This gluten-free lemon loaf tastes just like the classic Starbucks snack - except this copycat version is healthy and allergy-friendly. Sweet, tart, and moist - this snack cake is sure to be a hit in your kitchen!
Spring and summer time come with lots of fresh, seasonal flavours. And since they always come and go so fast here in Canada, we must make the most of it! Insert this gluten-free lemon loaf recipe that is nearly identical to the Starbucks lemon loaf.
This copycat was born when my sister came home from Starbucks with a slice of lemon loaf. I've never considered lemon one of my favourite flavours, but I was immediately so jealous of her loaf, that I had to make my own gluten-free version!
This Starbucks copycat gluten-free lemon loaf tastes even better than the original - plus it's (slightly) healthier for you. Moist, sweet, tart, and delicious - this gluten-free lemon loaf recipe is sure to be a winner in your kitchen! Keep reading to learn how you can make it.
This gluten-free lemon loaf recipe is made with seasonal and easily accessible ingredients! It could be made dairy-free by simply substituting your favourite alternatives for the butter, sour cream, and milk. I haven't got to try that out yet - but leave a comment if you do!
- Butter: Adds richness and creams well with the sugar for the ultimate soft cake texture.
- Sugar: I typically like to keep my recipes lower sugar, but it's necessary here to create the soft but dense crumb to the lemon loaf that is iconic in the Starbucks version. And it's oh so good.
- Sour cream: Sour cream adds incredible moisture to baked goods. I also like to use it in my gluten-free banana bread recipe.
- Avocado oil: The extra liquid fat helps the texture of the loaf stay moist.
- Eggs: 3 eggs give this cake the lift it needs to be light, but still dense and delicious. I have not attempted a substitution for eggs.
- Lemon juice: While fresh lemon juice is best, a jar or bottle will do. If using a fresh lemon, be sure to roll it on your counter for a few seconds before juicing to release the juices.
- Lemon zest: Optional but very recommended. The more lemon flavour, the merrier! Be sure to wash the lemon thoroughly before zesting.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla is a flavour enhancer for all other ingredients. It balances the sweet and tart flavours from the sugar and lemon.
- Lemon extract: This may seem like lemon overkill, but lemon extract is the key flavour that makes this a "Starbucks Copycat". The punchy, bold lemon flavour is delicious and leaves you with no doubt about what flavour this cake is.
- Gluten-free all-purpose flour: My favourite is the Bob's Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Baking Flour (in the blue bag)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda: Both baking powder and baking soda ensure this lemon loaf has enough rise
- Salt: Just a pinch of salt will help to balance the sweet and tart flavours in this loaf.
- Butter: Kind of necessary for buttercream! The Starbucks lemon loaf has a thick and delicious icing on top, so we couldn't skip out on that here.
- Powdered sugar: Gives the buttercream body and thickness.
- Lemon extract: A tiny bit of lemon flavour ties the buttercream back to the flavour of the cake and cuts the sweetness slightly.
- Dash of milk: Use your favourite milk type, but just a dash will help the buttercream reach the desired thick-but-spreadable-and-decadent consistency.
Mixing the batter
(Prep) It is important to ensure that the butter, eggs, and lemons are at room temperature before you begin. This will allow them to incorporate into the batter better and create the dense pound cake-like crumb that is desired. A room temperature lemon will also release its juice easier. Roll the lemon on the counter before juicing to further help you extract the most lemon juice possible. Just before ready to begin, preheat the oven to 350°F.
(1) In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, a hand mixer, or some elbow grease, beat the butter until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Add in the sugar and cream together for another 5 minutes. This will ensure a soft texture to the cake.
(2) Add the sour cream, oil, and eggs. Mix slowly to incorporate. Add the lemon juice, zest, vanilla and lemon extracts. Mix well to form the wet batter.
(3) Add the gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined.
(4) Pour the batter into a greased 9x5" loaf pan. I used a silicone loaf pan inserted into a metal one (to keep its shape). You can grease with baking spray or coconut oil.
(5) Bake on the middle rack in the oven for approximately 65 minutes. Check that a skewer inserted comes out clean. If so, it's done. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely (at least 2 hours).
