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.

MY OTHER RECIPES


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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408 comments

  1. I have made this over a dozen times and I must say it is THE BEST LEMON LOAF I’VE EVER HAD!!! I followed the recipe and didnt make any alterations. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and especially for all the time you put into perfecting it!

  2. What lemon extract do you recommend?

  3. Hi Averie, I live in Switzerland and wanted to let you know I have made this loaf 4 times (just cutting half the sugar) and everybody who tried it, loved it! So you know, you’re recipe has gone international ;o) thank you!

  4. I made this last night; it makes a beautiful loaf! I let it cool in the (glass) loaf pan over night and it came out easily in the morning – always the fear with loaf pans – I was kicking myself last night for not putting parchment paper in the bottom of the pan to make sure it came out whole, but it turns out I didn’t need to worry. I found that it took a fair bit longer to bake, but I have a bit of a weird oven, so that could be why.

    • Glass takes longer to bake in than a metal pan does and despite the video showing a glass pan (that’s what my video team had in their kitchen) when I bake this loaf in my kitchen I use a metal pan. Glad it didn’t stick and that you’re enjoying it!

  5. Do you think regular 2% yogurt would be fine? I don’t have any greek on hand right now.

  6. Hello! I live in Argentina and I don’t have lemon extract. What do you recommend to use in replace? Instead of greek yogurt may I use natural yogurt or do I use sour cream for better? Thanks for your reply. Laura 

    • I don’t know what to recommend as a substitute – this ingredient is critical for the success of the recipe. Use sour cream, not natural yogurt if you don’t have Greek.

  7. Hey i soo want to try this recipe but there is this troubling thought bugging me. This recipe uses yoghurt hence it has an acidic factor but no baking soda is used .i usually add baking soda whenver i use buttermilk or yoghurt. So Will that work anyway? I mean without the soda

    • Being that I tried SO MANY times to get this recipe to work, I recommend following it EXACTLY because if you don’t, I have no idea if it will work or not. I tried so mnay various things that I ‘swore would work out’ but then the loaf would fail until this combo of ingredients.

  8. Hey . I can i replace greek yoghurt with homemade yoghurt? Would i have to add some baking soda in that case? As yoghurt is acidic

  9. my girlfriend really loved this thing at starbucks on her last trip to the us, and I’m trying to use your recipe even with this impossible system of weight. You didn’t mention the temperature of the oven, or even if we should pre-heat it. Could you specify?

  10. Made this recipe yesterday with sour cream and it turned out beautifully! Had to bake it for an additional 10 mins, probably due to oven variations. Thanks for this recipe! I love the Starbucks lemon loaf and at almost $5 and 500 calories a slice, it’s hard to justify buying. But this solves all my problems!

  11. Thank you for sharing this recipe, I love Starbucks Lemon Loaf and this was a better, I wonder how they get theirs to stand so tall? It was a a simple and easy to follow recipe with not too much fussy ingredients, I made it for a friend’s birthday and she loved it. I am going to try some more of your recipes. Thank you! :)

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and glad you thought this was better! For a tall loaf, they probably are baking in larger pans, like maybe a 10×9 inch loaf pan, or slightly larger. In my oven, I can never get huge loaf pans to cook through in the center before the edges/top start getting too dark so a 9×5 is my max at home but they have commercial ovens.

  12. I have only one complaint.  The recipe says that the cake will keep in a container for 5 days.  Don’t know who’s house that would be in.  I made it last night and it didn’t last 24 hours. lol Gone!

  13. This is a wonderful recipe! Thank you for sharing! Made it twice now. Loved by everyone!

  14. My 5 year old and I just made this cake.  I was skeptical because it didn’t call for lemon juice.  But I followed the recipe exactly and it was the most delicious lemon loaf I’ve ever made!  So delicious and moist.  I will definitely be making this again!  Thank you!

