The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat)

This recipe is beyond a long time in the making. I’ve been trying to make this loaf on and off for years.

I can’t even tell you how much I have obsessed, tried, trialed, and failed at it. Until now.

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) - Took years but I finally recreated it! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good!!

If you’ve ever had Starbucks’ Lemon Loaf, you know how good it is. Full of lemon flavor, moist, dense, and rich.

Anything that good I shouldn’t want to learn how to make at home, but I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) - Took years but I finally recreated it! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good!!

I’ve tried countless internet recipes for lemon poundcake and some were ‘fine’ but not quite perfect while others were total fails. And I definitely didn’t want to go the cake mix route.

I’ve tried using butter creamed with sugar versus oil whisked with sugar. I’ve tried various combinations of whole eggs and yolks, cake flour and all-purpose flour, and endless variations of lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract. I even sent one almost-a-possibility-but-not-quite to my mom to have her trial it.

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) - Took years but I finally recreated it! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good!!

Something as ‘simple’ as a poundcake eluded me for ages until I rediscovered and slightly adapted my own 2012 recipe for Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Vanilla Glaze.

It’s an easy, no-mixer, one-bowl, whisk-together batter. From my existing recipe, I added an extra egg, omitted the blueberries and incorporated lemon zest and lemon extract into the batter, and baked it in a loaf pan rather than a cake pan. Love it when the answer to my poundcake prayers was right under my nose.

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) - Took years but I finally recreated it! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good!!

It’s soft, springy, and moist without being heavy or dry, problems which often plague poundcake. Nor is it oily which sometimes happens with the Starbucks’ version. Plus, you probably have all the ingredients on hand to make it and you can pronounce every ingredient used.

The cake itself is perfectly lemony, and the lemon glaze boosts the lemon flavor even more. Lemon lovers will be in their glory. And just think of all that money you’ll save by making it at home. That’s almost dangerous.

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) - Took years but I finally recreated it! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good!!

 

 

Print Recipe

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat)

This is an easy, no-mixer, one-bowl, whisk-together batter. The loaf is soft, springy, and moist without being heavy or dry, nor is it oily. Plus, you probably have all the ingredients on hand to make it and you can pronounce every ingredient used. The cake itself is perfectly lemony, and the lemon glaze boosts the lemon flavor. I used 2 tablespoons of lemon extract because no actual lemon juice is used in the loaf and I found 2 tablespoons of lemon extract necessary for full-bodied lemon flavor, but add to taste. Don't use lemon oil and lemon extract interchangeably.

Yield: one 9x5-inch loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: about 50 minutes

Total Time: about 90 minutes, for cooling

Ingredients:

Loaf
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or Greek yogurt (lite okay)
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon extract, to taste (not teaspoons; and not lemon oil and not lemon juice - see step 4 in directions)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Lemon Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or as necessary for consistency

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
  2. Loaf - To a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, sour cream, and whisk vigorously until smooth and combined.
  3. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to combine.
  4. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and whisk to combine. Note - I used 2 tablespoons of lemon extract because no actual lemon juice is used in the loaf and I found 2 tablespoons lemon extract necessary for full-bodied lemon flavor, but add to taste. Don't use lemon oil and lemon extract interchangeably because they're not; oil is much more potent and intense. Don't use lemon juice in place of lemon extract because it's not strong enough and the acidity can alter the overall results.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and stir until just combined, don't overmix. Some lumps will be present and that's okay, don't try to stir them smooth.
  6. Turn the batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Bake for about 50 to 52 minutes, or until top is domed, set, and toothpick inserted in the center crack comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. In the last 10 minutes of baking, tent pan with foil (loosely drape a sheet of foil over pan) to prevent excessive browning on the top and sides of bread before center cooks through.
  7. Allow loaf to cool in pan on top of a wire rack for at least 30 minutes (I cooled 4 hours) before turning out onto rack to cool completely before glazing.
  8. Lemon Glaze - To a small bowl, add the confectioner's sugar and slowly drizzle in the lemon juice while whisking until smooth and combined. You may need to play with the sugar and lemon juice amounts a bit as necessary for desired consistency and flavor.
  9. Evenly drizzle glaze over bread before slicing and serving. Extra glaze can be spread on the cut surface of the bread like you'd spread butter on toast and it soaks right in making the bread even moister and more lemony. Or you can halve the glaze recipe if you're not a glaze person. Bread will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months; I don't recommend storing it in the fridge because it'll dry out.

