This lemon loaf cake is insanely good! The texture is incredibly moist but still light and tender, and it’s bursting with fresh lemon both in the cake and the lemon icing on top. Starbucks iced lemon loaf has nothing on this recipe!
What makes this the BEST lemon loaf cake?
This might just be one of my new favorite desserts for so many reasons. To start, let’s talk about the texture.
It’s super moist but still very soft and tender and each bite just melts in your mouth. This is because this lemon cake is made using the reverse-creaming method.
Typically, cake is made by first mixing the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. With reverse creaming, the flour, salt, leaveners, and sugar are all mixed with the butter to start. This coats the flour in a layer of fat which significantly slows the formation of gluten.
With a limited gluten protein formation, the cake bakes into an incredibly tender texture.
On top of that, this lemon loaf cake is baked with cultured butter which contains a higher percentage of butterfat. It’s creamy with a strong butter flavor compared to standard butter, so it adds an incredible richness to this cake.
Last but not least, this lemon loaf cake is baked with ONLY fresh lemons. No artificial flavors or colors! Yet it’s still bursting with fresh lemon flavor since both the zest and juice are used. So the texture is rich but the flavor is light and bright.
How to make a lemon loaf cake
For this recipe, some sort of electric mixer will need to be used. This can either be a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
This is because we’re using the reverse-creaming method as previously mentioned. Since the butter is mixed in to the flour and sugar together, a powerful mixer is needed to ensure the butter is fully worked in.
After the butter is fully mixed into the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, it should appear very thick and sticky – almost like a soft sugar cookie dough. But make sure to stop right when it reaches that point as we don’t want to over work the batter.
At this point, the remaining ingredients are mixed in. This includes the vanilla, eggs, milk, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Slowly pour it in while the mixer is running. If the entire wet mixture is added all at once, it will overwhelm the batter and create a super lumpy consistency.
Keep mixing on medium speed until all of the wet ingredients are incorporated. Then mix on a higher speed to really smooth out the batter, but only do so for about 10-15 seconds.
Pour the batter into a true 1 pound loaf pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Allow the paper to hang over the two longest sides of the pan for easy removal later.
It’s ready when the top has a rich golden brown color with a deep crack going down the center. Test with a toothpick to make sure it’s done! It’s just right when it comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.
Baking tips for a successful lemon drizzle cake
- Flour – I say this in every post, and for good reason. It’s the number one reason why most recipes fail, especially for cakes. If there’s too much flour, the cake will turn out dry. If possible, measure the flour with a food scale. Otherwise, to ensure the exact amount, gently spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level if off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour container, it packs it down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added flour.
- Butter – First, I highly recommend using cultured/European style butter. It makes a huge difference in this cake is it makes up a big portion of the ingredients. Regular butter can be used but to get the full effect, stick with the good stuff! Second, make sure it’s softened to room temp before use. If cold butter is mixed into the flour and sugar, you’ll be left with something more like biscuit dough.
- Lemon – Use fresh lemons! They have a much stronger flavor than bottled lemon juice.
- Mixing – This batter is all about gentle mixing. When mixing the flour, sugar, and butter, mix on medium speed just until smooth and combined. When mixing in the wet ingredients, continue on medium speed, again, just until combined. The only time it’s necessary to go over medium speed is for the last few seconds of mixing. Mix on a higher speed for about 10-15 seconds just to smooth out the batter. This ensures the cake remains super soft and tender.
- Baking Pan – Use a true 1 pound loaf pan, which is not to be confused with a 9×5 loaf pan. A 1 pound loaf pan measures 8.5″ x 4.5″. This loss of an inch makes all the difference. The pan is more narrow which allows the cake to bake at a slower rate. To take it a step further, use an aluminized steel pan (I linked my favorite at the bottom of the recipe card). This conducts heat better than glass or ceramic for a more even bake.
- Cooling – Allow the cake to cool before adding the icing. If it’s added when the cake is too warm, it will just melt all over the place.
