Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf

published Jul 4, 2021
4th of july
Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake

From the warm lemon flavor to the impossibly moist, pillowy texture to the ultra-luxe lemon icing, this version is even better than the one from Starbucks.

Serves8 to 10

Prep15 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 55 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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copycat starbucks loaf on plates
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Have you ever tried the lemon loaf from Starbucks? If you ask me, it’s the best thing in their bakery case. It’s bursting with bright and sunny lemon flavor, and it’s blanketed with the perfect layer of sweet lemon glaze. It also has the most irresistible tender, pillowy texture.

I was instantly smitten the first time I tried it and knew I had to recreate it at home. And after a few rounds of experimenting (and lots of delicious taste-testing), I can confidently say this version is even better than the one from Starbucks. Best of all, you can have a slice whenever you please.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What Makes This the Best Copycat Lemon Loaf Recipe?

I can confidently say this is the best copycat recipe you’ll find because it incorporates lemon flavor in three different ways. You’ll mix lemon juice, lemon zest, and a full tablespoon of lemon extract into the batter, resulting in a sunny yellow cake bursting with lemon flavor. To top it off, you’ll combine more lemon juice with powdered sugar for a luxe lemon icing that covers the top of the loaf.

3 Tips for Making a Better-than-Starbucks Lemon Loaf

The texture of this loaf cake is equally as wow-worthy as its flavor. Starbucks’ version is impossibly moist and tender, and this version is even more so. These three steps are the key to making a lemon loaf that’s even better than Starbucks.

  1. Start with room-temperature ingredients. Yes, using room-temperature ingredients does make a difference. It helps the batter mix together more evenly, and results in a lighter, fluffier cake. Plan to leave the eggs and sour cream on the counter for at least 30 minutes. Don’t rush this step — you’ll get a better cake for it.
  2. Use sour cream. The ingredient list for Starbucks lists low-fat buttermilk, but I recommend using sour cream instead. It has a much higher fat content, which makes for a cake that’s more moist. Plus, you still get the tangy flavor.
  3. Opt for oil instead of butter. I tested this cake using unsalted butter (this is what’s listed on the Starbucks ingredient list) and again using vegetable oil. There is no question about it: The cake made with oil was lighter, fluffier, and considerably more moist.

Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake

From the warm lemon flavor to the impossibly moist, pillowy texture to the ultra-luxe lemon icing, this version is even better than the one from Starbucks.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 55 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable or canola oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    lemon extract

  • 1 cup

    powdered sugar


  1. Place 3 large eggs and 1 cup sour cream on the counter. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs off the two long sides and coat with cooking spray.

  3. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine.

  4. Finely grate the zest from 2 medium lemons (about 2 tablespoons). Squeeze the lemons until you have 3 1/2 tablespoons juice. Place 1 cup granulated sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until it's well-combined and fragrant. Add the eggs, sour cream, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, and 1 tablespoon lemon extract, and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and no lumps from the sour cream remain.

  5. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

  6. Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan. Lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

  7. Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice together in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Spread evenly over the top of the cake, letting some of it drip down the sides. Let sit until the icing is set, about 30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The cake can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days.