  15. Great great great recipe!!! I have been looking for the starbucks lemon loaf recipe for a very long time. Made this loaf today exactly as the recipe indicates. Came out even better than Starbucks!!! (Hubby agrees). I lined the metal loaf pan with parchment paper after buttering it. And I agree that the use of lemon extract is critical to the success of the final result.  I will add some poppy seeds bext time… just because I liked the crunch of poppy seeds. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  16. I just want to say that I’ve make this recipe many, many times since I’ve found it, and it always comes out great, and everyone raves over it! I was going to ask if you’ve tried making mini-loaves, and how long that would take to bake, but I saw someone mentioned in earlier comments that they baked for 20mins and came out perfectly, so I’m just saying thanks for the awesome recipe!

  17. Hi I tried this cake and it went pretty well. I used dairy free sour cream because I’m lactose intolerant, I didn’t add any salt and I used a metal pan. The middle didn’t completely cook. I forgot to tent the foil over the pan. It wasn’t too bad though. I wish it had a moe of a yellow look to the cake as your cake appear to look yellow. The icing was to die for. It was really yummy. I think I’ll try to bak it on 325 next time because the top was nearly done before the middle.  Overall this is a good cake. I’ll try to improve the doneness in the middle for next time.  Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. i never thought a cake would turn out great without using a mixer. 

  18. Enjoying this cake here in the U.K.!  I didn’t have lemon exreact but used the zest of 2 lemons in the mix and it’s as lemony as can be. Nice to use yoghurt in a recipe, definitely feels healthier than the butter I usually use in a classic British lemon drizzle cake.

  19. I can’t wait to try this, my son loves the lemon leaf at Starbucks, so I want to make it for a lunchbox treat. Thank you for the tip about the lemon extract (not oil), I went to purchase some today and the brand of baking suppplies I usually use has lemon flavour that is just lemon oil and sunflower oil. I would have bought that if it wasn’t for your note. I will have to try a different shop.

    • OK! This recipe is amazing and my son loved it. I made 4 mini-loaves in 2 cup pans, and baked them for about 25 minutes- a few less would do it I think. Yum!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! Glad you made it in a variety of pans!

    • Yes everyone who tried it loved it and I shared the recipe far and wide- I make my own yogurt so I am currently straining some to try again with that. The idea of lemon rinds in a comment below gives me the idea to get a few of those mini lemon slice jelly candies to pop on top for my son. Bonus is his little brother hates lemon desserts so he doesn’t have to share!! Ha.

  20. This recipe is excellent! It took a lot longer to bake than expected, but it came out moist, tender and full of lemon flavor. Thank you!

  21. Made this today, perfect. I used 2% plain yogurt, that I drained in a sieve lined with double coffee filters for an hour and it works just  fine.I used pure lemon extract and used 2 tbsp. turned out lovely. 

  22. I love anything lemon and was excited to try out this recipe seeing as it has such great reviews. I followed the recipe exactly like it says, but it came out tasting like perfume. It was so strong that I had to chunk it. Any thoughts on why that might happen?

  23. I made this and it turned out wonderful! Followed the recipe exactly.. boyfriend loved the subtle flavouring. Definitely will be making again. :)

  24. I just made this, followed your recipe to a tee, and am in lemon heaven. Used a silicone loaf tin which worked just fine. And scattered a few lemon rinds on top of the glaze, for a pop of lemon color on top. Thank you Averie!!

  25. I doubled the recipe and put a little less than 4 tablespoons of lemon extract and the bread had a slightly bitter taste. I think it was from the extract, so I recommend putting 1 tablespoon of lemon extract (per loaf, not doubling it).

    • All extracts vary and some are more bitter than others. And while I have never doubled this recipe, I think that your suggestion is a good one – that you may not necessarily need to do a straight double of the extract, and slightly less than double will be fine.

  26. This is an amazing recipe! the lemon loaf is outstanding! I make it all the time and some of my family members who do not like lemon, actually like this loaf. I am making it for the holidays and giving it away to family and friends! Thanks so much!!

  27. WOW! I love finding a recipe on Pinterest that actually turns into something that truly lives up to the title. Averie Sunshine did her homework on this one! I followed the recipe EXACTLY as she stated…because why would you want to change something this scrumptious??? Keeper! The best part was tipping us off about the lemon extract and the two tablespoons were perfect. Moving on to your Lemon Blueberry Cake…next.

  28. The loaf was cooked n browned after abt 30 mins. I followed the recipe exactly. Checked the temp, it was ok. Could it be the non stick loaf pan that made it cook faster? The loaf was still super yummy, though.

