Whole Lemon Thyme Cake {gluten-free}

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Whole Lemon Thyme Cake is the most vibrant dairy-free and gluten-free lemon cake you will have tasted. The sponge is made using four whole lemons, boiled and pureed for the most authentic tangy flavour. Floral notes of fresh thyme are a perfect match for this naturally flourless lemon cake.

Whole Lemon Cake from above with slices

Lemon cakes are not the easiest gluten-free cake to master. The acidity of the lemon can play havoc with gluten-free flours meaning your gluten-free lemon cake can easily turn out gummy. However, if you dial back the lemon then you miss out on vital flavour.

How can you balance the ideal texture and lemony taste?

This easy lemon cake skips right over this problem by being entirely flourless. This allows you to concentrate on adding as much zingy fresh lemons to your batter as you can possibly muster. Let me introduce you to my favourite way to make the perfect gluten-free lemon cake. I know once you’ve made it this way you will never concern yourself with lackluster lemon cake again.

close up of a cut slice of whole lemon cake

Flourless Lemon Cake

This recipe is a naturally gluten-free lemon cake as it boasts a completely flourless sponge. Instead we use:

  • Ground almonds
  • Cornmeal

The almonds which are high in protein make the sponge incredibly moist and the cornmeal gives the cake great structure. Although if to avoid a grainy texture use fine cornmeal.

Need more flourless cake recipes? Have a look at these 11 Best Flourless Bakes

Is cornmeal the same as polenta?

Yes and no. Cornmeal is actually the ingredient and polenta is the porridge like dish which originated from Northern Italy. However, sometimes you will confusingly find cornmeal labeled ‘polenta’ in the supermarket. It just means it’s the right kind of cornmeal for making polenta.

Can you use ready-made polenta for this cake?

Unfortunately not. Ready-made polenta has already been cooked so it will alter the texture of this cake. It is best to use fine cornmeal or quick cooking ‘polenta’ for this whole lemon cake.

Can I substitute almond meal or almond flour?

Yes! The substitutions will change the texture of the cake slightly but nothing to be too concerned about. The almond meal with give the cake a softly nubby sponge. The almond flour will give the cake a tighter crumb. All variations are delicious though.

For more info on the difference between almond flour, almond meal and ground almonds see my in depth guide to nut flours.

Whole Lemon Cake process shot

Lemony Lemon Cake

Are your lemon cakes lacking in real lemony flavour? In the past mine have run that risk even after zesting lemon after lemon. Then often the extra lemon juice will make the cake too wet. So instead I’ll turn to lemon extract for the extra flavour boost which just feels like a cheat.

So how do you get your lemon cake to taste like actual lemon?

The answer: The Whole Lemon Method. It works perfectly every single time.

Whole lemons are boiled for an hour until soft then blended into a puree. This thick puree is added to eggs, sugar and the flourless combo to create the perfect lemon cake consistency with the freshest lemon taste.

Whole Lemon Cake process images

All the eggs

This Whole Lemon Thyme Cake uses a whole lotta eggs. Six to be precise. But that’s what gives this lemon cake so much bounce and rise. Don’t worry about it tasting eggy though, instead the lemon flavour simply shines through.

Dairy-Free Lemon Cake

Those six eggs and the beautifully fragrant lemon puree mean that this cake requires absolutely no other fat. No dairy, no oil even. Yet it is still so exquisitely moist.

I need a little thyme

Have you tasted lemon cake made with thyme before? If you haven’t then you really must. The herby floral notes of thyme pair so well with the zinginess of the lemon. You need to use fresh thyme leaves here. If you can’t get hold of fresh thyme then just leave it out. Dried thyme isn’t a substitute.

Whole lemon cake batter in the tin ready for the oven

How to make Whole Lemon Thyme Cake

  1. Submerge 4 lemons in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Halve and remove the pips. Then puree the lemons in a blender until smooth.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until pale.
  4. Add the lemon puree.
  5. Sift the cornmeal, ground almonds, baking powder, fresh thyme and salt together.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat together until combined.
  7. Pour into a 9 inch loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  8. Make a honey glaze by melting 1 tbsp honey with 1 tbsp water then pour over the just baked cake. Leave to cool in the tin before removing.
  9. Mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar then drizzle over the cooled cake.

Baker’s Tips

  • For this cake I really wanted the lemon flavour to reign supreme so I deliberately chose shop bought ground almonds for this cake. These have a much more subtle almond flavour than if you were to grind them fresh in your own kitchen. The almonds here are for texture not for flavour.
  • If you are pressed for time on the day of baking then you can easily boil and puree the lemons ahead of time. They will keep happily in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Whole Lemon Cake image from above

Can you make this cake in a round tin?

Yes you can. Use an 8 inch round cake tin (4 inches deep) and the height of the cake will be perfect. Prepare and bake for the same amount of time as the loaf cake version (50 minutes).

Are you interested in some more citrus cakes? Have a look at these:

Blood Orange Rosemary Polenta Cake
Blueberry Basil Lemon Drizzle Loaf
Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins
Whole Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

If you make this Whole Lemon Thyme Cake then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

Whole Lemon Cake from above with slices

Whole Lemon Thyme Cake

Whole Lemon Thyme Cake is the most vibrant dairy-free and gluten-free lemon cake you will have tasted. Floral notes of fresh thyme are a perfect match for this naturally flourless lemon cake.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Cake
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Lemon Boiling Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 321kcal


  • 4 lemons 450g
  • 6 eggs medium
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 125 g fine cornmeal
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • ½ lemon juiced


  • Place the 4 lemons in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C /160°C fan/gas mark 4 and line and grease a 2lb loaf tin.
  • Remove the lemons from the saucepan. Cut in half to remove and discard the pips.
  • Place the lemons in a blender and blitz until smooth. Set aside for a moment.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl (or food mixeuntil pale and thick.
  • Mix in the pureed lemons.
  • Add the cornmeal, ground almonds, baking powder, thyme leaves and salt. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Pour the batter in the prepared loaf tin and bake for around 45-50 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and prepare a honey glaze.
  • Melting the honey with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Brush the glaze over the cake whilst it is still in its tin.
  • Let the cake cool in the cake tin before removing and drizzling with lemon icing.
  • Make the lemon icing by stirring together the icing sugar and the juice of ½ lemon until thick but still just pourable.


  • The lemons can be boiled and pureed up to 3 days before making the rest of the cake.
  • You can substitute almond meal or almond flour for the ground almonds, but this will affect the overall texture of the finished cake.
  • The cake will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container in a cool dark place.


Calories: 321kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 99mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 200IU | Vitamin C: 27.5mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 1.9mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @FromTheLarder or tag #FromTheLarder!


  1. Can honey be substituted for the sugar? If so, what amount?

    • Hi Beth, it’s not always straightforward to do a sugar swap for honey when baking cakes. Sugar doesn’t only provide sweetness but also assists the structure and texture of the cake. Since honey is in liquid form and the caster sugar is in a solid state the whole balance of the ingredients is off and you would need to jig things around a fair bit. I haven’t tested the recipe with honey so I can’t say what would happen if you used it instead. What I can say though is that you could use coconut sugar if that suits. It’s in a solid state, like refined sugar, so is a like for like swap.

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