Making the buttercream
(6) While the loaf is cooling, you can prepare the buttercream icing. Beat the softened butter until light and fluffy in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer. This should, again, take about 5 minutes. Add the icing sugar and slowly beat together. Ensure your mixer is on low speed to avoid an icing sugar explosion!
Add the lemon extract and additional milk for consistency, ¼ teaspoon at a time. You want the buttercream to be thick but creamy and spreadable. Less liquid is more.
(7) Once the loaf is completely cool, top with a thick layer of the buttercream. Spread it out with an offset spatula. Then you're ready to slice and enjoy!
The gluten-free lemon loaf will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. Avoid the fridge as it will make the loaf dry.
And there you have it, a delicious gluten-free version of your old favourite Starbucks lemon loaf! Best of all this springtime dessert is gluten-free, easy and delicious. This gluten-free lemon loaf recipe serves as the perfect as a snack cake or dessert centrepiece. Kid-friendly and adult-friendly, it is sure to fly off your countertop!
Have you made this gluten-free lemon loaf? Leave a comment below and tag me on instagram @livglutenfree!
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Gluten-Free Lemon Loaf (Starbucks Copycat)
Gluten-Free Lemon Loaf
- ½ cup salted butter, softened to room temperature If using unsalted butter, add an additional ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup sour cream, use lactose-free if required
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, about the juice of 1 fresh lemon
- zest of 1 lemon, optional but recommended
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3½ teaspoon lemon extract
- 1½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour, I use Bob Red Mill's 1:1 All-Purpose Baking Flour (blue bag)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon salted butter, softened to room temperature If using unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
- dash of milk, for consistency
- Ensure the butter, eggs, and lemons are at room temperature before you begin. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, hand mixer, or with some elbow grease, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the sugar and cream together for another 5 minutes.
- Add the sour cream, oil, and eggs. Mix slowly to incorporate. Add the lemon juice, zest, vanilla and lemon extracts. Mix well.
- Add the gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 9x5" loaf pan. I used a silicone loaf pan inserted into a metal one (to keep its shape). Bake on the middle rack in the oven for approximately 65 minutes. Check that a skewer inserted comes out clean. If so, it's done. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely (at least 2 hours).
- While the loaf is cooling, you can prepare the buttercream icing. Beat the softened butter until light and fluffy in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer. Add the icing sugar and slowly beat together. Add the lemon extract and additional milk for consistency, ¼ teaspoon at a time. You want the buttercream to be thick but creamy and spreadable.
- Once the loaf is completely cool, top with a thick layer of the buttercream. Slice and enjoy! The loaf will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. Avoid the fridge as it will make the loaf dry.
Is there a substitute that can be used for the avocado oil?
Olivia Parsons says
Hi Brandi, you could use any oil. My next recommendation would be melted coconut oil, or vegetable oil if that's all you have.
I just made this, and it's sooooo good! I didn't have any sour cream, so used plain yogurt, and only had canola oil, and it turned out really well. The texture was so soft and light... a real surprise for my first ever attempt at any gf recipe.
Next time I'll reduce sugar and increase lemon - personal preference.
Thank you for sharing this... it's definitely a keeper!
Olivia Parsons says
Thanks so much for your comment, Jo! I'm so glad you enjoyed this gluten-free lemon loaf—it's perfect for Spring!
Made this yesterday and IT WAS AMAZING!! I used the glaze from the lemon-blueberry bread and replaced the milk with lemon extract which added a nice zip. The loaf was so moist and no one could tell it was GF. Would definitely make again. Thanks for the recipe!
Olivia Parsons says
I'm so glad to hear how much you enjoyed, Mandy! Thanks for the kind comment!
Hey, mine came out a bit gummy. Any advice?
Olivia Parsons says
Hi Tia, maybe you used a different brand of GF flour? Did you include all other recipe ingredients? Sorry this didn't work out for you!
This was my first time making anything GF and it turned out so well. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe! It was very moist and flavorful.
Instead of adding the buttercream I poured a tart lemon glaze over it, but I think both ways would be just as good.
Olivia Parsons says
I'm so glad you enjoyed this loaf, Josie! Lemon glaze sounds fantastic as well.
Just made this last night, making it again for friend’s birthday tomorrow. Excellent gluten free cake-not gritty! It is moist and delicious. I used king Arthur’s GF measure for measure.
Olivia Parsons says
So glad you enjoyed Lisa! Thank you!