  29. I changed up the glaze, adding 5 drops of lemon extract, used full zested lemon through the juicer for the juice. Really pops the lemon flavor over the top. I would like a bit more lemon finish in the end of the taste of the cake itself, so I think next time I’ll be adding 2 Tbsp of that “super strength” lemon juice to the batter. Oven was too hot for a dark pan, and I recommend dropping the oven temp 25 degrees in addition to tenting with foil. Also, keep a close eye and pull just when pick comes out clean. I run a bakery and this is a great recipe. I don’t think people realize how much work goes into developing a recipe like this from scratch. Bravo!! And thank you so much, no more wimpy lemon bread!

  30. I just made these into muffins. At 400* for 15 minutes. They look beautiful but the batter smelled like alcohol from the extract. I hoped it would bake out but no, they taste like alcohol. I’ve made a zucchini lemon loaf before and I cannot find my recipe but instead of lemon juice I’ve always used True Lemon powder with no added liquid and it always turns out lemony. I don’t have any right now but I was wondering if you had tried using it with this recipe?

    • Some extracts are very alcohol-ey, they vary from brand to brand. Yours sounds along that line and I would experiment with other brands. I have not ever worked with lemon powder. Sounds interesting!

  31. Hi! I’m so in love with your page and this recipe in particular. Just wanted to know if this can be used for a wedding cake decorated with fondant and all the things?

    • This would be an unusual choice for a wedding cake in my opinion but hey whatever suits you! I’d make it first and then see if you think you want to go in that direction.

  32. Hey so I made them again, I had to make something for a bake sale and since the first go wasn’t ideal I decided to try again. On the second go around I real

    • Ginafer Hoskinson

      On the second go around I realized I had accidentally read cream cheese instead of sour cream the first time. In my defense it was after midnight and I was sleepy. But I didn’t realize it until after I stated the second batch. so cream cheese again… but this time I did use 2 TBS of True Lemon powder along with McCormick dried lemon peel for the zest. We are also wheat free around here so I used Krusteaz Gluten Free baking blend. For the icing I again used 1TBS True Lemon powder with 2TBS water and it all came out perfect moist lemon muffins… according to my hubby who taste tested. Thanks for the inspiration!

  33. I made this bread last night and am having it for breakfast right now! I have to admit that I was worried about using lemon extract…..afraid of that “artificial” taste. But this bread is phenomenal! My daughter agrees it tastes just like Starbucks too. I baked it in a 8×4 inch loaf pan (I like a taller loaf) and it came out just beautiful! (pretty close to the same cooking time in my oven). Thank you so much for the recipe! I am making another one today for my daughter to take home with her to college. :)

  34. Your photos of this loaf are just beautiful!  

    I bought ingredients to make a double batch.  One to keep and one to give to hurting friends.   Based on my experience with lemon loaf recipes, this one looks to be very lemony and moist with the sour cream and extra lemon extract.  (I saw the comment from someone who felt double the extract when making two loaves was overkill.  I’m using McCormick’s extract and was thinking of adding 1 Tblsp. for each loaf.  Would that be your recommendation?)

    To pump up the tartness of the loaves, do you think they would be overly moist if I were to brush the hot loaves with lemon juice/sugar syrup as some recipes do while they’re still hot, then add the glaze on tope after cooling?  Your recipe doesn’t appear too need more moisture as written and I fear a soggy mess.

     Thank you!  Lovely post with such attention to detail in the recipe!  Very generous of you!

    • I’ve never made a double batch at once so can’t give advice about doubling the extract. I think you can brush the loaves if you want but I haven’t tried it and wouldn’t want a soggy mess either…maybe make exactly as written at least once and then start experimenting.

  35.  Averie,
     Ya, I think your suggestion to do as written before tinkering with your recipe is wise.  I thought you might have played with the syrup since you tried so many recipes while developing this one.  :)  Thanks for being such a sweetheart and answering my questions. Thanks too for the recipe.

  36. Hi! I live in Sri Lanka where it’s impossible to find Greek yogurt or sour cream. 😩 Is it possible to substitute with curd?

