vegan lemon and elderflower buttercream layer cake

 reading time: 11 min

My fiancé's sister got married last weekend! Whoop-whoop!

In honour of this special day I whipped up a light, moist and wonderfully flavourful vegan lemon and elderflower layer cake topped with a decorative buttercream icing, using our leftover homemade elderflower cordial from last year.

This recipe is basically a strongly modified vegan version of the Lemon Elderflower Copycat Royal Wedding Cake by Liv for Cake which I've been wanting to veganize for a couple of years now, ever since I stumbled across it! My version consists of three layers of fluffy lemon cake with a hint elderflower, some creamy lemon curd and vegan cream "cheese" sandwiched between the cake layers, and a blossomy elderflower buttercream frosting all around – everything vegan of course and absolutely swoon-worthy, if I do say so myself.

While the most elaborate and difficult recipe on this blog to this day is certainly the vegan three tier wedding cake that my fiance and his sister made for my fiancé's cousin a few years ago, this one today is probably the most elegant and wedding-worthy cake that I have made so far! BTW: There are pictures of the cut cake down below.

It's a show stopper, and the flavours are citrusy sweet, and not overpowering like most cakes. It's light, creamy, airy – and of course, it's pretty to look at!

Since elderflowers weren't actually in season any more when I made this cake, and neither were meadowsweet flowers nor white lilacs which would've also looked great for decor, I used store-bought dahlias instead.

This layer cake is suitable for special occasions like milestone birthdays or even weddings (you could even turn this into an actual three tier wedding cake – see notes below). It would also be a wonderful recipe for the pagan Midsummer festival – aka the summer solstice aka Litha – which is celebrated around the 21st of June.

It might seem intimidating to assemble this kind of buttercream layer cake, but it's actually pretty straightforward – this was my first take on a cake like this after all!


adapted from Klara's Life, inspired by Liv for Cake

Preparation time: 2 hours 30 mins
Main ingredients: spelt flour, vegan butter, sugar, lemon, elderflower syrup
difficulty level: moderate-challenging
serves: 12 (26 cm- or 10-inch springform pan)
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, nut-free


450 g spelt flour, sieved (type 630)
2 1/4 heaped tsp cornstarch

2 1/4 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
generous pinch of salt (I use kala namak for that "eggy" taste)
150 g light sugar
180 ml neutral oil (grapeseed, sunflower, canola etc.)
450 ml soy milk (optionally vanilla flavoured)
2 1/4 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 1/4 tbsp elderflower cordial (I use my homemade elderflower cordial)

Cream "cheese" filling:
220 g vegan cream "cheese", room temperature
110 g vegan butter, room temperature
(I use the German brand Alsan bio)
335 g icing sugar
2 tbsp elderflower cordial

Lemon curd:
1 tbsp lemon zest from an organic lemon
200 ml lemon juice (about 4–5 lemons)
30 g cornstarch
170 ml soy milk
100 g light sugar
60 g vegan butter

generous pinch of turmeric (for yellow colour)

Buttercream icing: (recipe from The Icing Artist)

40 g vegan butter, room temperature

90 g vegetable shortening

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

tsp elderflower cordial (or as needed)
3 1/2 tsp water
(or as needed)
600 g icing sugar, sifted

pinch of salt

optional garnish:

dible white or pale yellow flowers (e. g. elderflowers, peonies, lilac, meadowsweet, roses, perennial phlox, dahlias, dianthus, chamomile, daisies ... more on that in the notes below *)


To make the lemon curd:

The day before you plan to assemble the cake, make sure to prepare the lemon curd because it needs to be cold and thickened before using. You can also do this a couple of days ahead, or even a week ahead.

Rinse one organic lemon under hot water, pat dry, then grate finely. Mix
cornflour with 5 tbsp of soy milk until lump-free. Add freshly squeezed 200 ml lemon juice.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining soy milk, sugar and vegan butter over low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the lemon / cornflour mix into the milk and butter mixture. Lastly, add a pinch of turmeric for a more intense yellow colour.

Bring the lemon curd to the boil and simmer gently over low heat for 4–5 minutes,
stirring occasionally, or until it has reached the desired consistency. The curd will thicken further as it cools.

Transfer the lemon curd into a clean preserving jar while it is still warm. Stored in an airtight container, the lemon curd will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F. Grease and flour a
26 cm- or 10-inch springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve together flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine oil, soy milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and elderflower cordial. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Give it a quick whisk until just combined and there are no big clumps in the batter. It’s okay if there are a few flour pockets remaining. Make sure not to overmix it!

Transfer to the prepared springform pan, and bake in the preheated oven at 180 °C / 350 °F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the cake gets too dark during baking, cover with baking paper or aluminium foil.

Remove the cake from the oven, and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling down, make the cream "cheese" filling.

To make the cream "cheese" filling:

To a medium-sized mixing bowl, add vegan cream "cheese" and vegan butter. Using a hand mixer, beat cream "cheese" and butter at high speed until fluffy and creamy.

Add icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat for about 30 seconds at low speed, then switch to high speed, and beat for about 2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of elderflower syrup, and give it another quick whisk.

Store in the refrigerator until needed.

To make the buttercream icing: 

When ready to frost the cakes, add vegan butter and shortening to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Cream with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 2 minutes. Add in salt, vanilla extract, and butter flavour. Mix until incorporated.

