Lemon Cream Cake (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


As the first order of business today, I would like to officially open this blog to reader-requested recipes. My first two experiences have been extremely favourable and I love taking on new challenges. If you have a beloved high-carb recipe that you want to see made over into a low carb treat, let me know and I will give it my best shot. Now, I do have to impose the caveat that the requests be reasonable. Although I believe I have gotten very good at this, I can’t perform miracles. So don’t ask me to suddenly make apples or bananas low carb so you can munch on them whenever you wish. And although I’ve made some lovely cookies, I haven’t yet managed a low carb, gluten free cookie that has both the chewiness and crispiness that can be achieved with sugar and flour. If I ever do manage that one, I won’t be telling you about it…I will be too busy marketing it and making myself a few cool million.

So, this lovely creation was at the request of Diane, who posted it as a comment to my Cashew Turtle Ice Cream Pie. I need to thank Diane for this because without her, this cake would have escaped my notice entirely. It seems to be a well-loved cake from the Olive Garden that they no longer make. At least, a Google search indicates that it is no longer on their menu. I haven’t been to The Olive Garden since I was a teenager and I don’t even know where there is one in my area. But even if I was a regular attendee, this cake may never have been on my radar. I was always the sort to go in for the gooey, chocolate brownie topped with ice cream or the death-by-chocolate cake. Lemon cake? Sure, it’s pretty and all, and it might taste good in a pinch, but why bother having dessert if you aren’t going to have chocolate?

At least, that used to be my motto. But the original Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake appears to have something of a cult following. There are quite a few copy-cat recipes and everyone seems to get pretty excited about them. Diane linked me to a recipe from Eat Cake For Dinner (a most excellent blog name, I must say!) that I used as my base to create this low carb version. A quick glance told me that it was a perfect candidate for a low carb makeover. Two layers of white cake filled with a cream cheese-based lemon cream – as long as I could get the cake part right, the rest would fall into place pretty easily.

Now, I do have to confess that I wimped out a little in the end. I didn’t cheat or take any weird shortcuts, but I scaled back the whole size of the cake. It was only after I baked two full cake layers that I realized just how big the cake was going to be. We were having company, but they were from out of town and couldn’t take any leftovers with them, and I found the sheer size of the cake a little overwhelming. I didn’t want to be eating lemon cake for days on end, mostly because I have too many other recipes I want to make! Several other copy-cat recipes showed somewhat smaller versions, so I ended up freezing one whole cake layer, and simply cutting the other one in half, horizontally. I scaled back the cream center to about 3/4 of the original recipe as well. And like the author of Eat Cake For Dinner, I found the raw crumb topping a little disconcerting. She ended up baking hers into the top layer of her cake. I just cut back on the amount I made and sprinkled it across the top. I did take the liberty of adding lemon zest to the cream filling, instead of just lemon juice, as I find that it’s the zest that really brings out the lemony flavour.

The Results: Do keep in mind that I have never tasted the original but this got rave reviews from everybody. The lemon cream filling was heavenly. It was light in texture but rich in flavour, with the lemon coming through perfectly. And I was very pleased with my almond flour white cake. Moist and with a relatively fine crumb, which is not an easy feat in low carb and gluten free baking. The crumb topping, although pretty, doesn’t necessarily add much to the flavour of the final product. I daresay this was a success, but I do hope Diane will do me the favour of making it herself and letting me know what she thinks.

If you really were a fan of the original Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake and you wanted to make yours a little larger than I did mine, I wouldn’t go wild and double the recipe. I really think you would end up with simply too much cake. My thoughts on proportions are as follows: increase the actual cake part by fifty percent and bake them in two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Increase the filling by twenty-five percent to get about the same amount in the original copy-cat recipe. The crumb topping is up to you.

