Recipe: Sticky Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Perk up a gloomy afternoon by baking this easy gluten-free lemon cake. The best part of this rustic cake comes at the end, when it’s doused with a fresh lemon syrup so that every bite is moist and bright with happy lemon flavor.

There’s no need to make a gluten-free flour blend with hard-to-find ingredients, though — just grab some almond flour and polenta, along with a few other baking staples and a big hit of lemon zest, and this weeknight-friendly treat is practically, well, a cakewalk!

Warm cake and warm syrup are the two things that make this lemony cake so moist and delicious. Make sure you poke plenty of holes in the cake so that the syrup gets a chance to soak into every single bite of cake as it cools. I know it’ll be hard to be patient, but wait until the cake cools completely so that all the flavors really get a chance to meld and you’ll be rewarded.

This cake is baked in a springform pan for easy removal for slicing (once the syrup goes on, it’s hard to remove from the pan in one piece). You can certainly make it in a regular cake pan, but it will probably be best to cut and serve it right out of the pan.

Sticky Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

  • For the cake:
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • Finely grated zest of 2 medium lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the syrup and serving:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Make the cake:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Coat the paper and sides of the pan with butter; set aside.

Place the almond flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until lightened in color, about 3 minutes.

With the mixer on medium speed, add 1/3 of the almond flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in 1 egg until incorporated. Continue beating in and alternating the remaining almond flour mixture and eggs in 2 more additions. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Transfer the batter to the pan and spread into an even layer.

Bake until the edges of the cake have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 40 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and make the syrup.

Make the syrup:

Place the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the powdered sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is warm. Remove from the heat.

Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake, spacing the holes about 1-inch apart. Slowly drizzle the warm syrup evenly over the cake. Let the cake cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan, cut into wedges, and serve with whipped cream if desired.