Anna Jones' Amazing Lemon Cannellini Cake

August 22, 2016
13 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

When you consider blending beans into cake batter as a means of making it better—light and and airy, with a similar crumb to a regular butter and flour cake but with extra moistness and, in the words of Anna, "an almost fudge character"—then you'll want to shout those beans from the rooftop. You'll want to stick a small flag in this cake that says "Made with Beans!" You'll want to tell all your friends!

Because this cake is dairy-free and gluten-free and refined sugar-free, too, it's a great choice to bring to an event with an unknown guest list: Almost everyone will be able to eat and enjoy it (and enjoy it they will).

You won't have trouble making, it either. While the cake lives in the "Investment Cooking" chapter of A Modern Way to Cook, it only fits the bill in the context of the book's other recipes, which are grouped by speed: under 15, 20, 30, and 40 minutes. As cakes go, this one's speedy, with an easy clean-up: The batter comes together in a food processor; the frosting, in a blender.

Reprinted from A Modern Way to Cook with permission from Ten Speed Press. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • For the cake:
  • two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 2/3 cup (150 milliliters) semi-solidified honey
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) melted coconut oil
  • A good pinch of sea salt
  • For the lemon icing:
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more for garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons semisoldified honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F and grease an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Drain and rinse the beans.
  2. In a food processor, purée the beans, honey, and vanilla seeds until smooth. Then add the eggs one by one, pulsing as you go. The batter will rapidly increase in volume—it's fun to watch! Tip this liquidy mix into a large bowl, then add the ground almonds, baking powder, coconut oil, and salt and fold gently to combine. Anna says: "The batter may be a little looser than you'd expect from cake batter, but don't worry."
  3. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The cake is ready when it's brown on top, firm to the touch, and a skewer comes out clean.
  4. While the cake bakes, make the icing. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth and shiny, 3 to 4 minutes total. Scrape down from time to time as needed. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge as the cake bakes.
  5. Take the cake out of the oven, leave it to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then release from the pan and cool completely on a rack. Once cool, top with icing and finished with additional lemon zest.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Aimee Cardwell
    Aimee Cardwell
  • Kathleen Giles
    Kathleen Giles
  • Sara Betteridge
    Sara Betteridge
  • reneej
  • Ivy Wigmore
    Ivy Wigmore

35 Reviews

A_Boreal_Forest_Cook December 23, 2021
Thank you so much, this is currently my favorite cake recipe. I make it just as instructed, except now, as one reviewer suggested, I switch the vanilla for orange extract, and add the grated zest from one organic orange. Instead of the icing, I tend to top the cake with a 'syrup' made of a blended (peeled) pear and haskap berries, with other fresh (or fresh-frozen) berries on top. Wholesome and absolutely delicious - thanks again!
Elyse May 25, 2020
This was delicious! I made a few modifications based on what I had on hand. I didn't have enough honey so I substituted half maple syrup and half white sugar. I left out the vanilla and used 1tsp orange extract. I baked it in an 8 inch square pan that I lined with a parchment paper sling and greased with coconut oil. Baked for 40 minutes and came out beautifully.

When it was cool I poured on a chocolate ganache instead of the frosting (4oz chocolate and 1/2 cup whipping cream). I used semi-sweet but I think it would have been better with bittersweet. I could have bumped up the orange extract as well, maybe to 1.5tsp.

Really delicious, almost like a sponge cake.
Lisa April 26, 2020
Can you do a video of it? It is not as easy as it sounded. While it tasted very good, but it is hardly presentable as your photo. A video will be helpful.
Aimee C. April 26, 2020
It was fun to make this cake, but ultimately, it was not that delicious. My daughter (who had no idea what was in it) took one bite and said "I feel like I'm eating hummus. Not the taste, but the texture!" It does make a cake, and the cake looks pretty when it comes out, and it slices well and keeps its shape. But the texture isn't great. And, the tofu icing never sets up. It has the consistency of blended yogurt. We ate a few bites and ultimately threw the rest away.
witloof May 23, 2020
I wonder if a quarter teaspoon of xanthin gum would fix that.
Kabulkate April 19, 2020
I made this exactly as directed, resisting temptation to add extra spices lest it be bland. It is divine! Crumbly, moist, honey- coconut fragranced. My children devoured it like wolves.
Kathleen G. April 15, 2020
can the almonds be replaced with say hazel nuts? I can't do almonds.
ShannyC April 12, 2020
Made this recipe today for my daughter's birthday because she's dairy & gluten free. She likes chocolate so I used a bittersweet chocolate ganache recipe from Alton Brown as the frosting (cut the recipe in half and used 1/2 C almond milk instead of heavy cream).

My husband can't do coconuts so I used ghee instead of coconut oil. Other than that I followed the recipe as written.

Let me tell you I was shocked at how cake like and good the final result was.

If you are expecting this recipe to be exactly like a cake then you will be disappointed. However if you are into healthy baking this is the recipe to try!
Sara B. April 8, 2020
Can the coconut oil be replaced by normal oil? If yes, how much should I use for this recipe?
ShannyC April 12, 2020
I used ghee which is clarified butter instead of coconut oil due to an allergy and it came out just fine
Heidi April 7, 2020
This cake took about 90 minutes to cook, because the batter starts off dense and quite wet. So, you need to cover it with foil towards the end of cooking to stop it burning, or next time I might bake it in a shallow tray to aid cooking. That said, it's the most delicious thing ever, "fudgy" as promised and really comforting. Good without the icing and served warm with ice cream.
Moma January 24, 2020
I made this cake and was disappointed with the results. It was edible but not delicious, pretty bland. It needed texture and flavor! I spiked the frosting with some lime zest and juice and it did improve A bit, but won’t make it again.
V S. November 4, 2018
are the cannellini drained and rinsed?
Sarah J. November 4, 2018
Chris D. May 24, 2020
What brand of cannellini beans did you use? There’s the former canned, the luscious and softer beans in a jar by jovial. And I even have dry heirloom from seed savers that I could make. Really curious about this recipe!!
reneej May 10, 2018
I made this cake with butter beans. My husband LOVED it! I left him the last piece, it was a challenge. Delicious!
Jen A. March 10, 2018
I don't have springform in that size - will a regular cake pan do??
Ivy W. January 5, 2018
I just made this and the batter was actually very thick once I mixed in the last ingredients. I'm thinking that was because the coconut oil resolidified when it came in contact with the cold batter. It's in the oven now -- fingers crossed!
Caroline M. November 29, 2016
This looks interesting, but it seems strange that there is no lemon in the actual cake. If you choose to use a different frosting you would lose the lemon element! I think I'm going to add lemon zest and some lemon juice to the cake batter.
Ritacooks/bakes October 31, 2016
I just made this cake for my book club. The texture was lovely and the flavor was nice, not too sweet. I had to bake it for 40 minutes to have the center baked but the top was over browned and bitter. I used another recipe for honey glaze. This was a hit.
Lisa October 27, 2016
Mine fell apart. It is not presentable. Does anyone have the same problem? Is it because of the consistency of honey: not viscous enough? Nonetheless , it was delicious.
Ruth N. September 4, 2016
I love, love, love your recipes....couldn't single ONE out...thanks
Lizzy B. August 31, 2016
Could we replace the eggs with flax eggs?
JoAnne L. October 22, 2016
I'm going to try!
melissa August 29, 2016
hmm, i wonder if the lemon icing could be replaced with a chocolate ganache...
Sarah J. August 29, 2016
That sounds great!