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.

MY OTHER RECIPES

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!!

 

 

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.

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 9×5-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

Only Eats

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440 comments on “The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat)”

  1. Hi Averie

    I’ve made it twice the first was not good. I’ve made it today March2/17 the lemon flavor excellent but it does not seem to rise like most loafs do. What am I doing wrong. Would like a replay. Thank you.

  2. Looks delicious! You mention baking soda in the comment above, but it’s not listed in the recipe. Should it be? 

  3. this recipe is awesome. i got bored and didnt have all of the ingredients, ended up using 4 eggs whites and a packet of instand pudding mix since i didnt have the extract, still turned out pretty great with your base recipe. i cant wait to try more of your recipes

  4. I’m a fussy 74 year old baker and have tried several “copy cat” Starbucks lemon loaf recipes. They were not even close!! I have come to the right place – Averiecooks!!
    I baked it this morning; frosted, cut it a few minutes ago. It is beautiful and delicious.
    Thank you for the recipe Averie.

  5. This looks really good and I’m going to try it this week. Just one question, can you substitute olive oil for the vegetable/canola oil? I have done it with my cornbread recipe but don’t know about baking a loaf like this.

    • I haven’t tried subbing with olive oil – would probably ‘work’ in terms of the structure but not sure if would impart too much of a noticeable taste for your liking (it would for mine; but everyone is different).

  6. Hi Averie! Thank you so much for your recipe! I’ve made it so many times I can remember the recipe by heart lol
    I want to check with you – I have a friend who is allergic to gluten and she is coming to dinner and I want to make this lemon loaf for everyone and she can have it too. Do you think I can just replace flour with gluten-free flour? Or is there any other modification I should do?

    • I would use the GF flours that you can buy that are 1:1. So a cup of regular flour = a cup of that kind of GF flour. I would give that a whirl and keep me posted how it goes. I wouldn’t alter anything else.

    • I was about to try with Bob’s 1-1 gluten free flour, how did yours go? I did the lemon donuts with the gluten free flour and unfortunately it didn’t work out. Would love to hear your experience. Thank you

  7. Can I add poppy seeds?

  8. What is the nutritional value?

  9. I made this cake which turned out beautifully. However, the taste was bitter–way to much lemon extract. I will try the cake again with a teaspoon of lemon extract and lemon juice. The texture was good, but will throw this loaf out!

    • All extracts vary in intensity and most people have good luck with the recipe as written but sounds like your extract is very potent so good idea to scale it way back next time. I don’t recommend using actual lemon juice – I tried that in recreating this cake and it didn’t work for me – cake texture was off from the acid, but you may have different luck.

  10. Half of this was delicious. The other half is in the bottom of my oven…

    • Not sure why some overflowed…have had hundreds of comments on this recipe but you are the first to mention this. Maybe your pan was an 8×4 rather than a 9×5 or you added a bit too much baking powder? Glad what you did get to taste was delicious!

  11. Hi Averie, I wanted to make this loaf tomorrow to take with me to a friends house, but I don’t have any lemon extract. I know you mentioned not to use lemon juice because the acidity can alter the results.. but is there any other way to get a lemon taste without the extract? Maybe increase the amount of lemon zest?

    • In this case I strongly recommend following the recipe exactly based on all the issues I had and what you mention in the comment re acidity/results is correct so no you cannot use lemon juice. I would go to the store and buy some lemon extract.

  12. Your lemon loaf was so easy to make and it was a big hit for the family.
    Thanks for the recipe. It will be used often in my home in Ontario, Canada.

  13. Hi Averie, I’m wanting to make this the day before I’m planning to serve it. How should I store it so it doesn’t dry out?  On the counter  or can I frigerate it since I’ve refrigerated a lemon loaf cake in the past? Also, what  type of wrapping would you suggest so the glaze doesn’t stick? Thank you for your advise. I can’t wait to try it!  

    • Don’t glaze the cake until right before you plan to serve it. Wrap the cooled cake tightly in plasticwrap, put the cake inside a large ziptop bag, and store on the counter. I NEVER EVER store cakes in the fridge, with the exception being a decadent chocolate cake or brownies, but cakes in general dry out much faster in the fridge and I am not a fan.

  14. This recipe yielded *ridiculously* moist, 10/10 perfect loaf-cake. It was dense without being too heavy, good crumble, not “greasy”, the perfect rise… Tip to readers: I make the icing a little more in advance (while loaf is still in the oven, then it will cool) so the powdered sugar has time to dissolve the best and meld the lemon juice nicely.

    The loaf was so perfect I think I’d like to use it as a base for lemon-blueberry muffins with sanding (or sparkling) sugar topping! (no icing) I think I’ll use a tiny bit less lemon extract for that (so the blueberries don’t have to compete too much for flavor), and just a smidge more granulated sugar. Awesome!

  15. What brand of  vegetable/canola oil do you use and what brand of vanilla extract do you use? I see you used a Pyrex loaf pan…what do you use to grease it? I usually have a difficult time getting my cakes and breads out of the Pyrex pans even after I grease them generously.

    • I have made this is both Pyrex and metal. For video, Pyrex looks better. For everyday baking without photography, I use metal. Brand of lemon extract….just the generic store brand from Ralph’s/Kroger.

  16. OOPS!! I meant what brand of lemon extract do you use?

  17. This. Is. Amazing. My friends at work now demand it quite regularly. It’s easy and comes out perfectly. It’s my favourite thing to bake!

  18. Hi. Dying to try this but I can’t find lemon extract in Singapore! Anything else that comes close as an alternative? Thanks!

  19. I want to make this. Did you use store bought lemon zest or did you zest fresh lemon?

  20. I want to try this! Would you recommend using almond oil, which I generally sub for vegetable/olive oils in stovetop cooking, or do you think that would ruin the final loaf?

    Thanks,
    Noelle

    • I’ve never used almond oil and it sounds like it wouldn’t be a great choice if you use it for stovetop cooking (I wouldn’t sub olive oil for example into a baking recipe either). I would follow the recipe as written for optimal results.

  21. This is the BEST lemon loaf recipe! So tangy and not too sweet. I like to bake for 18-23 minutes into 12 muffins with muffin cups sprayed with canola oil. Such a wonderful treat. Thank you Averie for your recipes and personal guidance.

  22. I actually made this. It is amazing! Don’t change a thing. It is lemony, not too sweet, light not dense and Amazing!!!! The only thing that could be better or just as good is to make this the into a strawberry shortcake. Add berries and whipcream. Did I say this is amazing!!!!!!

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