Lemon Cream Cake (copy-cat recipe of Olive Garden’s Lemon Cream Cake)

2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1/4 cup whey protein powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz greek yogurt
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 drops stevia extract
1/4 cup almond milk

Lemon Cream Filling:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered erythritol
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
8 drops stevia extract
3/4 cup whipping cream

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup almond flour
3 tbsp powdered erythritol
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, erythritol, xanthan gum, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt, breaking up any clumps with the back of a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat yogurt and butter together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and stevia and beat until just combined. Add half of almond flour mixture and beat until combined, then beat in almond milk. Beat in remaining flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes and then flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When cake is completely cool, cut in half horizontally with a serrated knife.

For the cream filling, beat cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in erythritol, lemon zest, lemon juice and stevia extract until combined. In another bowl beat cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until combined.

Spread all but 1/2 a cup of filling onto one half of cake, then gently top with the other half of the cake. Spread remaining filling over the top of assembled cake.

For the crumb mixture, combine almond flour, powdered erythritol and vanilla in a small bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the cake and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serves 10. Each serving has 7.7 g of carbs (not including erythritol*) and 2.7g of fiber. NET CARBS = 5 g per slice.

*Please note that I have decided to no longer factor erythritol into my carb counts as I have test it on myself time and time again and it has absolutely no effect on my blood sugar.

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    • JeanneC says

      Without a doubt, this was the most disappointing gluten free recipe I have tried.
      Cake was much,much more like a bad shortcake.
      I would give it only one out of five stars.
      I wish you better luck than I had with this recipe.

      • Carolyn says

        Hmmm. Since it turned out so well for everyone else, myself included, I have to conclude that there was a problem with your ingredients or your measurements.

  1. Cassie @ Bake Your Day says

    This is beautiful, I love the Greek yogurt and protein powder additions! I have never had the lemon cake at Olive Garden but judging by the looks and sounds of this one, I would love it!

  2. Emily @ Life on Food says

    I have never heard of this cake at Olive Garden either. I also tend to go with the chocolate desserts. This is beautiful though.

  3. Jennifer says

    Sounds lovely, Carolyn, and it was amazing that you could freeze one half.

    You made me smile. You remind me so much of myself. I was the same – wild about chocolate anything. It gave me up in the end. I get horrible migraines these days and have for years from chocolate, unless it is a true milk chocolate (hardly chocolate), in which case I might get away with it.

  4. Pretend Chef says

    I'm not familiar with this cake from Olive Garden. Then again I never get around to the dessert menus when I go out to eat since I NEVER finish my dinner or have room for dessert. This cake is beautiful. Great job recreating this into a low carb version. Love that you are ready to take on some new challenges.

  5. Eating Deliciously says

    I am a big fan of the Olive Garden lemon cream cake. This looks even more delicious and gluten free too.

  6. Jill @ Dulce Dough says

    What a beautiful cake! I am amazed at your ability to transform recipes into low carb and gf creations!

  7. K says

    I am definitely going to try this – You are a Goddess – thank you Carolyn!!! ps – I am still in Clafoutis heaven and there was a sale on raspberries -soo – this cake might have to wait until the raspberries are gone – or maybe a raspberry filling?????

  8. Kelly says

    This looks simply divine! I love lemon desserts and your lemon mousse has been a big hit around here.

    Something I have longed for to be gluten free and low carb is tortilla wraps. I have yet to find one that is great.

    If you choose to accept this challenge, I would be forever grateful…lol!

    I do have to say you have become my favorite blog for recipes.I anxiously await your posts daily!!

  9. kitchenarian says

    I love lemon desserts and this looks so light and fluffy and delicious! I've never had the original version either, but I would definitely go for this cake.

  10. Susan says

    This looks amazing! I've never been to the Olive Garden, but I love lemon desserts! I can't wait to make this.

  11. Allison says

    I've never been a huge lemon fan, but this looks awesome.

    Can you attempt low-carb waffles? Bonus points if they're high in protein and reasonable in fat.

