the “whole grain” look to it. Since I’m also what you’d call “frugal,” I stock up on it when I go to Trader Joe’s. I haven’t noticed any difference in taste, only in appearance. That’s all it is.
I never thought you were being insulting, just curious. 🙂
The cake sounds delicious, however in my country we only have “green lemons” (I guess it is what you call limes. Do you think it will work with limes? Thanks!
I haven’t tried it with limes, Daniela, and I think that since limes are not only less juicy, but more bitter than lemons, you might not get a good result. I’m always up for a challenge though, so I support you if you want to give it a go — and report back, for sure!
Thanks for your response! I will try it this week and let you know if it is a winner!
Did you try this delicious looking cake with limes? I too was wondering if limes would work but, scared to try lol. What did you discover?
I haven’t tried it with limes, and I wonder if they might be too bitter, Kaz.
Anyone tried limes yet? I made the puree and added extra lime juice because it definitely came out drier than the lemon or tangerine puree. I’ll let you know how it comes out! I’m thinking I will add more sugar to balance the bitterness.
Just wondering if you have tried a sweetner other than confectioners sugar (we stay away from refined) for the glaze? I’ll use coconut sugar for the cake, but it doesn’t work real well in a glaze even if I whirl it in my food processor to be ‘powdered’. Perhaps honey & lemon?
Hmmm, not sure Kristi. As I recall the cake itself is not overly sweet, so to me the sweet lemony glaze was a big part of the experience. You could certainly try honey, it would just be a very different type of cake. let me know how it turns out!
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