Grain-free Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I've had quite a few things to celebrate this week (ahem.. including my birthday) and I needed something fun to top off the celebrations! Thanks to all your ideas in response to my instagram post, I took up your challenge to make a GAPS friendly Lemon Poppy Seed cake--and I'm so glad I did! It is absolutely perfect and I'm really happy about how it turned out. I've made my fair share of grain-free cakes that are dense, dry, and chalky, but this most definitely isn't one of them. I think I've officially dubbed it my official GAPS diet birthday cake.

Tips for grain-free baking

Cooking without either wheat flour or starch flours can be tricky. Substitution flours don't behave the same way, and certain flours--especially coconut--tend to dry up a recipe and give it that chalky texture I mentioned before. It's that same texture that makes eating grain-free cookies feel like you're trying to swallow a golf ball.

For most of my recipes, I still use a combination of almond flour and coconut flour (this time I used Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour and it turned out great) but to help it stay moist and fluffy, you have to make sure to get the right ratio of flours to liquids. Especially when using coconut flour. Just a couple teaspoons more or less of coconut flour can really change a recipe, and so I recommend sifting the flour and then always scooping into a separate measuring cup. Might seem like a little extra work, but totally worth it if you are baking with nut flours.

The brand of coconut flour you use will also sometimes change the consistency of grain-free baked goods. I tested out Arrowhead Mills Organic Coconut Flour for this recipe because they had it at Sprouts and I wanted to see how it compared to other brands of coconut flour I used. I often scour reviews to make sure a coconut flour is good before I use it, but I was out at home and needed something that day. Honestly, I'm really glad I got it. It really worked great and seriously, this cake hasn't a hint of coconut flour chalkiness.

If you try using a different brand in this recipe, I would love to know what you think! I often use Anthony's Coconut flour because it's a great deal on Amazon and it also works well in recipes. So that's another good one to go with if you are shopping online!

gaps diet birthday cake

keeping grain-free baking light and fluffy

Besides measuring the flours right, adding the right kinds of liquids is important. Lots of people use almond milk or coconut milk, and while these are fine substitutes if you absolutely can't tolerate dairy (even cultured ones), they often leave a recipe lacking.

The trick to keep grain-free cooking light is to add liquids that are acidic in order to help activate the baking soda (baking powder is full of gross nasty ingredients that we really should avoid). Apple cider vinegar and cultured dairy are both acidic liquids that help to raise batter and keep it moist.

For this lemon poppy seed cake, I used homemade cultured cream. It's suuuuper easy to make and pretty much completely lactose-free. The process of fermentation also produces lactic acid, which helps grain-free baking projects rise well and stay fluffy!

If you aren't consistently culturing your own dairy products--well, first, I'd say start right away!! But if you absolutely can't, you can use good quality, grass-fed yogurt in this recipe. It won't have the same nutrient content as homemade cultured cream, but it should have the same consistency.

gaps diet cake substitutions

On the GAPS diet, honey is one of the only sweeteners allowed, but if you aren't on the GAPS diet, maple syrup actually works wonderfully in this recipe! Just make sure it's as little processed as possible.

This frosting turned out well as a glaze that hardens up a little bit when it cools, but to some it doesn't have a very strong flavor. I actually kind of like it that way because it adds texture but lets the cake stake the claim on flavor. But if you do want something that has a little more zing to it, try adding a little bit of lemon zest! I haven't actually tried it so if you do let me know how it goes!

Okay, enough chit-chat. Let's get to the recipe.

gaps diet lemon cake gaps diet birthday cake grain free birthday cake


Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Author: Amy MoffatPrep time:10 minCook time:25-30 minsServings:8-10

For the lemon cake:

3 cups sifted almond flour (for this recipe I tried using Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour and it worked great!)
1/2 c sifted coconut flour (see notes above about brands of coconut flour)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
5 eggs at room temperature
1/2 c maple syrup (or honey if on GAPS)
4 Tbsp organic, grass-fed butter
1/4 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
zest of two lemons
1/4 c homemade cultured cream (or high quality yogurt--see notes in post)
2 Tbsp Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp poppy seeds

For the glaze and filling:

1/2 c coconut oil, softened (not melted)
1 tsp coconut flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp maple syrup (or honey if on GAPS)
5-6 tsp coconut water


Preheat your oven to 375.
Line two 8" circular pans with parchment paper and lightly coat the sides with coconut oil.
In a large bowl combine the sifted almond flour, sifted coconut flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine butter and maple syrup and beat with a hand mixer until combined.
Add the eggs, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, lemon zest, and cultured cream.
Beat until combined.
Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat until just combined.
Gently stir in the poppy seeds.
Scoop half the batter into one pan and half into the other.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then gently flip and coax out of the pan onto the racks.
Let the cakes cool completely.

Meanwhile make the frosting.
Place the coconut oil in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer until slightly whipped.
Add the coconut flour, vanilla, honey, and coconut water and beat until combined.
When cakes are cool, spread half the glaze onto the top of one cake. Carefully layer the other cake on top, then top with the rest of the glaze.
Serve at room temperature.
You can prepare this cake the day before and refrigerate it--just let it sit out for 30 minutes before serving.

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