Here’s a rustic cake that doesn’t require any icing or frosting. I like to think of this lemon almond cake as a darkhorse in that it looks unassuming but is far lighter and flavorful than you’d think. What sets this cake apart is that it is gluten-free and calls for just a few ingredients — almond flour, sugar, eggs, and whole lemons.
In fact, the whole lemons are essential, pureeing them peel and all to extract every bit of flavor and essential oil from the citrus. The result is an incredibly fragrant almond cake flecked with lemon peel and bursting with flavor. It’s pleasantly bitter and reminds me of something you could find in the south of Italy.
At home, I make this cake all summer long and switch up the fruit and herbs with whatever looks best. I have an affinity for the combination of lemon, almond, and basil. Still, strawberries, peaches, thyme, and mint would work equally. Serve a big slice of this whole lemon almond cake in the morning with a coffee or a cold glass of limoncello after dinner.
When life gives you lemons…make a whole lemon almond cake.
Whenever possible, I use Meyer lemons in this almond cake. Meyer lemons are a little sweeter than regular lemons and have a beautifully unique fragrance about them. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemons will work just fine. Just be sure to use organic lemons as you’ll be using the whole fruit.
Also, avoid super-fine almond flour. Instead, use almond flour or almond meal. I find they yield the best texture for this gluten-free cake.
Flourless Whole Lemon Almond Cake
Lemon Almond Cake
- 2 whole organic lemons (preferably Meyer lemons)
- 2 Tbsp orange zest (finely grated)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 5 large eggs (yolks and whites separated)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups almond flour (NOT superfine)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- ¼ cup untoasted sliced almonds
- Confectioner's sugar (for dusting)
Macerated Blackberries with Mint
- 12 oz blackberries
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp limoncello
- 2 sprigs fresh basil leaves
- Wash and trim 2 lemons and then boil in a saucepan with enough water to cover until very soft and deflated, 1 hour. Discard the liquid and break open the lemons to remove the seeds. Pulse the whole lemons in a food processor until chunky like marmalade. Add 2 Tbsp orange zest, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 Tbsp honey and pulse until combined.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Line a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with a piece of wet crumpled-up parchment paper. This helps line the pan and prevents the cake from burning.
- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip 5 egg whites on high with a pinch of salt until stiff. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. In the same stand mixing bowl, beat 5 egg yolks and 1 cup [200 g] sugar on high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Fold in 3 cups [300 g] almond flour and 1 tsp baking powder using a rubber spatula. Add the lemon puree and continue to fold until completely combined.
- Fold ⅓ of the whipped egg whites into the almond mixture using a rubber spatula to loosen the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold scraping the bottom and sides until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with ¼ cup [30 g] sliced almonds.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Watch the cake in the last 10 minutes as it can brown quickly. Cover the top with foil if it begins to burn. Allow the cake to cool fully in the pan before unmolding.
- While the cake cools, make the macerated blackberries. Add 12 oz [340 g] blackberries to a medium-sized bowl with 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp limoncello and then toss to coat. Set aside until ready to serve the cake. Just before serving, fold in 1 to 2 sprigs of finely chopped basil leaves.
- Dust lightly with confectioner's sugar and serve with the macerated blackberries. The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
- The day before: Boil and process the lemons and make the macerated blackberries. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
- The day of: Bake the cake and store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.