  12. Karen says

    I've never tried the original either, but this sure looks like a yummy cake. I'm also a chocolate dessert kind of girl, but sometimes fresh, tangy desserts are just perfect, and this looks like one of them!

  13. taryn says

    Can I just say that I love this blog? I am not diabetic, but avoid sugar and high-carb foods because I think it's a better way to eat. Your blog is beautiful and the recipes are inspired! Uggh! I'm so happy I found you! Thanks for all of the work you put into this.

  14. Karen Xavier says

    Oh yummy, absolutely delicious… happened to stumble upon your blog and its tempting. Will try this out pretty soon…
    Karen Xavier.

  15. Dee at Deelicious Sweets says

    Wow, Carolyn! This looks fantastic. Macaroni Grill has a Lemon cake that is my absolute favorite! This is very similar. I will have to whip this one up and see how it compares.

  16. Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free says

    This looks so gorgeous! I love that you use almond flour 😀

    Before I went off of sugar, I ate a cake like this at the Cheesecake Factory (only it was full of bad stuff!), and it was heavenly!

  17. Divya says

    This looks scrumptious! I actually have a recipe that I'd love to see your take one…will email you soon!

  18. The Procrastobaker says

    You are so so talented and this cake looks beyond perfect, could definitely do with a good slice of this deliciousness..or maybe a few good slices as its healthified! :)

  19. Megan@foodalution.com says

    love it Carolyn… never had the original either… would rather have yours! The cake is gorgeous! – Megan

  20. Parsley Sage says

    You'd never know that was a non-naughty cake. Looks spectacular and delicious and yummy and all a whole plethora of other awesome adjectives :)

  21. Shumaila says

    I love lemon flavored cakes, cookies, desserts and this looks really good. Have never tried it at Olive Garden but now I don't have to either- Ill just try your recipe!

  22. Diane says

    Oh Carolyn…you are amazing…you can sure bet that I will try this as soon as I can (hopefully this weekend) and I will give you the results…It looks amazing and since I've never had the Olive Garden version…I will be extremely pleased with this version I am sure. I was so excited when I saw this…I could hardly believe it…Thank you so much for trying this – what a great surprise…and it really looks heavenly! – Diane

  23. Anonymous says

    This recipe looks over the top and I can't wait to try it. I appreciate your efforts in re-creating great recipes as they are always fabulous. I have been craving graham crackers and would love a low-carb (SF) recipe. Sherry

  24. The Harried Cook says

    That is such a gorgeous cake! Without doubt, one of the prettiest cakes I've seen in a while… and the flavors sound just divine… I think I could eat a bowlful of just that creamy filling! Beautiful post, Carolyn!

  25. bonnie at sweet life says

    My sister loves this cake, she can quickly polish off at least three pieces. I cannot wait to share this with her..she will be so happy!!

  26. Kari says

    I'm a bit like you – in my younger years, chocolate always won out. I've developed some diversity in taste as I've got older, though, and I think this could just beat chocolate these days. It looks wonderful!

  27. My Italian Smorgasbord says

    wow. that's insane. is that wonderful sugary-looking cake really low-carb? this is really art (and intelligence). I may easily get addicted to your website. just posted a recipe for a low-carb burgher, if you are not vegetarian you may like it.

  28. Chef Dennis says

    I don't know how you do it Carolyn, I can't always get my regular cakes to look that good, and here it is gluten free and low carb!
    That lemon creme cake looks every bit as good as any I have ever seen, simply delicious!

  29. Claudie says

    While I can't taste this, I refuse to believe it could be anything else but absolutely delicious — it just looks too good — so I'm not surprised everyone loved it :)

  30. Quay Po Cooks says

    Who wouldn't like such a yummy looking cake? More so when there is no need to feel guilty eating it.

  31. Peepers says

    This cake looks wonderful! I love your blog, I just found it when looking for a broccoli soup recipe (which I made last night, btw). My picky 16 mo. old daughter even liked it! My husband and I are going low carb to get healthy and lose weight and I have a feeling I'll be visiting your blog a lot. Thank you for making such wonderful low-carb recipes!

