How to Make a Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake

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Satisfy your cravings with this copycat Starbucks lemon loaf cake recipe.

When I was in college and about to spend hours in the library studying for a final or writing a paper, I would almost always make a pitstop at Starbucks. I’d usually order the largest dark brew I could, along with a slice of their glorious glazed lemon cake.

Sweet, moist and bursting with bright lemon, this lemon cake was the perfect motivation to get my work done. Finish a paragraph, take a bite. Memorize an equation, take another bite.

Since graduating, my love for this cake hasn’t diminished. So you can imagine how excited I was when I came across Lola Baxter’s almost perfect copycat Starbucks lemon loaf cake recipe at Taste of Home. Made with only a few simple ingredients and ready in less than an hour, I was finally able to re-create my favorite Starbucks treat right at home. Along with some spot-on Starbucks copycats drinks, my kitchen practically transformed into a Starbucks that morning.

True Starbucks fans should know why Starbucks’ sizes aren’t small, medium and large.

How to Make Starbucks’ Lemon Loaf Cake Recipe

Yield: 2 mini loaves (6 slices each)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Step 1: Prep the pans

Drop a dollop of softened butter in shortening to two 5.75-by-3-by-2-inch loaf pans and, using your hand or a pastry brush, smear it along the bottom and sides of the pans. Then, sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour in each pan and tap it around until the whole pan is covered, tossing any flour that doesn’t stick.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you’re short on time (or just want to keep your hands clean!), you can always use a cooking spray that contains flour, like Pam Baking or Baker’s Joy. They’ll keep your loaves from sticking to the pan just as well.

Step 2: Mix the batter

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or whisk until they’re fluffy and light yellow. Next, add in the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well in between each addition. Then, beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking soda together. This will aerate the dry ingredients and prevent clumping. Once the dry ingredients are ready, alternate beating them and the sour cream into the wet ingredients until all the ingredients are well combined.

Step 3: Bake the loaves

Once the batter is done, split it between the two greased loaf pans. Pop them into the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. After that, remove the loaves from the pans and let them cool completely on wire racks.

Test Kitchen Tip: Prefer making one loaf? No problem! Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and add the batter to it. Bake in a 350°F oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. These are the best loaf pans for every baker.

Step 4: Ice the loaves

While the loaves are cooling, mix the confectioners’ sugar, grated lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl. Spoon the icing over the loaves, allowing some of it to run down the sides.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you’d like to save one or both of the loaves for a later date, skip icing them. Wrap the cooled loaves in plastic wrap and foil. Store the loaves in your freezer until you’d like to use them.

To use, thaw the loaves at room temperature. Prepare the icing as normal and spoon over loaves.

Step 5: Slice

Slice each loaf into six pieces and enjoy! Pour yourself a cup of joe and sink your teeth into this sweet and citrusy loaf. The loaves will last for about a week, so you can indulge for a while.

This copycat is also a great option to serve at a brunch or high tea (because you don’t need to be a kid to throw an awesome tea party). Any way you slice it, these lemon cake loaves are the best way to start the day.

Tips for Making Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake

Can you make muffins from this Starbucks lemon loaf cake recipe?

Our Test Kitchen doesn’t recommend turning this into muffins. You won’t get as much of the fluffy cake center, and instead, end up with something that mostly has the texture of the outside edges.

Can you use store-bought lemon juice instead of fresh lemon juice?

While store-bought lemon juice is convenient, it’s had more time to oxidize and contains more preservatives, so it usually doesn’t have the same zing and brightness that fresh lemons give a recipe. Plus, lemons last a long time in the fridge, so there’s no reason to not keep some on hand! If you want to use store-bought lemon juice anyway, make sure it’s the frozen kind, and that the only ingredient is lemon juice.

What can you do if the icing is too runny?

If the icing is too runny, you need more confectioners’ sugar! Start with a 1/4 cup, then add until the icing is the consistency you need. To keep your icing from becoming grainy, make sure your sugar isn’t grainy first, and always sift it beforehand.

What can you use if you don’t have lemon extract?

Lemon extract isn’t something we use often, so it’s totally understandable if you don’t have any on hand. (If you do grab a bottle, use the rest of it up in these recipes that use lemon extract.) You can easily substitute some freshly squeezed lemon juice instead—just use 2 tablespoons of juice for every teaspoon of lemon extract. Consider reducing the other liquid ingredients by a little less than 2 tablespoons to compensate.

You can also add an equal amount of lemon zest or vanilla extract. Lemon oil might seem like an obvious substitute, but it’s usually not safe to eat.

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Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.