How to store lemon loaf cake
The beauty of this recipe is that it stays fresh for quite some time. This is due to the high fat content using both cultured butter and oil. To store for immediate use, the cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple days.
Any longer and it will need to be stored in the refrigerator where it will last for about a week.
To freeze, skip the glaze and allow the cake to cool COMPLETELY. Then, warp it in plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, let it sit at room temp for about 8 hours. Then add the icing and enjoy!
Can this recipe be made gluten free?
I have not tested a gluten free version for this specific recipe, but I do have a gluten free lemon poppy seed bread that tastes just as good! It’s super soft and moist with fresh lemon flavor. If you’re not a fan of poppy seeds, they can be left out of the recipe.
For more of the best lemon dessert recipes, check out my:
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and leave a review below if you make this lemon loaf cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print
Iced Lemon Loaf Cake
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes + 40 minutes cooling
- Yield: 8-10 slices
This incredibly moist lemon loaf cake is so much better than Starbucks! It’s bursting with fresh lemon flavor, both in the cake and the lemon icing. Using a special creamy method, it’s also super soft, tender, and buttery.
Lemon Loaf Cake
- 1 1/2 cups (195g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (210g) unsalted cultured butter*, room temp and sliced into tablespoons
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup (65ml) milk, room temp
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 cup (110g) powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1 tbsp milk OR 2 tbsp heavy cream
Lemon Loaf Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line a 1 pound 8.5×4.5″ baking pan with parchment paper.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Add the room temperature butter and mix on medium speed just until smooth and combined.
- In a 2 cup measuring glass, combine the vanilla, eggs, oil, milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour in the wet ingredients and mix to combine. The mixture may appear lumpy, so finish by mixing on a slightly higher speed for about 10-15 seconds if needed.
- Use a rubber spatula to hand mix the batter to ensure everything is combined.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread even. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. It’s ready when the surface is golden brown and puffed with a deep crack down the center.
- Allow the cake to cool for about 45 minutes at room temp, then make the icing.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk or cream in a bowl until smooth. I prefer cream because it creates a more opaque icing, but milk also works just fine!
- It should be the consistency of glue. If it’s too thin, gradually mix in a couple spoonfuls of powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, mix in tiny splashes of milk or cream until it reaches the right consistency.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and pour the icing on top. Spread it around and allow it to drip over the sides. Now slice and enjoy!
*BUTTER – For the best results use cultured butter, also known as European style butter. This has a higher fat content and much more flavor so it really helps elevate this recipe. It will also work with regular unsalted butter, but use the good stuff for the best lemon loaf!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: lemon loaf cake, iced lemon loaf cake, lemon drizzle cake, lemon cake, lemon loaf cake recipe
Can this be made without a bowl mixer or electric mixer?
It CAN be, but it’ll take a bit of extra elbow grease to get the buttery fully worked in!
I have been wanting to make lemon loaf for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to it. Then I saw your picture on Instagram and I had just bought a bag of lemons – so it was destiny. Made it this morning. Love the lemon flavor and texture. Excellent recipe – thank you.
Love this! Thank you!
I made this. It’s delicious on the day off but so much better the next day.
This recipe will be my go-to lemon loaf. Thank you.
This was AMAZING. My first time baking something other than cookies and cupcakes so i was nervous but it was so easy to follow and came out perfect. My dad is a huge lemon dessert fan and he approved, especially if the tangy icing. Will definitely be making this again!
So glad to hear!! Thanks for sharing!
Love that all ingredients were easily accessible and LOVE the final product. I ended up using a glass pan since I did not have the metal loaf pan. Had to take it out a bit sooner but I feel that it came out great. Thank you for the recipe!
I’m glad to hear it worked out!
Can that recipe be used for a bunt cake? Or should I double it? Looks sooo yummy! 😋
I haven’t tested it, but it could possibly work? Use the same amount of batter, but try following the baking instructions on my red velvet bundt cake.