  32. Celia says

    Love the idea of upping the filling-to-cake ratio to lower carbs! I'll have to check out some new stabilizers…this looks so refreshing and delish.

  33. Sarah says

    Pretty! I used to only go for chocolate desserts but lemon has become my new go-to flavor and that lemon cream is dreamy!!

  34. Foodness Gracious says

    Carolyn, This is a great idea with an awesome result! I would love to find a decent kid friendly low carb snack for my daughter who is now growing like a weed and snacks a lot. I'm sure you have one already in your blog but I just haven't managed to work my way through it all yet :(
    On another note I'm trying to figure out Stumble upon and you seem to be a pretty good example, so if you can throw any advice about how to work it and utilise it to it's potential I would be very appreciative! Sorry for the long post…

  35. Peggy says

    Oh it's been ages since I've been to an Olive Garden too. And I don't think I've ever seen this cake on the menu – but I never really got dessert there either, so I'm not surprised I overlooked it.

    However, this version sounds and looks oh so good! I'm biased towards non-chocolate desserts (I know, I'm weird), so this will definitely be on my list of things to try =)

  36. Melanie says

    I'm going to try this for a family celebration this weekend–looks great and I have had the original!

    Maybe you could try tweaking this for a fall Thanksgiving-time recipe? Perhaps adding some pumpkin to the cake layers and having a cinnamon cream cheese filling?

  37. Carla says

    Hi! I love your blog. Of all low carb (baked goods) recipes I've googled I seem to keep coming back to yours. I was wondering if you've ever done a low carb red velvet cupcake recipe. I'd love to see that! (since you're taking requests and all!). I'm totally beginning to think about my holiday baking (red velvet cupcakes for Christmas!) — I already found your pumpkin cheesecake muffins for Thanksgiving.

  38. Melanie says

    Made this over the weekend and it was delicious!!! My family loved it. It looks impressive and yet it's really not that difficult! Loved the cream filling!

  39. Junia says

    lemon cream cake made with almond flour just sound fabulous! 😀 i am hosting a #cakelove bloghop! please link up your post so that others can find your lovely recipe too! have a great day! (found you thru chefpandita's tweet)!

  40. Diane says

    Well…I made this today and it was heavenly! Seriously – the cake was moist and wonderful and the cream frosting was light and delicious – again, thank you so much for taking on the challenge…oh, and it was beautiful to look at! Thank you again..Diane

  41. moonwinks14 says

    Great Blog – just discovered you! Made the Lemon Cream Cake – was great! Next time will make sure I powder the erythritol to the max – Have a little grittiness in the cream frosting and topping. Thanks for the recipe and the learning opportunities on your blog.

  42. JoBlue says

    I've had this cake bookmarked since you posted it. I finally made it yesterday, for a friend's birthday. With myers lemons in the icing. And oh my oh my – so delicious. I wanted a very small cake, so i used a 4.5 inch cake pan, which made 4 cakes. I used 2, and piled 4 layers high. Going to try freezing the other 2 to see how they keep. Highly recommend this recipe. Thanks Carolyn!

  43. says

    I made this cake tonight – and it has seriously changed my life! I have tried and failed at making low carb baked goods, but this recipe was such a success it finally feels like the low carb lifestyle is 100% doable.

    Thank you! You are quite the legend :-)

  44. Jan says

    Made this for my birthday back in August. I’m not very experienced at baking cakes from scratch and made a few mistakes, but it still turned out looking very elegant and was delicious.

  45. Leigh says

    Hi! Your cake is gorgeous. I want to make this for my husband birthday this weekend. Can I remove the Whey protein powder? or sub for something easy to add like possibly more Almond flour?

    Thank you!

