Each bite of this Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf is bursting with bright citrus and nutty poppy seed flavor. Inspired by Starbucks lemon loaf, it’s super moist and topped with a sweet lemon icing. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.
Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf with Poppy Seeds
If you love the popular Starbucks lemon loaf, you’re going to love this copycat version made with poppy seeds!
The lemon loaf base and top icing was inspired by the beloved Starbucks lemon loaf that I can never resist ordering a slice of, and also my traditional poppy seed cake. The bright citrus flavor of fresh lemons pairs so well with the earthy, nutty seeds.
Wonderful for a Sunday brunch or just a snack cake, this moist and tender lemon poppy seed loaf will easily become one of your new favorites.
Here’s what you’ll need for this easy lemon loaf recipe.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Granulated sugar – For sweetness.
- Lemon – Both lemon zest and lemon juice ensure each bite of this cake is infused with lemon flavor.
- Butter – You’ll want to use melted butter for added moisture.
- Vanilla – For additional flavor.
- Eggs – Provides the cake with structure. They should be at room temperature.
- Sour cream – Adds a slightly tangy flavor and extra moisture.
- Poppy seeds – The key ingredient for poppy seed lemon cake!
- All-purpose flour – Use the spoon and level technique for accurate measurement.
- Baking powder – Ensures the cake rises.
- Coarse salt – Helps to balance out the sweet and citrus ingredients.
- Powdered sugar – The base of the icing.
- Milk – You’ll need just a splash of milk to thin out the icing.
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf
Here’s how to make this copycat Starbucks lemon loaf cake with poppy seeds.
(Don’t miss the printable recipe card for details and measurements below.)
- Combine the lemon zest and sugar. Combine the sugar and lemon zest then use your fingers to rub the zest and sugar together.
- Blend the ingredients. Add the melted butter and blend to combine, then add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice, sour cream, and poppy seeds then blend again.
- Add the dry ingredients. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt with a spatula.
- Bake. Transfer to a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Cool completely.
- Make the icing. Whisk together the icing ingredients, adding more powdered sugar and liquid as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Pour over the completely cooled loaf cake.
- Enjoy. Let the glaze set then slice and enjoy!
Tips & Variations
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare your lemon loaf cake.
- Don’t overmix the ingredients. When you add the dry ingredients, mix just until combined to avoid a denser, dryer texture.
- Let the parchment paper hang over the loaf pan. The key to easily removing your lemon loaf from the pan is to leave an overhang of parchment paper on the two long sides so you can pick them up to remove the loaf.
- How do I know when lemon loaf is ready? Your lemon loaf cake is fully baked when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Make sure the loaf cools completely. Before adding the icing, it’s important that the lemon loaf is COMPLETELY cool. Otherwise, the icing will just melt.
- Adjust the consistency of the icing. Start with 2 cups of powdered sugar and add more as needed to thicken the icing – or add more milk or lemon juice to thin it out.
- Omit the poppy seeds. Not a fan of poppy seeds? Turn your lemon poppy seed loaf into regular lemon loaf by omitting the poppy seeds.
You can serve this lemon cake either at room temperature or chill. It’s lovely served with a cup of hot tea or Boba tea or coffee, and can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert. It also makes a lovely addition to a brunch spread, perhaps with some mimosas or a French 75.
How to Store Homemade Lemon Loaf
- Storing leftovers. Lemon loaf cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in an airtight container. You can also store it in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, then let it come to room temperature before serving.
- To freeze. If you’d like to freeze it, I recommend doing so without the icing. Allow it to cool completely then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil to avoid freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw on the counter. Apply fresh icing, let it set, and slice.
More Lemon Desserts:
Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 lemons both zested, 1 juiced
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 large eggs , room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
FOR THE ICING
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- splash of milk
- splash of vanilla
- pinch of salt
- lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper with a slight overhang on the two longer sides for easy removal later.
- In a large mixing bowl, dump in the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest and sugar together (this helps release the oil in the zest to infuse a really great lemon flavor in the sugar.)
- Add to the bowl the melted butter; blend with an electric mixer just until combined. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add in the lemon juice, sour cream, and poppy seeds – blend again just until incorporated.
- Switch to a spatula and add in the flour, baking powder, and salt – fold it all together, making sure not to over mix.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan in an even layer and smooth out the top.
- Transfer to the oven on the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester in the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool COMPLETELY and then apply the glaze. (Make certain the loaf cake is fully cooled before applying the icing or it will just melt.)
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, melted butter, splash of milk, splash of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and some lemon zest – adjust to desired consistency. Then pour over the loaf cake, letting it fall down the sides.
- Let the glaze set, then slice and serve.