Adapted from Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Vanilla Glaze

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290 comments

  1. I cannot get the recipe, the site keeps blanking out and coming back into focus, no recipe, just picture of cake coming and going, any way to get the recipe sent to me, thanks Ellen

  2. Followed instructions to the letter. The result was beautiful, but my lemon extract (2 tbsp.) left a somewheat bitter aftertaste.  What brand did you use? I used Watkins, a made-in-the-USA brand. I tasted the batter after adding 1 tbsp.  Decided it needed more. I probably should have stopped at 1.5 tbsp.  My cake also came out denser, not as fluffy looking as yours.  Any thoughts? 

    • I have used a store-brand (generic) that my grocery store sells as well as McCormick. I know some brands are more alcohol-ey and bitter tasting than others.

      Density in cakes is usually attributed to over-adding the flour (use a light hand) and making sure your leaveners (i.e. baking soda, baking powder) are always super fresh.

  3. HI can i use a vanilla pudding mix instead of greek yogurt or sour cream?

    • Probably not; I’ve tried this recipe SO many times and had so many fails until I finally got it right. I would make it exactly as I wrote it unless you’re feeling like experimenting…

  4. I subbed a half cup of buttermilk for half of the sour cream, and added a tsp of vanilla to the icing and this cake turned out great. I’m giving a loaf to everyone for Christmas this year.

  5. My bread expanded pretty dramatically out of the middle. What causes this? Baking powder is fresh…

    • Cracks or splits in the center of quickbreads is common, and many time expected. You could google for the baking chemistry of why this happens with regarding to carbon dioxide being released because of the leaveners in the presence of an acid and learn more about it.

  6. OMG! I just had to let you know that all the work that you put into perfecting this recipe paid off. I tried a different recipe last year for Christmas and they came out flat and waxy. I really wanted to perfect these loaves this year and I ran across your recipe. I made some yesterday and right now I’m wrapping them up for Christmas gifts to hand out later today. I tried of piece of one and I swear it was like biting into a small piece of heaven!!!! I had to go sit down and collect myself for a moment after tasting it. Bless your heart. Thank you for this!!!!! 

  7. Hi Averie,

    I am a new subscriber to your recipes and can’t wait to try them! Want to make your Lemon Loaf! Just want to check on your cup, tablespoon and teaspoon measurements!  I live in Australia and I know that measurements can differ between countries.  In Australia 1 cup is 250ml, 1 tablespoon is 20ml and 1 teaspoon is 5ml.  I’m a bit of a  perfectionist when it comes to baking and I usually weigh all of my ingredients by the gram or by millage, that way I can achieve the same results every time I bake something! Hope you can help! Have a great day!

    • My recipes don’t call for perfectionism in measuring. I write recipes for the very average home cook who doesn’t necessarily always measure very accurately, and so there’s a decent amount of wiggle room on things I’ve found by way of reader comments over the years. I don’t weigh ingredients and instead use tablespoons and teaspoons. In the US, 1 teaspoon = 3 tablespoons. So by that math 5 x 3 would be 15 ml, rather than 20 ml. Use your best judgment and enjoy the loaf!

  8. I love Starbucks’ lemon pound cake and tried different recipes, including yours.  So far haven’t found anything as good as Starbucks’ though.  Yours is not bad, but not as good as Starbucks: lemon flavor is not as profound and cake is not as moist as Starbucks’.

    • Perhaps you overbaked it slightly if it’s not moist because I find the cake to be very moist; moister than Starbucks but not as greasy as theirs. The lemon flavor can be increased by use of more lemon extract, more lemon in the glaze, more zest, etc. Thanks for trying the recipe.

  9. Thanks for sharing! I adapted it slightly by baking in a Bundt pan for just 25 minutes. Delish with hot tea!

  10. Have this baking in the oven as I write this message!! Your site is full of amazingly delicious treats, esp your pineapple upside down cake!! Yum. Thanks for some awesome eats. Happy new year!!

