This Starbucks copycat recipe tastes exactly like their iced lemon loaf pound cake. It’s super simple to make using real lemon juice and lemon zest (no lemon extract needed) for the perfect balance of citrusy flavor and sweet pound cake. Also, no buttermilk needed!
Whenever I go to Starbucks, my favourite baked treat is their iced lemon loaf pound cake. I knew I just had to make a copycat version for myself at home.
I love the delicious lemon glaze icing on top and the overall lemon pound cake flavor. It’s got such a bright lemon flavor and it went perfectly with a hot cup of coffee.
Not only is it my favourite cake from Starbucks, but it’s also one of my favourite lemon desserts. It’s perfect for both lemon lovers and Starbucks lovers alike!
✏️ Recipe creation
I go to Starbucks probably way too much, and most of the time I like to treat myself to one of their baked goods. Apparently, I’m addicted to both coffee and sugar!
For a long time, I’ve wanted to create a copycat recipe for one of Starbucks’ best treats – the lemon loaf cake. Especially when lockdown hit and we needed to look elsewhere for our Starbucks fix!
I also really wanted the recipe to be as easy as possible, whilst still getting the best results. This easy recipe calls for real lemon zest and lemon juice, rather than lemon extract, so it keeps a much more pronounced citrus flavour.
I’ve also kept the recipe simple and traditional, using a combination of butter, vegetable oil and milk to keep the lemon pound cake moist. I’ve seen some recipes including other ingredients such as buttermilk or sour cream, or even store-bought lemon cake mix, but I wanted this lemon pound cake to taste as close to the original Starbucks lemon pound cake as possible with the simplest ingredients.
This loaf cake recipe calls for the following ingredients:
- Unsalted butter
- White caster sugar (finely granulated sugar)
- Vegetable oil (or other neutral-flavoured oil)
- Plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- Baking powder
- Lemon zest and juice
Lemon icing glaze
- Powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- Lemon juice
- Milk (optional)
See the recipe card for quantities.
This recipe is for a homemade lemon pound cake from scratch.
However, you can instead swap the cake for a store-bought version. You can use a yellow cake or white cake boxed mix for the cake sponge and add lemon zest and juice per this recipe.
You can use any neutral flavoured oil for the cake batter, such as vegetable, canola or sunflower oil.
Swap the plain all-purpose flour for self-raising flour and reduce the baking powder to only ½ tsp.
- I recommend starting with room temperature ingredients. This will improve the ease at which they mix together.
- Always sieve your flour, baking powder and confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar / icing sugar). I used to be a bit lazy and skip this part, but it really makes such a difference to get you a lump-free mixture and a beautifully smooth lemon glaze icing and lemon pound cake.
- I always recommend using weights rather than cups where possible for greater accuracy. This is especially important for the amount of flour.
- Using a fresh lemon for this recipe is important. You also want the lemon to be unwaxed, so you’re not adding wax to your lemon loaf cake.
I use the following equipment for this recipe:
- 2lb loaf pan tin (9 x 5-inch tin)
- Parchment paper (greaseproof paper)
- Electric hand mixer or stand mixer
- Large and medium mixing bowls
- Silicone spatula or wooden spoon
- Whisk or fork
- Weighing scales (or measuring cups)
- Measuring spoons
- Wire cooling rack
I like to use a 2lb loaf pan, which is usually 9inch x 5inch (23cm x 13cm) size. However, you can also swap the tin for another size.
Make lemon mini loaves instead! Depending on the size of your mini loaf tins, you’ll want to reduce the baking time by 10-15mins. This recipe should fill an 8-hole mini loaf pan, but if you have any extra batter you can make little cupcakes or muffins with it.
You can also make your lemon pound cake in a bundt pan. The standard size of bundt pan is usually a 10-inch pan. You can make a small bundt cake from this recipe, or scale it up by an extra ⅓ (i.e. 1 extra egg’s worth) and fill your standard bundt pan for a regular sizes bundt cake. This will add an extra 5-10mins to your cooking time.
- Before you start baking, prepare your cake tins first. Grease them with butter or cooking oil spray, then line them with greaseproof paper (baking parchment). For extra non-stick power, grease your paper once it’s in the tin and you can also sprinkle in all-purpose plain flour too.
- I like using digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easy and accurate.
- It’s best to use actual measuring spoons. Cutlery teaspoons and tablespoons aren’t actually the correct volume, which I never knew before.
- I’d also recommend levelling off any heaped scoops for a more accurate measurement.
- When using a stand mixer, I like to use the paddle attachment with a low speed for the cake batter.