I have been trying to find a great lemon loaf recipe, and this one is it! I have glass loaf pans and I found that my edges got a little darker because of it. How should I adjust the temperature when using the glass pan? I found that it was still ready in about an 1h 5m.
This cake is delicious! Follow the recipe and the suggestions for the ingredients, and you will be very happy with the results. I will definitely make this again!
Yay! Thanks for sharing!
Hey Jenna! Love your recipes!
I baked this last night and my loaf turned out pretty dense. I swear I didn’t overmix. Followed your instructions to a t except used regular unsalted butter. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!
Oh no! Ok first make sure your leaveners aren’t expired. Also be careful when measuring the flour and I recommend either weighing the ingredients or using the spoon and level method. Last, always bake in the center of the oven and use a separate oven thermometer to ensure your oven runs at the exact temp it’s set at. I hope this helps!
I’m going by the grams in your recipe, for the salt and butter, and I’m wondering how you got 200 grams of sugar as 1 cup? That’s closer to two cups as I’m using my measuring cup to hold the sugar on my scale. Same with the butter. It says one cup, but then 210 grams?
Yes those are correct. 1 cup of granulated sugar is 200g and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter is 210g
Belkis Cepeda says
I just made it for the first time and I do not have enough words to describe the taste, flavor… delicious,so moist and soft… wow. I did not use an electric mixer or bowl mixer because I do not have one, instead I used a whisk metal cooking utensil, I took the risk and it worked great. Thank you so much Janna to share with us such a simple but a at the same time spectacular recipe.
Yay! Thank you for sharing!
This recipe looks so interstig.
i wan to try though, I only have 10×5 loaf pan. Should I double the amount⁇ or one and half?
I think it should work the same in that size loaf pan!
I’ve never baked anything that you add butter to flour and all the other dry ingredients.
Usually you cream butter and sugar first. It’s in the oven now, taking to a group tomorrow.
Here’s hoping it turns out yummy.
Amy K says
Seriously so GOOD!!!! I made this tonight and it is perfection. I followed your directions exactly and it turned out great! I added fresh lemon zest to the icing after I spread it on the cake for a looks but it added a great touch. I have never made a cake adding the butter to the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients. It was super creamy and thick batter, once I added the wet ingredients, but it turned out perfectly. I will definitely make this again! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Trying to decide between milk & heavy cream for the glaze, do you have a preference (consistency-wise) between the two? Thx!
I think heavy cream because it makes a more opaque icing, but either works!
Rats, I do not have the correct size loaf pan. Wondering if I can bake it in a 9 x 5? Thank you.
Yes that should be ok!
Have you tried this with GF flour?
I personally haven’t but it’s worth a try!
I made your brownies and success. I made the lemon loaf and kept in oven for 1hr but it wasn’t light and fluffy. Quite dense and dropped a bit while cooking. Any suggestions on how to ensure it’s light and fluffy please? Am a new I love your recipes
Oh no! Is it possible that the batter was over mixed? It should be a bit dense since it’s closer to a pound cake but it should still puff up. A sunken center can also be from pulling the cake out of the oven too soon. When testing for doneness, try to do so inside the oven and very quickly. If the oven door is open too long, the temperature can drop rapidly.
I just baked this tonight and it smells amazing but I’m sad to say the edges and bottom burnt. The middle wasn’t done so I put foil on it and that seemed to finish cooking the middle! But unfortunately it allowed the outer parts to burn :/ any recommendations on what to do next time? Perhaps putting the foil on within the last couple minutes?
What is the material of the pan you used? If it was glass, this is very common as glass does not conduct heat very well so the outside will burn.
Best thing ever!!
WE LOVE THIS CAKE! I tried to add dehydrated strawberries pushed into the cake to create a heart shape when sliced. The berries did not add to the cake, but now I want to try it with fresh strawberry slices that have been left out to air dry on a towel a bit. It is wonderful with fresh berries and whipped topping.