  46. Elisa says

    I’d love to make this but add blueberries. Would that impact the structure of the cake in any way? Sorry to sound naive but I’m not a baker and want this to turn out right.

  47. Samantha says

    Hi! Looks fabulous – but, may I ask what purpose the whey powder serves – is it just to add protein, or is there another baking-related purpose? I am allergic to whey, & would love to make this cake without it, but don’t want to waste time & money if it won’t work. Thanks!

    • Carolyn says

      Protein powder helps it rise in the absence of gluten. You can use other proteins, like hemp or soy, if you want.

  48. Allie says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I decided to cut the recipe in half and made cupcakes. I tried one without any frosting and loved it! This is going to be my go-to recipe for white cake/cupcakes from now on. Now I can enjoy my birthday cupcake tomorrow. :-)

  49. Ted Morin says

    I made this in a heart-shaped pan for mother’s day today. It was simply fantastic and unrivaled in terms of keto-friendly cake!

  50. Catherine H. says

    This cake called to me until I had to make it, although I usually skip fruit and go for chocolate. I LOVED it! I just wish I hadn’t shared it with my dinner guests–I didn’t have to tell them I’d made dessert, after all. The only things I would change next time would be to add more milk to the batter, as it was very thick before baking. I bet I could at least double the liquid, maybe even triple it, and get a lighter cake (although I had no problems with the delicious density of this version). Also, I thought the raw crumbles were a great addition. I used oat flour instead of almond, and for next time I had the idea of adding lemon zest to the crumbs to pump up the lemon flavor even more. Delicious.

    • Carolyn says

      Feel free to add some liquid but be careful! I’ve made the mistake of adding too much, to make it resemble regular wheat flour batter, and it doesn’t rise properly. It will start to rise and then completely sink in the middle. Still tastes good though!

  51. catriona says

    Cake is absolutely delicious. I’m a huge fan of anything lemony and this is… simply heavenly. Thank you!

  52. Eric says

    Wow! I made this for a friend’s B’day party last night, as there were some of us who are low carb or gluten free and therefore couldn’t eat the “official” cake. Well… There were more leftovers of the official cake than of this one. Rave reviews! As mentioned above, I think next time (yes, there will definitely be many a next times for this recipe) I will add some lemon zest to the crumb topping, and also perhaps to the cake batter. Also suspect that the cake could be chameleon-like if the cream filling were changed – I’m thinking raspberry cream or mocha among others (pumpkin pie spice?). What a great recipe!

    • Melanie E. says

      I can speak from experience that it is versatile! I made it a pumpkin cake with a cream filling. I used 6 oz of canned pumpkin instead of the greek yogurt and added various pumpkin pie spices. For the filling I left out the lemon and just put in some vanilla extract, I think. I didn’t do the crumb topping, but just sprinkled cinnamon or nutmeg on top!

  53. Caroline says

    Hi Carolyn from a cold, wet and miserable Dover, UK. The afternoon has been brightened up considerably by the smell of this gorgeous cake in the oven, and the test of the cream filling I’ve just had! Thanks so much for your site and the gorgeous recipes, which make living low carb and sugar free so much easier. It is very much appreciated here in my small corner of the world. Best wishes to you, Caroline.

  54. Sarah says

    This is the fourth thing I have made from your website and all the recipes have been winners. I like lemon, I don’t especially love it but chose this as my birthday cake. I am so glad I did! My whole family loved this. Thank you for all you do for the diabetic/low carb/gluten free communities!

  55. Mike S. says

    This looks amazing and is definitely going into my upcoming dessert rotation…!!! And since you bring up the topic of requests…

    Shortly before I began low-carbing, I developed an allergy to bananas. Not the worst thing in the world now since they’re high in carbs anyway, but I’ve missed banana bread terribly nonetheless. The silver lining is that I’m not allergic to imitation banana extract, which I could use to maximum effect in my quest to create low-carb banana bread. But wait, there’s more! To further complicate matters, I’m also allergic to zucchini, so low-carb zucchini bread with banana extract in it is off the table as well.