Add in 1/4 of the sifted icing sugar (about 75 g), and mix on low speed until combined then whipping on high speed for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of elderflower syrup or water at a time between additions of icing sugar until you get your desired consistency.

Chill in the fridge until needed.

To assemble the cake:

Using a serrated knife, level the completely cooled cake by trimming of the top. Cut the trimmed cake horizontally into three layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate or cake stand.

Use a spatula or butter knife to gently spread the bottom layer with half of the lemon curd as well as half of the cream "cheese" filling on top of that, leaving about a finger's width around the edge. (It will squash out a little when you sandwich the layers together.) Place the second cake layer on top, and spread another generous layer or lemon curd and cream "cheese" respectively.

Place the final cake layer on top by turning it upside down (so that the even side is up).

Frost the outside of the cake with the buttercream using an offset spatula or a butter knife. I went for a more stiff, structured texture. Rustic elegance, right?! (And also way easier to achieve than a perfectly smooth icing and sharp edges, haha!)

Decorate with fresh elderflowers or other food-safe flowers of your choosing. Lemon slices would also look great.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best eaten on the day it is assembled!

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

When serving your vegan lemon and elderflower buttercream layer cake to your friends and family,  waiting for their praise, don't tell them it's vegan before they try a slice, and I bet they won't believe it when you tell them!

This cake can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for about 3 days. Individual slices of cake can be frozen for up to a month.

- I used our own homemade elderflower cordial (it's sooo tasty, and really fun to make!) but you can also use store-bought.
- Of course, feel free to use store-bought vegan lemon curd instead.
- Don't skip the lemon curd – or the cream "cheese"! They are the stars of the show and bring this cake to life.
- Give the lemon curd a good stir before assembling your cake – it will be thick like jelly.
- If you happen to have some leftover lemon curd and cream "cheese" filling after assembling the cake, mix the two to make a delicious spread.
- Don't use margarine instead of vegan butter. It's softer and has a greasy flavour that I don't really like.
- Get your cake in the oven as soon as you’ve mixed the wet ingredients into the dry to get the best possible rise. And don't open the oven in-between!
To make this less heavy, you could either omit the buttercream frosting, or cut the recipe in half for a single layer cake.
- Use only a third or so of the buttercream to turn this into a naked cake. (BTW: For my own wedding I'm thinking to go for a naked cake where one of the flavours might be this exact filling! The other two tiers could be raspberry vanilla, and chocolate. With fresh berries and edible flowers on top ...)
- You can also easily turn this into a three tier wedding cake by doubling the recipe and using the other half to make the two smaller tiers.
- You could also make this cake with meadowsweet cordial instead of elderflower cordial, and use foraged meadowsweet on top of the cake as they are also edible (as are elderflowers, if you happen to have access to them).
- Let's talk about using real flowers on cake for a minute! What I did to put real flowers (white and yellow dahlias in my case) on this cake is to cut the flower stems to the desired height, wrap them in saran wrap first by twisting a small piece of saran wrap around the bottom end of the stem, and then wrap that in floral tape by pulling and pinching the tape as you do it. (The Icing Artist has a great instagram video on this method!) Stick the wrapped flower stem into the cake, and there you have it! This keeps all the moisture in the ends, thereby preventing the flowers from drying out, and it also prevents any pesticides to get into the cake!

A quick Guide on How to Decorate a Cake with Real Flowers
  • Only use edible flowers. To be on the safe side, make sure the flowers are grown specifically for consumption! After all, it's going on top of food. Great options are roses, pansies, violets, dahlias, mums, lilacs, lavender, cornflower, marigold, chamomile, daisies, nasturtium, hibiscus, orchids, Himalayan balsam, or begonias. Organic flowers are best. I bought mine at a local farmers market.
  • If possible, buy flowers the day you're  going to use them so they are at their freshest! If you are using them a few days after purchasing them, leave the flowers in the water for as long as you can before placing them on the cake, and make sure to change their water daily, so they won’t go wilted as fast. Some flowers will wilt faster than others. Roses usually keep pretty well for a few hours before starting to wilt, as do dahlias. They will also keep well stored in the refrigerator for a day or two if needed.
  • Gently wash and dry the flowers before using. 
  • Always use a piece of saran wrap, parchment or wax paper to avoid the flowers from directly touching the cake. Or stick pieces of plastic straws inside the cake to insert the flower in the hole of the straw without touching the cake or the filling inside.
  • Make sure the colours and flavours of the flowers match the cake. For example, hibiscus has a tart, berry flavour that would go great with a vanilla berry cake, while begonias have a citrusy flavour and would be perfect for this lemon and elderflower cake. Chive flowers are beautiful but you don't want your cake to taste or smell like onions! Nasturtium flowers taste peppery, but fortunately don't smell unpleasant and are therefore fitting for a cake (unless you eat them).
  • You can use edible flowers on cake either plain or candied. Violets and pansies look great candied.
  • Frost the cake ahead of time, but save the flowers for as close to when you're serving the cake as possible. Some flowers wilt quickly at room temperature. Keep your flowers refrigerated until you need them. (For reference: The pictures of the cut cake were taken about 24 hours after initially decorating the cake! As you can see there is bit of wilting and discolouration on the dahlias, but nothing too bad as the cake was refrigerated for most of the time.)