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Easy & Moist Lemon Loaf

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Looking for an easy bread recipe that works well with almost every meal, every occasion, and any time of year? Behold the lemon loaf! If you’ve not made it until now, you’re about to see why it’s a perennial favorite for my family and countless others.

easy and moist Lemon loaf on a wooden board.

Why does lemon cake taste so good?

I think it is not just the flavor but the versatility. It’s “just enough” of everything (unless you hate lemons … we have other breads here for you). The tangy lemon flavor is refreshing and bright, making it a perfect dessert for any time of year. The moist, cake-like texture is satisfying and indulgent without being too heavy. The lemon glaze icing is also light, sweet, and not too rich.

Lemon loaf is a classic, crowd-pleasing dessert or breakfast loaf that’s easy to make and always a hit at parties and gatherings. If you’re preparing a picnic, hosting a shower or tea, or planning your Easter brunch menu, look no further.

Lemon loaf cake goes wonderfully with our classic chicken salad recipe, chicken crescent roll squares, and classic deviled eggs. With those four recipes, you’ve got your picnic basket practically packed or a pretty brunch table set!

lemon loaf with icing.

What to serve with lemon loaf cake

Lemon loaf cake is so versatile and pairs well with almost anything. It’s a refreshing end to a rich or heavy meal because of its light, tangy flavor. And then its moist texture and lemon flavor is just rich enough to complement lighter meals. You could add whipped cream or ice cream to take that up a notch.

Perhaps you are a “save room for dessert” person who opts for lighter lunches or dinners. Our baked chicken breast recipe is excellent for that. It sets just the right tone for this cake dessert, which complements the light herbal flavor of the chicken nicely.

For pairing with richer meals, I can recommend another two of my favorites. First, make these stuffed Italian chicken roll-ups and serve them with fresh, simple green beans. Then serving the lemon loaf for dessert brings similar flavors to the sweet Italian limoncello liqueur.

This beef enchiladas with cheese sauce is another recipe for a richer entree that pairs well with the sweet tangy citrus of this lemon loaf recipe. It’s no accident you almost always see lemons and limes with hearty Mexican meals.

Lemon loaf is delicious all by itself, too. It is such a tasty breakfast treat with coffee.

Ingredients needed to make this lemon loaf recipe

To make this moist lemon loaf cake, here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder & Salt: The all-purpose flour gives the loaf structure and bulk, while baking soda and baking powder help it to rise. Salt counters the sweetness for flavor balance.
  • Eggs: This lemon cake calls for three eggs, which help bind ingredients to give it a dense, moist texture.
  • Butter: Butter deepens the flavor, ensures moist crumbs, and enhances the loaf’s color.
  • Sour Cream: Besides contributing to the cake’s moisture, the cream’s tangy flavor pairs the lemony tartness to create a more complex profile.
  • Sugar: You’ll need granulated and powdered for this recipe. The first for the cake and the second for the icing.
  • Lemon Zest & Juice: You should only need one good-sized lemon to get the right amounts you need for both. Use a microplane zester or box grater to zest the lemon, carefully avoiding the bitter white pith. Then juice your lemon!
  • Lemon & Vanilla extracts: As simple as it is to make, the sweet and tangy flavors in lemon loaf is unique and complex. These two extracts do most of the work to achieve that.
lemon loaf ingredients.

Be sure to check out the full ingredient measurements and complete recipe below.

Kitchen equipment needed:

Frequently asked questions about lemon loaf

Below are a handful of the most popular questions that come up about making lemon loaf. If you have other questions I haven’t answered here, please drop me a comment!

Can you freeze a lemon loaf?

Yes! For up to three months. The best way to avoid freezer burn is to wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. A few hours before serving, let it thaw at room temperature. If you’re making several in advance, save the icing step until you are ready to serve them for an even fresher tasting result.

Can you use bottled lemon juice instead of lemon zest and fresh lemon juice?

You can use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh for this recipe, but I wouldn’t recommend subbing it for the zest. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of zest, which amounts to almost a cup of juice to equal the flavor impact. Needless to say, that would throw off the liquid ratio and impact the tender texture.

If you must, you could instead increase the amount of lemon extract in place of the zest. This substitution calls for only half a teaspoon of lemon extract for every teaspoon of lemon zest.

In short, it’s best to start with a fresh lemon or two for this recipe!

lemon loaf with icing.

What is the origin of lemon loaf?

The lemon loaf is believed to have come from the pound cake, which dates back to the early 18th century in Great Britain. Bakers began trying different flavor variations. Adding lemon juice and zest gave us the lemony cake we know today. See important that zest is?

Is this like the Starbucks lemon loaf recipe?

While I don’t have their exact recipe, this recipe seems almost exactly like the copycat Starbucks lemon loaf recipes I’ve seen out there. You’ll have to give this one a try and let me know what you think!

Do you have a good recipe for moist and delicious lemon loaf? I would love to hear about it and how it may differ from our family’s go-to for generations.

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lemon loaf

Lemon Loaf

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Looking for an easy dessert recipe that works well with almost every meal, every occasion, and any time of year? Behold the lemon loaf! If you’ve not made it until now, you’re about to see why it’s a perennial favorite for my family and countless others.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3  cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Lemon Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½  Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. 
  2. In the mixer, combine butter and sugar.
  3. Add in eggs and beat until well combined.
  4. Add sour cream, vanilla and lemon extracts, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  5. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix on low. Do not over mix. 
  7. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-55 minutes. Loaf is done when a toothpick comes out clean. If the loaf is not done at 45 minutes but is browning, cover with foil loosely over the top to allow more baking time without additional browning. 
  8. For the lemon icing: In a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, milk  and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. If too thin, add additional powdered sugar until reached desired consistency. 
  9. Remove loaf from pan once cooled. Spoon icing over top and let set for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
  • Author: Laura
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Category: Breads
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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