    My request, should you choose to accept it, is for a Bananaless Banana Bread recipe (that isn’t banana-flavored zucchini bread!).

    I look forward to seeing the exciting creations to which the requests will eventually lead! Best of luck!

    • Carolyn says

      Ha, Mike…would you believe I have been working on a banana-less banana bread/cake? It needs some tweaking but the first round, my kids loved it! It just didn’t rise as much as I would have liked. And it did not include zucchini.

  56. Susan says

    I had a bunch of egg whites in my fridge and wanted to make a meringue something or other for Easter. I made individual meringues (w/Swerve) , shaped like little golden nests. Filled them with this luscious lemony cream filling and topped them with fresh strawberries. And a dollop of whipped cream for presentation purposes. Fabulous and yet another instance of my guests being somewhat stunned to find out dessert was sugar and gluten free. You rock!

  57. Twila says

    I made this last week-end and we loved it! so I made it again this week-end but left out the lemon and added cocoa powder instead. Then I drizzled the top with “skinny chocolate.” I’m thinking next I’ll use strawberries. Thanks for a delicious recipe!

  58. Julie says

    I made this cake for Easter and was in disbelief I was eating something low carb and gluten free. The lemon cream was so heavenly I stuffed some into fresh strawberries. My sisters and I all agreed they could and would eat this again! I was missing the greek yogurt but subbed sour cream and the cake survived. Thank you for creating this cake.

  59. Heather R says

    Hi Carolyn!
    I made this for the second time and it was a total success. Definately a great substitute for the lemon creme cake from the OG!! My one suggestion would be to use parchment paper to line the cake pan, I had a really tough time the first round with a third of the cake left behind! still delish, just messy looking. Wonderful recipe, could be made into a version of lemon cream cupcakes?

    • Carolyn says

      Oh yes, cupcakes would be great! I think it would easily make 12 cupcakes but you might need to make 1.5 times the cream.

  60. says

    Hi Carolyn! I work for an NPO in South Africa, we deal with the ketogenic diet for epilepsy. I was hoping to modify this recipe and use it in our monthly newsletter? We cannot offer remuneration I’m afraid but we will give you credit, and our moms and dads are always on the lookout for low carb recipes so I am sure this will generate some traffic! I really hope you consider helping us, this cake looks delicious! You can check us out at keilahfoundation.org!

  61. Marisa says

    Hello :) first of all i’m sorry about my bad english.. And thanks for sharing!!
    One question, can we do it without whey protein powder?
    Here in Portugal i can not find it :-/
    Thank you* :)

    • Carolyn says

      Yes, but your cakes won’t rise as well. Gluten is a protein and helps things rise properly. If you can find powdered egg whites, you could use that instead.

  62. Karine says

    BTW Olive Garden does still have their Lemon Cream Cake. I can’t wait to try yours. I did love Olive Gardens cake.

  63. Angie says

    for the stevia extract, do u use skinny girls? Although, I think that has erythitol in it also so it would probably need more?

  64. says

    Dear Carolyn, This cake looks beautiful. I love citrus cakes…this sounds wonderful. I love that you made it with almond flour too…just perfect. xo, Catherine

  65. Becky says

    Hello! I know you asked for request some years ago, but I’ve always loved German Chocolate Cake with it’s light chocolate layers and caramel, creamy coconut filling. I would love to see if there was a way to make it low carb.

  66. Tina says

    Carolyn, I notice you use whey protein powder in many of your recipes. Is this a necessary ingredient or just an addition to infuse protein in your diet? Love anything lemon. Looks yummy and refreshing!

    • Carolyn says

      It is a necessary ingredient. Gluten is a protein that helps baked goods rise and hold their shape. In its absence, you need a replacement protein. You could add more eggs but then things tend to get eggy and rubbery. So a dry protein like whey helps.


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