- Leave your loaf cake to cool in the tin for at least 20mins before transferring it to a wire rack to finish.
Lemon pound cake
First, preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F.
Step 1: Cream together the butter, sugar, oil and zest, using a spatula, electric hand mixer or stand mixer.
Step 2: Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Steps 3 - 4: Beat in the milk and lemon juice until smooth.
Step 5 - 6: Sieve the plain flour and the baking powder into the egg mixture and gently stir until combined.
Step 7: Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin for 45-55 minutes and bake until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for at least 20mins before removing and transferring to a wire rack.
Lemon glaze icing
Steps 8 - 9: Once the lemon cake has cooled, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the lemon juice and milk, stirring until smooth.
Step 10: Slowly pour the icing over the loaf, spreading evenly across the top.
Enjoy straight away or allow the icing to set before cutting into slices.
- Once you’ve made your Starbucks copycat lemon loaf pound cake, you can store it for a later date in an airtight container. It should keep fresh for up to four days at room temperature.
- If you live somewhere particularly hot, you may want to store your lemon loaf in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer. If doing this, cut off the slices that you’d like to eat and allow them to come up to room temperature before you eat them.
- If you’re looking to freeze your lemon pound cake, it’s best to do this before you add the lemon glaze icing. Wrap your cake tightly in two layers of plastic wrap (cling film) and then a layer of foil. It should keep for up to a few months frozen.
- When freezing your cake, I’d recommend writing on the foil what it is and the date you froze it so you know how long it’s been in there. I always forget otherwise…
- Defrost your cake before making the fresh lemon glaze icing to top your cake with, then enjoy!
💭 Top tips for success
- It’s best to zest your lemon before you try to juice it. I’ve cut my lemon in half before without thinking and ended up squirting lemon juice everywhere as I tried to grate the zest into my mixture!
- When making cakes with raising agents (i.e. using self-raising flour, baking powder, baking soda, etc.) such as this one, try to not over-mix your cake batter. The texture of your cake will become a lot more dense if you overbeat the cake mix.
- Don’t open the oven mid-bake. You’ll have probably heard this advice before, but it’s such an important tip that it bears repeating. I’ve been there before and nobody likes a loaf cake with a sinkhole!
- You’ll know your lemon pound cake is cooked once it's risen, golden on top and an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean from the center of your loaf.
- Once your lemon pound cake has baked, it's best to leave it in the loaf pan to cool for 10mins before removing it from the tin and onto a wire rack to cool. This speeds up the cooling process and stops your loaf cake from baking further, snuggled in a hot tin.
Traditionally, pound cake is a sweet cake made from one pound of each of sugar, flour, eggs and butter. It’s a simple recipe for a cake that dates back hundreds of years.
Generally speaking, a pound cake is more dense than your average sponge cake, so it’s perfect for the loaf cake or bundt cake style.
In this lemon loaf recipe, I’ve adapted the traditional pound cake recipe for a tastier version that has a soft crumb and delicious lemon flavor, whilst keeping that slightly heavier traditional buttery texture.
Your lemon raspberry loaf cake should last for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature or up to 5 days in the fridge.
Yes! You can freeze your lemon loaf cake wrapped in a layer of cling film and layer of foil for up to 3 months.
This could be caused by a few things. You might have scooped in too much baking powder, e.g. instead of using a levelled scoop from a measuring teaspoon.
Another reason could be that you opened the oven partway through baking which caused your oven temp to drop rapidly and sinkhole your cake.
No, cake flour is actually different to both plain flour and self-raising flour. It has a different composition and your cake will have a different consistency if you use cake flour.
You can use a micro planer, citrus zester or the fine holes of a cheese grater to zest a fresh lemon. Simply hold your lemon in one hand and your tool in the other, then rub the lemon against the tool over your mixing bowl so the zest falls straight in.
You only want the yellow lemon skin, so don’t rub the lemon all the way down through the white pith layer. Once you see it’s white, move on to another section of lemon.
Keep readjusting your grip on the lemon to rub a different yellow skin section every few strokes. Continue until there’s practically no yellow left on your lemon.
Any of these zesting tools will give you small enough pieces of zest for your lemon loaf pound cake.
The best way to juice a lemon is to first cut it in half, through the middle rather than tip to tip. You can then use a fork to press into the juicy fruit part and twist the fork while you squeeze the lemon half. Do this over a strainer to catch any pips / seeds.
You can also juice your lemon halves using a citrus squeezer or juicer if you have one.
I definitely recommend juicing your lemon AFTER you’ve zested it.
If you’ve got any specific questions on making the best ever Starbucks copycat lemon pound cake, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to help out!
