One of my favorite seasonal baking recipes: Lemon Loaf Cake! It’s a bright loaf cake full of amazing lemon flavors.
I love the texture in this lemon loaf cake. It’s lemony, rich, dense but not heavy at all, and perfectly moist. Plus, it’s drizzled with an amazing lemon glaze and garnished with vibrant lemon zest. I promise, you will love it. So, so good!
It’s seriously a must-bake now that lemons are in season. So delicious and fragrant, and also very easy to make!
I’ve been baking a lot lately, and I absolutely love it. Spring is in full swing, and farmers markets are abounding with fresh spring produce.
Lemons are everywhere, so I picked up a few and baked this incredibly delicious and moist lemon loaf cake. It was the best thing ever!
This easy and bright lemon loaf cake is perfect as a snack, dessert, or even breakfast! I also like to bring it to parties and gatherings…and trust me, everyone raves about it!
I think my favorite part about this it might be the velvety glaze. It’s a super easy thick lemon glaze that comes together in a matter of seconds. Glazes make everything better!
Texture and Flavor
This loaf cake is dense but not heavy at all! It’s a rich pound cake that’s packed with lots of bright lemon flavors.
I used butter (creamed it with the sugar), so the crumb is fine and moist. This is the perfect texture for loaf cakes or pound cakes. Creaming the softened butter with the sugar until light and fluffy helps to incorporate air into the batter, resulting in a rich but not heavy loaf.
The trick to a rich and dense, but not heavy, lemon loaf cake is simply not over-mixing the batter.
When it comes to flavor, first of all, make sure you use freshly squeezed lemon juice. Pre-packaged lemon juice contains preservatives that will add an artificial aftertaste to your loaf cake.
Additionally, the secret to a bright lemon loaf cake isn’t to add lots of lemon juice. Too much of it could actually make it taste too sour and alter the texture.
The secret to a perfectly lemony loaf cake is to use lemon zest in the batter! I add about 1 generous tablespoon of fresh lemon zest, from about 2 large lemons. It might seem like a lot, but don’t worry. Lemon zest will only make it fragrant and ultra delicious!
The ingredients in this recipe are your basic baking ingredients, plus FRESH LEMONS!
If you want the lemon flavors to shine, make sure you squeeze them fresh. It makes all the difference in the world.
Another key ingredient is lemon zest. So, before you squeeze your lemons, remember to zest them first. Basically, the lemon juice will give the loaf cake that lemony flavor, and the fragrant lemon zest will amplify and highlight all the brightness and freshness of the lemon.
Here are the ingredients you will need, to give you an idea.
- Flour: All-purpose flour works here.
- Baking powder: To give the loaf cake a nice rise, and also to give the crumbs some airiness and lift.
- Salt: Salt always brings out the flavors in baking.
- Unsalted butter: It has to be softened to room temperature so that you can cream it with the sugar. In baking, creaming butter with sugar aerated the batter to make a lighter texture.
- Granulated sugar: For sweetness, and to cream it with the butter. See above.
- Eggs: You’ll need 4 large eggs for a 9×5 inch loaf. Eggs add structure and moisture to baked goods.
- Greek yogurt: Will add amazing moisture and richness.
- Lemon zest: Lots of lemon zest here! It will make the lemon loaf cake truly fragrant and lemony. You’ll need to zest large 2 lemons, which should be about 1 tablespoon.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed! Don’t use pre-packaged lemon juice because those come with preservatives that will leave a weird aftertaste.
- Vanilla extract: For flavor.
- For the glaze: Powdered sugar, lemon juice, and heavy cream.
The recipe card down below includes all the quantities and other helpful notes, as always.
How to Make It
Baking this lemon loaf cake will make your house smell like a true bakery!
It’s so easy to make, and it can definitely be made ahead. In fact, I always make it the day before and frost it the next day. That way, it has way more than enough time to cool, and it also makes my life so much easier.
To give you an idea, this is the process for making the cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with butter and line it with parchment paper with overhang. Lining it with parchment paper will not only make removing the loaf cake from the pan easier, but it will also prevent the edges from browning too much.
- Whisk the dry ingredients: Flour, salt, baking powder.
- Cream the butter with the sugar: Use a mixer to do this. It’s pretty much impossible to do this by hand, unless you have super strong, fast-moving arms (I don’t). This is an important step. It aerates the batter to create a lighter crumb. This is what makes a perfectly dense pound cake not heavy.
- Add the rest of the wet ingredients: Eggs (one at a time, mixing), Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled. That’s normal, it’s the way the different textures mix. Everything will come together once you add the dry ingredients.
- Bake! Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes. If browning too fast, tent it with foil (usually after about 45 minutes into the baking time).
- Wait for it to cool down: Yup, this is the hardest part. After you take it out of the oven, you gotta wait and let it cool down COMPLETELY before drizzling in the glaze. Patience is hard.
