Lemon Loaf Cake

This easy Lemon Loaf Cake is a moist, tender treat that’s jam-packed with natural citrus flavor. A warm loaf of lemon bread is infused with fresh lemon syrup, cooled to room temperature, then drizzled with creamy lemon icing!

About half of a lemon loaf on a rectangular platter with two slices cut off of it

Light and Fluffy Lemon Drizzle Cake

If you’re a fan of the lemon loaf from Starbucks, you’re in for a real treat. This homemade version keeps your spending to a minimum, saves you a trip to the drive-through, and requires very little effort to prepare. Plus, you get a whole loaf of lemon cake instead of a single packaged slice.

The best part? No store-bought lemon loaf could possibly compare. This one is wonderfully moist without feeling mushy, beautifully balanced between tart & sweet, and loaded with natural lemon flavor without tasting too overpowering. The loaf, syrup and glaze team up to form one truly heavenly loaf – it’s the easy make-ahead breakfast you need this summer!

Slices of lemon loaf cake piled onto a plate with a fresh lemon beside it

What is a Lemon Loaf?

A loaf cake is a type of breakfast cake that’s baked in a loaf pan, soaked with syrup while it’s still warm, then allowed to cool before it’s drizzled with a glaze-style icing. This tender loaf has freshly squeezed lemon juice in every single component, as well as fresh lemon zest in the cake itself. If you’re not the biggest fan of lemon-flavored baked goods, get ready for this masterpiece to change your mind.

Eggs, vanilla extract, milk, flour and the rest of the breakfast cake ingredients on a kitchen countertop

Recipe Ingredients

While you can technically skip the lemon syrup, I 100% recommend using it. It adds some extra moisture to the cake and locks it in, making it ultra-tender and providing even more lemon flavor!

Scroll down to the recipe card for the necessary quantities of each ingredient.

For the Lemon Loaf Cake

  • All-Purpose Flour: Be sure to weight your ingredients or fill your measuring cup one spoonful at a time to prevent overpacking.
  • Baking Powder: I tried using baking soda as well and didn’t care much for the texture. The cake comes out more tender and smooth with just baking powder.
  • Salt
  • Unsalted Butter: Brought to room temperature.
  • Vegetable Oil: To supplement the moisture in the butter.
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Lemon Juice: Stick with freshly squeezed juice for the best results.
  • Lemon Zest: Grate this fresh from one of your lemons before you squeeze it.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Milk: This helps create a soft, tender crumb.

For the Lemon Syrup

  • Lemon Juice
  • Powdered Sugar: A few tablespoons of powdered sugar will give your glaze the right consistency and balance out the tartness of the fresh lemon juice.

For the Lemon Icing

  • Powdered Sugar: For structure and sweetness.
  • Lemon Juice
  • Heavy Cream: This gives your icing a smooth, glaze-like consistency.

How to Make Lemon Loaf Cake

Everything about this breakfast cake is refreshingly simple. Let’s jump right in!

Prep for Baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×5-inch (or 8×4-inch) loaf pan.

Combine Dry Ingredients: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set the mixture aside.

The combined dry ingredients inside of a light blue mixing bowl

Cream Butter, Oil & Sugar: Add the butter, oil and sugar to a large mixer bowl. Cream the mixture on medium-high speed until it becomes light in color and fluffy, about 4-6 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is combined.

Creamed butter, oil and sugar inside of a large bowl fitted with an electric mixer

Add Eggs: Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each addition.

Add Flavorings: Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Beat at medium-high speed until the wet ingredients are well combined.

The in-progress lemon breakfast cake batter right after the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract have been added

Alternate Adding Dry Ingredients & Milk: Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until mostly combined. Add half of the milk and mix until just combined. Repeat with another third of the dry ingredients and then the last half of the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Bake: Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.

A loaf pan on a marble countertop with lemon breakfast cake batter inside of it

Let Cool: Allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer it to a cooling rack.

Make Syrup & Add to Warm Cake: Stir together the lemon juice and powdered sugar for the lemon syrup, then pour the syrup over the cake while it’s still warm. Place a baking sheet underneath the cooling rack to catch any excess syrup. Allow cake to cool completely.

Lemon syrup being poured over the warm loaf cake while it's on a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath it

Make Icing & Add to Cooled Cake: Once the cake has cooled completely, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and heavy cream for the icing-glaze. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Spoon the icing overtop the cake and spread it around evenly.

Enjoy! Cut the loaf into slices and serve it.

A cooled lemon loaf cake with icing-glaze and thin lemon slices on top

Can I Make It In Advance?

You bet! I love making this breakfast cake the night before I plan to serve it. The flavor is even more delightful after it sits! You can keep your loaf cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours.

Tips for Success

Once you soak in these helpful tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to make the most amazing lemon loaf of your life.