I use a zingy lemon icing for my copycat Starbucks lemon loaf pound cake. It’s simply powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice and a bit of milk.
This is the same style as the lemon loaf at Starbucks, but if you fancy an alternative sweet lemony glaze, you can use granulated sugar, such as caster sugar, and lemon juice – lemon drizzle cake style!
Another fun way to decorate your pound cake is to create a lemon sugar syrup and soak your cake in it as soon as you take it from the oven. This will add extra lemon flavour.
You can decorate your lemon loaf with fresh slices of lemon or lemon zest as a topping, either over your icing or on top of your cake unfrosted.
Instead of a lemon icing, you can make a cream cheese frosting for your copycat Starbucks’ lemon loaf.
Loaf tin pans
This recipe calls for a 2lb loaf pan (also called a bread pan), which is usually 23cm x 13cm / 9inch x 5inch.
If you’d prefer, you can use this recipe to make lemon mini loaves instead of using one 5-inch loaf pan. Depending on the size of your mini loaf tins, you’ll want to reduce the baking time by 10-15mins. This recipe should fill an 8-hole mini loaf pan, but if you have any extra batter you can make little cupcakes or muffins with it.
You can also make your lemon pound cake in a bundt pan. The standard size of a bundt pan is usually a 10-inch pan. You can make a small bundt cake from this recipe, or scale it up by an extra ⅓ (i.e. 1 extra egg’s worth) and fill your standard bundt pan for a regular sizes bundt cake. This will add an extra 5-10mins to your cooking time.
Self-raising flour option
I usually use plain flour (all-purpose) in this Starbucks copycat lemon pound cake recipe, but alternatively, you can swap plain flour for self-raising flour of the same quantity (180g for a standard-sized loaf) and exclude the baking powder.
To make a gluten-free iced lemon loaf cake, swap the plain flour for gluten-free flour. I recommend using a gluten-free plain flour blend, such as King Arthur's measure for measure flour or Freee from Doves Farm.
You should also add ½ teaspoon of xantham gum to the bread batter if your flour blend doesn’t already include this in the ingredients.
For gluten-free success, add an extra 1 tablespoon milk to the batter. Beat your batter really well and let it stand for 30mins before pouring it into your pan and baking.
You might also need to bake your cake for an extra 5-10mins.
This pound cake is full of zesty fresh lemon flavor, but if you’re looking to mix it up, you can make this a lemon and lime loaf pound cake. Swap ½ a lemons’ zest and juice in the cake recipe for a whole lime’s zest and juice.
Alternatively, you can swap ½ a lemons’ zest and juice in the cake recipe for ½ an orange’s zest and 1tbsp of orange juice.
I love the pure lemon flavor of this, but you’re a big vanilla fan, try adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
🧁 Other goodies
Love a bright lemon flavor and looking for more delicious lemon cake recipes? Why not check out my delicious recipe for an easy lemon white chocolate cake. It’s made with my favorite lemon white chocolate no-cream ganache!
If you're a fan of lemon and raspberry, then check out this delicious lemon raspberry loaf cake!
Or how about a different tangy treat? Give my recipe for a passionfruit curd a try – it’s creamy and tangy and I’m a bit obsessed with it.
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Starbucks Copycat Iced Lemon Loaf
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Lemon pound cake:
- 170 g (¾ cups) unsalted butter (room temp.)
- 200 g (1 cups) caster sugar
- 3 eggs (large)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (or sunflower or canola oil)
- 3 tablespoon milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
- A pinch of salt
- 1 lemon’s zest and juice (equals roughly 2 tablespoon juice)
- 180 g (1 ½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour (see notes for self-raising flour swap)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 150 g (1 ¼ cups) Icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
- ½ lemon’s juice (roughly 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- 1-2 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) milk (optional depending on consistency)
Lemon pound cake:
- Preheat oven: 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
- Cream together the butter and sugar, either using a spatula, electric hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the oil and milk.
- Stir in the salt, lemon zest and juice, then sieve in the plain flour and baking powder, folding in until just combined.
- Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin for 45-50 minutes and bake until a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 10mins before removing from the tin and transferring to cool on a wire rack.
- Once the lemon loaf cake has cooled, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the lemon juice, stirring until smooth. If your icing is too thick to spread, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time until spreadable consistency.
- Slowly pour the icing over the loaf, spreading evenly across the top. Enjoy straight away or allow the icing to set first.
- You can swap the plain (all-purpose) flour in this recipe for self-raising flour of the same quantity (180g) and exclude the baking powder.
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator, actual values may vary.