- Make the glaze: Whisk the glaze ingredients. Start small with the liquid ingredients. Glazes are finicky, sometimes they need less liquid, sometimes not. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of liquid at a time until you get the right consistency.
- Drizzle the cake and serve!
I hope these step-by-step overviews are helpful. As always, the ingredient quantities and specific instructions can be found in the recipe card down below.
Here’s a note on why it’s important to cream the butter with the sugar in this recipe. While this loaf cake is moist and dense in texture, it’s not heavy at all thanks to the creaming process.
Why Cream Butter with Sugar
Creaming butter with sugar is the most important technique in this recipe. This technique consists of beating the softened butter with sugar to aerate it. Aerate means to incorporate air. The sugar helps to retain that air.
This is essential to keep baked goods light as they bake.
Cream the softened butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and pale yellow, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything fully.
The Lemon Glaze
Now, onto the most exciting part of this lemon loaf cake: THE LEMON GLAZE!
It’s perfectly thick, sweet, and tangy. It’s divine.
Only a few ingredients needed for the lemon glaze: confectioner’s sugar, fresh lemon juice, and heavy cream.
My biggest advice is to add the liquid components gradually, one tablespoon at a time. Glazes are finicky – sometimes they need more liquid, sometimes less. So just whisk in the lemon juice and the heavy cream little by little until it’s the consistency you want, and you’ll be all set!
Oh and…feel free to garnish it with some more lemon zest on top. It will make it look so pretty!
And there you have it! The best lemon loaf cake ever!
It is perfectly moist and rich, and SO DELICIOUS! The thick lemon glaze adds brightness and sweetness that I absolutely love. It’s amazing.
I love everything about it. Bake a loaf for your next gathering, party, reunion…or just for yourself. Happy baking!
More spring baking recipes:
- Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Bread
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Lemon Bars
- Blueberry Coffee Cake
- Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
Tips for Success
- Make sure you use softened butter at room temperature for creaming. It won’t cream properly if the butter is cold or hard. Leave butter on the counter for 1-2 hours to soften it.
- Use a stand or electrical mixer to cream the butter with the sugar. Makes it much easier.
- Creaming sugar and butter: This is an important step to make sure the loaf cake isn’t heavy. Don’t skip it.
- Remember to zest the lemons before squeezing them. I know I always forget.
Lemon Loaf Cake
- 9×5 inch loaf pan
- Other: Rubber spatulas, mixing bowls, parchment paper
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (2 standard sticks)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt (at room temperature)
- Zest of 2 large lemons (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed
- Lemon zest for decoration
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Set aside. Tip: if desired, line the pan with parchment paper with overhang on both sides of the pan (the long sides) to make it easier to pull out the cake later.
- Whisk the dry ingredients: In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Cream the butter with the sugar: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the softened butter over medium-high speed until light and smooth for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the granulated sugar and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl.
- Reduce to medium speed, and add the eggs, one by one, until fully incorporated.
- Add the Greek yogurt, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix over medium speed. Add the lemon juice and mix a few more times. Note: It may look curdled, that’s normal. The batter will come together once you add the dry ingredients.
- On medium speed, mix in the dry ingredients into the mixture gradually, until combined and no pockets of flour remain. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick. Tip: Sometimes flour gets stuck in the bowl or in the batter. Just fold the batter a few times using a rubber spatula at the end to make sure it’s all combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake in the middle rack for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. A few moist crumbs are fine. Try not to open the oven while it's baking, otherwise it may collapse in the center. Note: If the top is browning too fast, tent with foil, usually after 45 minutes into the baking time.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 1 hour, over a wire rack. Then carefully remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely for another 2 hours or so.
- Make the lemon glaze: In a medium bowl, add the confectioners sugar. Add the lemon juice and the heavy cream gradually, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until you get the consistency you want. I like my glaze thick, so I made sure to add the liquid little by little until it was just about right. If you want it thinner, just continue adding more heavy cream.
- Drizzle or pour over the pound cooled cake. Garnish with lemon zest if desired. Slice and serve. Enjoy!
- Creaming butter with sugar: This is an important step. This loaf cake is supposed to be rich, moist, and perfectly dense…like a pound cake should be. But you don’t want it to be heavy. Creaming the butter with sugar helps aerate the batter by creating pockets of air that will get you the perfect texture.
- Once you add the lemon juice to the mixture, it will look a bit curdled. That’s normal and it’s due to the way the different ingredients here mix. The batter will come together nicely once you add the dry ingredients.
- Don’t skip the lemon zest in the batter! It’s what will make this lemon loaf cake lemony and extra fragrant.
- Storing: Store in the fridge in a container for up to 1 week.
- Make ahead: You can definitely make the loaf cake 1 day in advance and glaze it later.
- Freezing: After the loaf cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Do not glaze it prior to freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once it has thawed, glaze it and serve.