  11. I just finished with making your Lemon Loaf. It baked beautifully however while cooling it reduced to have the size. It is very heavy and nothing like Starbucks lemon cake. What could have gone wrong? I do a lot of baking and never have any problems with other pound cake recipes. 

    • Generally when things fall or sink upon cooling, it means that the internal temp wasn’t quite hot enough and it wasn’t fully cooked through in the middle. I’d try baking longer.

      As well as making sure your baking powder is brand new and totally fresh.

  12. Stephonie Baldwin Reply

    This recipe is the absolute best! My entire family loved it and made me promise to make it again and again. It’s refreshing and not too sweet. Thank you so much for all the hard work because it’s even better than Starbucks.

  13. Just made this with fresh lemons from my tree (meyer). Delish!!!! Thanks!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it came out great for you with the meyer lemons from your own tree!! You must live in SoCal (I live in San Diego…used to have a lemon tree at an old house, miss it dearly!)

  14. Thank u so much for the lemon cake recipe and it was easy to print sometimes I have a great deal of annoying steps to take to get a recipe from the pinterest site. Many blessings to you and yours

  15. I’ve made the lemon loaf several times and it’s delicious. Can I substitute buttermilk for the sour cream? That’s what I have in the frig now.

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you many times! Being that this loaf was so finnicky for me to perfect and I went through a lot of trials and tribulations with it, I would not change a single ingredient for fear it may not set up properly. Buttermilk is much looser than sour cream and you’d then have to play with the flour, leaveners, etc. so I would wait and just pick up sour cream.

  16. AMAZING!!  Used fresh lemons from our neighbor’s lemon tree (shared couple slices with him, of course) and drizzled additional icing over the cut slice.  Our family agrees this is even better than Starbucks!  Delicious!  This loaf is not going to last long enough to refrigerate!!  Thank you!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! And glad you think it’s better than Starbucks! I live in SoCal and used to have a huge lemon and meyer lemon tree, but then I moved..darn!

  17. I made this loaf the other day and it was amaaaaazing!

  18. I baked this cake and unfortunately it lacked moisture. I followed the recipe, mayb I missed something? What could have caused the bread to lack moisture? But the flavor was right on and the glazed tasted great.

    • Overbaking the bread, even by a couple minutes could do it. As could adding a bit too much flour (most people tend to over-add or over-measure flour – use a light hand when adding), that could contribute to dryness. Glad the flavor was great!

  19. This looks so good! Can’t wait to try it.

  20. I tried the Best Lemon Loaf and Best Lemon Bars this past weekend for Valentines day. They both are AMAZING!!

    I followed the recipes exactly and wouldn’t change a thing… Love Love the dense moist lemon loaf and the tartness of the bars – my entire family loves anything with lemon and these both received rave reviews!!
    Brought the left over lemon bars to work and everyone wants the recipe
    !!

    I am so glad I found your site, looking forward to trying more of your recipes.

  21. This may be a silly question.  Is lite greek yogurt and fat free the same thing?  I would love to make this bread but I can only find full fat and fat free greek yogurt.  Thanks:)

  22. I just put this gem in the oven. So easy to prepare. I used Spice Islands Lemon Extract, 2 tbs, smells so yummy. Thanks so much

  23. I too love lemon and the lemon bread sounds like a real winner. Thanks Averies and have a good weekend!

  24. I made this yesterday and both my husband and I love it. My cake is slightly dense, like a pound cake and very moist.  After tasting the batter, I added a little more zest, which totaled zest from three lemons. Thank you for a delicious recipe. 

  25. I hate to ask, but do you have any idea of the calorie count?

  26. I have to say this is an amazing recipe. I made this last weekend and it was amazing. I took a loaf to work and it was gone in less than 10 minutes! I added the zest of one lemon to the glaze….. incredible.

  27. This recipe was just wonderful and easy to put together in no time. Its better than any store bought.
    Thanks for the recipe. Definitely a keeper!

  28. I made this this morning and it was absolutely fantastic! And easy! A definite keeper!!

  29. Made it yesterday but as I was taking it out of the oven I fumbled and it flipped upside done so it was completely ruined and all over the place :(. But my boyfriend got me the lemons and sour cream that I needed to make another one and I just put the glaze on it and cut myself a slice (or two… Or three). The bread isn’t quite lemony enough for me though so I’ll have to add more extract and zest next time I make it. Otherwise easy, moist, simple inexpensive ingredients, and delicious!

