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
I hate to be dumb but if I read correctly besides the seeds – you put the whole lemon, rind and all in the food processor. Not just the pulp?
thank you for asking! i was wondering the same thing!
I guess I need to be more clear in the recipe Marietta but yes, the whole lemon goes in, except the seeds.
It was amazing!!!!
DH loved it too! Perfect for Passover. Changes made: regular lemons because no Meyer lemons and used kosher for Passover powdered sugar
Thank you!!!! Will be making again.
I made this, and unfortunately neither the flavor or the texture was appealing, and I tossed it. Perhaps using a smaller processor bowl would have helped get the puree finer, but even after scraping down, and processing several times, mine still had tiny bits of unpleasant peel, which combined with almond meal texture, was not pleasant.
I used lovely Meyers from the Lemon Ladies, but I didn’t find the flavor of the cake to be very vibrant. Normally I love a less sweet dessert, but this one, unfortunately, just did not work for me.
Any thoughts on trying this with ruby red grape fruits?
Unfortunately I don’t think it would work Pj because grapefruit peel is so bitter, and much thicker too.
Thanks for your quick reply! I’ll get some meyer lemons today & try it.
Thank you for this recipe. Everyone loved the cake. I did not use Meyer lemons. Just some organic ones I wanted to use up. Turned out great. Can hardly wait to get ahold of some Meyers and try again.
How many lemons did you use?
I used 3 or 4 large Meyer lemons, Nancy, and that is to make 1 cup of puree for the recipe.
Your tangerine cake recipe specifies boiling the tangerines twice, while this lemon cake recipe specifies boiling the lemons once? Should the Meyer lemons be boiled twice to reduce bitterness (as with the tangerines)?
There are various methods for making cakes like this Laura, and I experimented with a few. Meyer lemons aren’t particularly bitter, so the single boiling is good.
I don’t normally leave negative reviews because I know how difficult it is to develop recipes. Unfortunately, this cake was very bitter. I followed the recipe exactly. I was making this cake for a gathering, so I tasted the batter before baking. It was very bitter so I ended up adding more sugar in hopes that the bitterness would lessen once baked. It did not.
I suggest doing what a previous commenter did by substituting applesauce, lemon juice, and lemon zest for the whole lemon puree.
Did you use Meyer lemons Megan, because that makes all the difference…the skins aren’t nearly as bitter as regular lemons. I do think that the bitterness in this cake should be pleasant, and regular lemons just don’t work. That said, maybe the substitutions will work for people who really don’t like bitter tastes at all. Thanks for the feedback!
I had the same experience. Used Meyers and it is bitter. Am the only one willing to eat it.
I live in FL and we have a tree we bought with a tag that says Meyer. However, these lemons have thick skins and my first try at this cake was a fail as well. Apparently there is more than one variety of Meyer lemon and now I only make it when I can find the thin skin Meyer lemons. I also order them from an organic lemon farm in CA. They come via the postal service and I use them for lemonade and this cake! They are usually smaller than thick skinned lemons and they have a distinctive sweeter smell.
I agree. I thought this would be a nice treat for my gluten free coworkers and I’m really disappointed. I followed the recipe and used Meyer lemons, but it’s not very pleasant. The look of the cake is somewhat rustic and lovely though. Perhaps I will try the applesauce too!
I love this recipe! I’ve never tried boiling the whole lemon and pureeing before, but it worked perfectly. It really adds that intense lemon flavor. I made this in a heavy stoneware large pie dish greased with coconut oil, and it worked well. I have a bunch of Meyer lemons left. I am going to try boiling, pureeing and freezing to use in future recipes. I hope it works!
Hello there. First, thanks for your recipe.
I want to do this cake for my wife, for her birthday, tomorrow… 😀 I’m late. It’s normal, because, she will have a surprise with friends on Saturday.
I don’t have lemon extract, i just essential oil of lemon. Can i use it? If yes, in the same proportions?
Well, i thank you.
Also, i can’t get Meyer Lemons. What can i do? I have regular lemons and bergamot orange. 🙂
If i use normal lemons, what Meyer Lemons were large, what weight of normal lemons should i use? What is the weight of a lemon?
Thank you again.
I love this cake! I used this as a base for a christmas safron cake and it’s just perfect. I’m making it for the second time right now, but a vegan version with flax eggs (last time I made it with regular eggs) I hope it turns out well! I highly recomend you to try add 0,5 or 1 g of safron to this recipe instead of the lemon extract, it is the best cake i ever made!
Well it turned out great. Straight substitute one cup of applesauce plus juice and zest of two lemons for the cooked lemons. The batter was slightly thinner and the texture was slightly lighter, but otherwise very comparable without the bitterness.