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!
🍰 What is a pound cake?
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.
✏️ Making a tasty and easy recipe
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.
🥘 Ingredients notes
- As with many of my baking recipes, I recommend starting with room temperature ingredients for this lemon pound cake. This will improve the ease at which your ingredients will 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 even lemon pound cake.
- When measuring your ingredients, 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.
🔪 Equipment notes
- I like to use digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easier and more accurate than other scales. I'm a fan of KitchenAid or Salter ones!
- It’s good to use measuring spoons for your tsp and tbsp amounts, as your standard teaspoon and tablespoon that you use to eat with won't be the correct volume. When using measuring spoons, make sure the scoops filled with your ingredients are levelled before adding them to your mix.
- Even if your loaf tin is non-stick, it’s best to grease it (with butter or cooking spray) and line it with greaseproof paper or parchment paper. Leave a small overhang of paper so you can lift it out of the tin afterwards easier. There’s nothing worse than having your beautiful pound cake stuck in its tin!
- If you're planning to use a stand mixer, I would recommend using the paddle attachment to make your lemon pound cake batter.
- I'd also recommend using a low speed and to scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl and the bottom of the bowl to ensure a more even mix.
- You can also get great results by using a medium bowl and hand mixer or even by hand using a wooden spoon or a fork if you don’t have an electric mixer.
- 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.
How do you zest a lemon?
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.
How do you juice a lemon?
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!
♻️ Alternatives and substitutions
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.
For a gluten-free alternative, you can swap the plain / all-purpose flour in this recipe for a gluten-free plain flour blend of the same quantity.
The other ingredients in this iced lemon loaf should be gluten-free, but please be sure to check the label on your ingredients just in case!
A top tip when baking a gluten-free lemon loaf is to beat your cake batter thoroughly and leaving it to stand for 30mins before pouring it into your prepared loaf pan and baking.
Other possible flavors:
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 tsp of vanilla extract.
🧁 Other goodies
So, I definitely recommend that you whip up a deliciously zesty Starbucks copycat lemon loaf pound cake! But as an avid home baker, I’m sure you’re asking yourself “what next?”.
Love a bright lemon flavor? 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!
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.
Or if you’d like to hear about our latest recipes, why not subscribe to our newsletter?
Starbucks Copycat Iced Lemon Loaf
Rate this recipe here:
Lemon pound cake:
- 170 g (¾ cups) unsalted butter (room temp.)
- 200 g (1 cups) caster sugar
- 3 eggs (large)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil (or sunflower or canola oil)
- 3 tbsp milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
- A pinch of salt
- 1 lemon’s zest and juice (equals roughly 2 tbsp juice)
- 180 g (1 ½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour (see notes for self-raising flour swap)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 150 g (1 ¼ cups) Icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
- ½ lemon’s juice (roughly 1 tbsp lemon juice)
- 1-2 tsp (1 tsp) 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 tsp 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.
* The nutrition information provided is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator and actual values may vary.