  • Fresh Lemon Juice is Key: Bottled lemon juice is not going to give you the same fresh flavor as lemon juice that you squeeze yourself. It’s definitely worth the smidge of extra effort.
  • Don’t Have a Citrus Reamer? Simply twist the prongs of a fork into the open end of each lemon half if you don’t have a citrus reamer or juicer. In any case, microwave your lemons for 30 seconds before you squeeze them. This breaks up the membranes in the fruit to give you as much juice as possible!
  • Cream the Butter, Oil & Sugar Well: Continue to cream that butter mixture until you notice it lighten in both color and texture. This indicates that it’s well combined and ready for the eggs to be added.
  • Let Your Loaf Cool Before You Add the Icing: The syrup is supposed to soak into the cake, which is why it’s added while the loaf is still warm. Since you want the icing-glaze to stay on top, you’ll have to let the loaf cool completely before you drizzle it on.
A lemon loaf on a long platter with a white and yellow kitchen towel underneath it

Variation Ideas

Want to tweak this breakfast cake so it better suits your style? Here are a few options to get you started:

  • Use Another Citrus Fruit: If you’re strongly opposed to lemon flavor or simply want to change it up, you can use any citrus juice and zest of your choice for this loaf cake. I think an orange, lime or grapefruit version would be divine!
  • Make a Lemon Poppyseed Loaf: Feel free to fold two tablespoons of poppyseeds into the loaf batter if you’d like some added flavor and texture. You could even use toasted sesame seeds instead if you want something a little more unique.
  • Omit the Glaze: I love how the quick and easy icing-glaze gives this dish some extra umph. Normally I consider the glaze to be non-negotiable, but this loaf cake is delicious even without it.
  • Make It Gluten-Free: If you need your lemon bread to be gluten-free, simply substitute the all-purpose flour for a 1:1 gluten-free alternative. Be sure to use certified gluten-free baking powder and powdered sugar as well.

How to Store Extras

Leftover loaf cake should be kept in an airtight container. You can leave it out at room temperature for up to 24 hours, but after that it should be refrigerated. Enjoy it within 3-4 days for the best results.

Can I Freeze Lemon Bread?

You can totally freeze this lemon loaf – just leave off the icing-glaze and add it once the breakfast cake has thawed. To freeze your cooled loaf, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it in a heavy-duty storage bag or airtight container for up to 2 months. Thaw it out overnight in the fridge before you ice and slice it.

Read Transcript

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About half of a lemon loaf on a rectangular platter with two slices cut off of it
Recipe

Lemon Loaf Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This easy Lemon Loaf Cake is a moist, fluffy, tender treat that’s jam-packed with natural citrus flavor. A warm loaf of lemon bread is infused with fresh lemon syrup, cooled to room temperature, then drizzled with creamy lemon icing!


Ingredients

For the Lemon Loaf Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp (84g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (207g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp (90ml) milk

For the Lemon Syrup

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice, about 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar

For the Lemon Icing

  • 1 cup (115g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9×5-inch (or 8×4-inch) loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter, oil and sugar together on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 4-6 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract and beat on medium-high speed until well combined.
  5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until mostly combined. Add half of the milk and mix until just combined. Repeat with another third of the dry ingredients and then the last half of the milk.
  6. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack.
  9. Stir together the lemon juice and powdered sugar for the lemon syrup, then pour the syrup over the cake while it’s still warm. Allow cake to cool completely.
  10. When the cake has cooled completely, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and heavy cream and whisk until smooth. Spoon the icing onto the top of the cake and spread evenly, then serve.

Notes

  • Makes 8-10 slices.
  • To Store: Store loaf cake in an airtight container. It’s fine at room temperature for a day or so, but should then be stored in the fridge. Best if eaten within 3-4 days.
  • To Freeze: Wrap cooled & unfrosted loaf cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze in a heavy-duty storage bag or airtight container for up to 2 months. Unwrap and thaw before icing and slicing.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 312
  • Sugar: 34.9 g
  • Sodium: 79.8 mg
  • Fat: 11.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50.9 g
  • Protein: 3.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 56.5 mg

Keywords: lemon bread, glazed lemon cake, lemon drizzle cake

Categories

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Loving this citrusy breakfast cake? Add these recipes to your list for more happy mornings to come.

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Recipe rating

8 Comments
  1. Diane Perris

    This recipe showed up in my inbox with good timing– I had been experimenting with lemon loaf/lemon pound cake recipes and wasn’t satisfied. They either were not lemony enough or too dense. I was looking for a tender crumb with lots of lemon flavor and this recipe delivered. However, the crumb unfortunately TOO tender to hold up despite perfect mouth feel. Part of it stuck to the inside of my pan, which usually doesn’t happen, and the loaf was impossible to slice, it just fell apart. I ended up putting the pieces and crumbs in a bowl which I will still find a way to eat because it is so delicious. But I’m wondering if there is something I can do different next time to help it hold together? I baked it for 45 minutes and then took it out because it met the “golden brown with cake tester coming out clean” criteria. Maybe bake longer? Any changes to ingredients or method?
    I tried to attach a photo but it didn’t work; sent one to your website email. thanks again.
    Diane

    1. Lindsay

      I’m sorry to hear you had trouble. I tested this recipe so many times and never had it fall apart or even close to it. It’s very hard to say why that would’ve happened. The only thing I can think is that it has something to do with measuring the ingredients, but you could certainly try baking it longer if it seemed under baked. You also want to make sure to slice it after it has cooled completely.

      1. Diane Perris

        Thanks for your reply, Lindsay! I weighed ingredients so that probably wasn’t it. Made another one today and baked it longer, also lined bottom of pan with parchment and bottom/sides were sprayed and floured. This time it didn’t stick and didn’t fall apart quite so much though I have to be very careful with slicing. Baked a little longer as well. I am baking at 4000′ so that might be part of it, but I do know how to make the typical adjustments for altitude. Anyway, it’s completely delicious without the icing; just have to be very careful slicing.

  2. Eloise Mallett

    This was amazing took awhile and a lot of dishes but so worth it I used sour cream in the icing for top but most moist delicious loaf I have ever made

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29