  30. Hey, I made this loaf but I had some issues. Mine didn’t rise as beautifully as yours -in fact, it had kind of a sunken top :( which of course isn’t very aesthetically pleasing… and the texture was a little bit strange too (mine wasn’t soft/springy at all! it was wayyy too dense and moist, almost chewy).
    I’m pretty sure I measured everything right? I wonder what could have gone wrong… Did I overmix the batter? Was my oven temperature off? Was the center of the bread too moist? I’m planning on making it again (my family still loved it! haha I just wanna get it right this time).

    • Any of the things you asked me about are possibilities with baking and it’s impossible for me to troubleshoot from afar since I wasn’t there making it with you! I would suggest replacing your baking powder with fresh which will help with the structure and rising issue; make sure your oven is calibrated which can also cause things to look like they’re done and then sink upon cooling if they internal temp isn’t as hot as you think it was. And lastly, take it easy with mixing and don’t over-beat the flour which can turn things very tough and dense. Glad it still tasted great!

  31. I would like to make this and freeze it to give to a friend who loves lemon loaf.  Will the glaze be ok or should I not glaze it until I give it to her?

  32. When does the canola oil get added. I can’t find that in the directions?

  33. Thanks for the recipe. I plan on making this for Easter brunch. I love lemon anything!

  34. Thank you very much. I just tried this recipe and love the result. The glaze is thinner than what we see at Starbucks, but has a nice “sharp” lemon taste that work great. I’d like to make this as a 10 inch bundt cake. Would I just double everything to get the correct proportions?

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! The glaze will thicken up and become less ‘sharp’ if you add more powdered sugar. Just add to taste.

      In terms of making a bundt, doubling will probably work but I don’t know for sure because I haven’t tried it that way.

  35. Hi Averie:

    Thanks again for the recipe…the loaf is getting universal thumbs up.

    I’m thinking of experimenting with making this loaf again, but replacing every “lemon” item (i.e. lemon zest, lemon extract, etc.) with the orange equivalent (orange zest, orange extract, etc.) to see if I get a delicious orange loaf.

    I’m wondering if you’ve ever done this or…if you already know it’s a bad idea and want to warn me off. :)

    -Dan- 

    • I have not done it but I have a faint memory of someone in the comments at some point mentioning they have successfully. Let me know if you try and how it goes. It sounds great!

    • It’s in the oven now…I’ll let you know. :)

    • Hi Averie:

      The verdict is a thumbs up from me. The taste of the orange is much more subtle than that of the lemon loaf. It’s more like a pound cake with just a hint of orange aftertaste. I felt the glaze on the lemon really added to it, but the orange I’ll probably just give some powdered sugar as the delicate flavor is really nice, and I don’t want to change it.

      For the record, all I did was substitute orange extract and orange zest (same quantities as original) in place of the lemon from your recipe, and I used sour cream. I love the result. I’m sure there are ways to make this even better…I guess it will be fun to experiment.

      Take care.

    • That’s wonderful that the orange came out well and thanks for LMK you didn’t change the quantities. I know, yes, that orange is a much more subtle flavor than lemon as I have some orange creamsicle cookies I made once that are subtle. http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/11/orange-creamsicle-white-chocolate-chip-softbatch-cookies.html Lemon is one of those BOLD flavors to bake with.

      I also have this cherry bread and while the base of the bread is different than the lemon loaf base, it’s a great fruity bread. Maybe you may like this one too. http://www.averiecooks.com/2014/02/sweet-soft-cherry-bread-with-cherry-almond-glaze.html

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! I tend to create my recipes in a way that they’re pretty flexible in terms of swapping veggies in and out based on what you have on hand and glad everything you did came out great!

  36. Hello.. Your Lemon cake is amazing recipe,,, good and keep it up..👍

  37. hi, thank you for this amazing recipe!!!!!! but i am just wondering how come my loaf is not as white as yours? is a bit brownish =( 

  38. Just made these and so so good! You are right – better than starbucks by a long shot! 

    I didn’t have lemon extract but the zest provided enough lemon flavour for anyone wandering. I used the extra fine part of the grater to ensure maximum lemon flavor :) 

    Thank you! 