  37. Can I use Meyer lemons instead of regular ones?

  38. I have both sour cream and greek yogurt. Which one is truly better for this recipe? Please don’t say both! haha Which is YOUR personal fave?

  39. Wow this was delicious. Simple to make and a huge hit with my kids thanks for the recipe!

  40. This  lemon loaf cake was simply the BEST! Easy, quick & just tasty!!! Will continue to make it FOREVER!!! Thank you!!! 

  41. I’ve made this several times as written and it is delicious and very easy. Yesterday I was in the mood for something different so I swapped out the lemon for orange zest/oil, added a pinch of cinnamon and some mini chocolate chips. It was amazing!

  42. Very good recipe and simple to make, no special ingredients to purchase. I like this recipe a lot and I think I could twit it for a lemon cake to decorate.

  43. Question on the Greek yogurt — should it be Plain or Lemon flavored? Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  44. I made this recipe and unfortunately it didn’t turn out. I checked it at 40 mins (10 minutes before it was supposed to be done), and it WAS done, so I wasn’t able to put the tin foil on top for the extra ten minutes. A toothpick came out completely clean. It would have started to burn if I had left it in much longer. It was dark on top, the crack didn’t form, and the middle looked weird…not light yellow at all, but rather a kind of darker yellow and brown splotchy look. The texture was also spongy and kinda wet, and it had a fishy smell and aftertaste to it. I’m very sure that I followed the directions, and all of my ingredients were within the expiration date. Can you think of anything that I might have done wrong?

    • Anything with a fishy smell or taste does not sound like the ingredients were fresh…or something was going on for sure. Also just based on what you wrote, it sounds like your oven is running very hot. Brown exteriors with underdone interiors are often a sign of a too-hot oven; or too hot for that particular recipe. I’d look into that. Thanks for trying the recipe.

    • Thanks for the advice. It actually was done after 40 minutes…a toothpick came out clean and it wasn’t mushy or raw on the inside. I use an oven thermometer and it was at the right temp and my breads usually turn out fine. I’ll have to try it again in the future. From what you said, it sounds like something might have been off with one or more of the ingredients.

  45. Do you think i can use 2 Tab. orange extract and grated orange peels instead of the lemon extract and lemon peels? Make it a orange loaf????

  46. I am on my 8th time making this – amazing recipe.  Thank you so much for posting it.  3 are in the oven as we speak……Oscar Party dessert for tomorrow…..

  47. I made this tonight and it was AMAZING. The icing was too runny for me so I added more sugar. Otherwise, perfect!!! So lemon-y . Texture is a little dense but I really like it that way, reminds me of a pound cake.

    • Glad you enjoyed the recipe and think it’s amazing! With glaze, it’s never an exact science; I always have to tweak the liquid/sugar amounts to get the exact consistency I’m looking for.

  48. This was really good! I only had olive oil in the house but it worked just fine. Also, I was afraid to add the whole 2T of lemon extract so I used 1.5, but next time I’ll add the entire amount because my cake could have been a little more lemon-y. As for the glaze, I thought it was a little too tart! So next time I might cut the lemon juice in that with a little water, but that’s just a matter of taste. My husband thought it was perfect as-is. Thank you for the recipe!

    • I remade this loaf soooo many times when I was working on it and I always found that anything less than 2T of lemon extract was too little and sounds like you found that to be the case as well. Cut back on the lemon juice and/or thin with water as you said next time. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  49. Followed this exact recipe and I have to say, they turned out exactly like the lemon loaf at Starbucks. I would recommend this recipe to anyone who enjoys that pop of lemon in their dessert. It was completely devoured within a few hours!!

  50. Averie, I have to admit, I did not trust this when I first saw it. I thought – that is way too much liquid ingredients for the amount of flour and even when I tasted the batter before adding the flour, it didn’t seem “lemony”. You proved me wrong. I made this last night and brought it to work. The lemon flavor is perfect and the sweet and tart are deliciously balanced. The girls who are “watching their figure” wanted a “little slice” and WOW it slices beautifully – even a very thin slice. I admit – I will be making this again tonight for my sister and brother-in-law. They will absolutely love it and I am besotted with it!! I LOVE lemon!! Fabulous recipe!! Can’t wait to try your other yummy desserts!

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