  39. Hi thankyou so much for the Lemon Cake recipe – cannot use vegetable or canola oil – can you suggest a sub for it?

  40. Can I double this to make two loaves at once or is it best to make two single batches?

  41. Hi Averie – I was wondering, I would like to make this recipe but in a round pan that has a floral imprint (to go with the theme we are doing for Teacher Appreciation this week). How long and at what temp would you recommend doing for that? This looks great, can’t wait to try! :)

    • I wouldn’t change the temp. Since all pans and shapes vary, it’s really hard to say how long to bake it, depending on the shape. Bake until it’s done!

    • Wow, thanks for the lightening fast response. I really appreciate it! I will try both a loaf and the circular pan and let you know how it turns out. Thanks and so glad I found your site. I will be sharing with friends :)

    • Glad you found my site too and LMK how the recipe turns out – in both pans! Enjoy! Lucky teachers at your school too that you’re baking for them!

  42. Sally Stapleton Reply

    Hi, I am making my first wedding cake and one tier is to be lemon cake. Do you think this recipe would be suitable, it will be a 8 inch round cake with 3 layers . Fresh lemon curd will be added to the layers and fondant icing will cover it. I will dowl the cake but do you think it will hold up to this. 

    • Being that this will be used as a wedding cake, I highly recommend making the cake as written, tasting it, sampling it with the bride/groom, and then you all can decide if this is a good fit for their needs.

  43. Hi Averie!

    Thank you so much for sharing the Lemon Loaf recipe. I did it yesterday evening.
    Simply superb!!! Full balance of flavors. Also, I followed your indications to prepare my own lemon extract… That was a glad surprise.
    For the Lemon Loaf, since I did not have any sour cream, I simply drained a regular yogurt, and the result was simply to taste… I’ll try it with sour cream some other time. Congratulations for your site and the “food chronicles”! I loved it.

  44. My daughter and I made this last night. I had to cook it for waaaaay longer because my toothpick always came out with batter. My oven may not be in the best working order. Also it was super dense. We are both novices with baking so the next time we will try being a little more light handed with the flour as you suggested above. Thank you so much for the great recipe! It was a great way for my daughter and I to spend some time together!

    • Adding too much flour will make it dense and it could also effect baking time, as will an oven that’s not in the best working order. Glad you were able to try the recipe and spend time with your daughter.

  45. Hi, I adore this loaf cake and want to try making it into muffins for easier freezing after baking. Any ideas on changing the temp and cooking time? It truly is delightful. Thanks, Melissa

    • I wouldn’t change the temp and most muffins bake from 18-23 minutes, depending on oven and size of muffin tin. But that’s just a guesstimate. Bake until they’re springy and set in the center. Glad you love the recipe so much! LMK how the muffins go!

  46. Hi, I made 14 cupcakes at the same temp and baked for 21 minutes. They were delicious and moist just like the loaf, but I admit I prefer the loaf with the glaze. I started checking the cupcakes at 16 minutes then then checked every two minutes until they were springy in the middle. I prefer the loaf cake form rather due to the glaze. However, I will make cupcakes again and add a lemon buttercream frosting and wrap my mind around that!!! Thanks again for your amazing recipe. Happy baking, Melissa

  47. I  made this last night – and my family devoured it this morning!  I used 1.5 Tbs. of lemon extract and thought it was the perfect amount.  I might try cooking for 48-50 next time.  Excellent recipe!  I may never buy the Starbuck’s version again :)
    Livingthewolfstyle.com

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! All ovens vary so just bake til done in yours and glad you may never buy the Starbucks version again :)

  48. When you say sour cream or Greek yogurt (lite ok). Is lite ok for the sour cream as well or just the Greek yogurt. 

  49. Hi, may I know if I get to bite into the pieces of the lemon rind in the cake? I prefer not to so please advise how should I cut or how small should I cut so that i wont bite into them inside the cake. Thanks!

  50. Cheryl Holmberg Reply

    You show coconut oil in your lemon loaf demonstration but not in your written ingredients. I’m confused.

    • You can use either coconut, vegetable, or canola oil. Some people are not fond of the flavor of coconut oil and in that case I would recommend sticking with the other two. Enjoy!

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