Updated on November 13, 2020
Lemon desserts, like this gluten-free iced lemon loaf, have always held a special place in my heart because my Grandma Wilma made the BEST lemon meringue pies in the whole wide world. That woman could cook and bake like no one else I’ve ever known.
She grew tons of fruits and vegetables in her own garden, including the lemons for her pies. But she was also hornery and stubborn — so, since she didn’t like pumpkin pie, we didn’t get it for Thanksgiving. Nope.
Instead, she would make two lemon meringue pies: one for me and one for my mom (we would make ourselves sick on it), and one chocolate meringue pie for my Dad. She also didn’t like turkey so she made a roast … but I digress …
Back to lemon desserts. Who loves the iced lemon loaf cake at Starbucks? My 15-year-old loves lemon ANYTHING, and this is his favorite Starbucks treat. He also loves the lemon tarts from La Madeleine, so that’s next on my list.
I LOVE making healthier and cleaner versions of mainstream favorites. Because we should all get to enjoy that goodness without the yucky ingredients and/or sensitivities! And yes, we have eaten a lot of Starbucks baked goods over the years, so consider us connoisseurs. I’ve already tackled the Pumpkin Loaf and the Double Chocolate Loaf, so it was about time I gave this one a try.
This recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, and it can be dairy-free. If you can tolerate butter, I do recommend using it because this legit tastes like pound cake. I mean, YUM. But if not, feel free to substitute a non-dairy “butter” alternative such as Earth Balance or Country Crock Plant Butter.
What You’ll Need To Make This Lemony Loaf Cake
- Butter or non-dairy butter substitute
- Organic sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Baking powder
- Sea salt
- Coconut milk, full fat
- Powdered sugar
Before we get to the actual recipe, I’d like to share some helpful tips.
The Best Way To Soften Butter
Butter texture is super important when baking. If your butter is too soft, you’ll end up OVER cooking your baked goods. If it’s too hard, your recipe will turn out UNDERcooked!
So what’s the best way to soften butter when baking?
Cut the butter into one-inch cubes and let the cubes sit on the counter for about 15 minutes while you prepare all your other ingredients.
The Lowdown On Lemon Zest
What’s Lemon Zest?
Lemon zest is the dark yellow outer layer of the lemon peel. It’s super flavorful because it’s where the lemon oil comes from. And there’s always more flavor in the oil than in the juice. That’s why it’s also known as the “flavedo.”
The white layer just below that is the “albedo” or “pith” and you want to be sure to avoid getting that into your recipe because it tastes bitter.
How To Zest A Lemon
First, you’ll need the right tool for the job.
For batters and doughs… like this lemon loaf cake batter, it’s best to use a microplane because it “grates” the zest into very fine pieces (smaller than finely grated cheese) which easily melt into whatever you’re cooking.
For garnishes like candied lemon curls, it’s best to use a citrus zester because its tines cut fine, long strands of zest that curl into ringlets.
Peeler or Paring Knife
For infusing oils and syrups, where you want to immerse the zest into the oil or syrup for a while and be able to remove it later, it’s best to use a peeler or paring knife to peel large strips of zest.
Next, apply the right amount of pressure so you get all the zest without any of the pith. This may take a little bit of practice, but soon you’ll be zesting like a pro!
What’s The Best Way To Juice A Lemon?
To get the most juice out of a lemon without any fancy tools, Epicurious recommends that you always start with a heavy, soft lemon. Think of it like choosing between a baseball and a softball. For cooking, you want to choose the softball because the heavier of two equally-sized lemons will yield more juice and be easier to juice when you apply gentle pressure.
So after removing the zest and before cutting the lemon, apply gentle pressure as you roll the lemon on your counter. This will begin to break down the pulp, making it easier to squeeze all the juice out of the lemon.
Next, slice the lemon in half and squeeze as much juice as you can into a measuring cup. That way, you can easily use a fork to remove seeds that may fall into the juice before adding the juice to your recipe.
If you still feel like the lemon has more juice than you’re able to squeeze out, you can use a fork to press the remaining juice out.
How Many Tablespoons Of Juice Are In A Lemon?
The answer depends on a number of factors such as the lemon’s size, weight, age, and ripeness. But in general, you should be able to get approximately 5 tablespoons of juice from a large, fresh, 6-ounce lemon, or 2 tablespoons from a medium-sized, fresh, 3.5-ounce lemon.
So for this recipe, I recommend getting 2 lemons. That way, you’ll have more than enough juice for the batter, icing, and a glass of refreshing lemon water for you.
How To Make Iced Lemon Loaf Cake
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line an 8×4 inch loaf pan with parchment paper so it’s easier to remove the loaf after cooking, or grease the pan with butter or coconut oil.
3. Zest the lemons.
4. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and remove seeds from the juice.
5. Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
6. Add the eggs and beat until well blended.
7. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix again until the batter is smooth.
8. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
9. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat to combine.
10. Add coconut milk and beat again until the batter is very smooth.
11. Pour the batter into the parchment paper lined loaf pan and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out smooth, and sides of the loaf begin to pull away from the pan. Top will be very golden.
12. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before removing from the pan.
13. Cool completely on a cooking rack or serving tray, or refrigerate to make sure it’s set!
14. Prepare the lemon glaze and dribble or spread it over the loaf to fully cover the cake and drip down the sides. Glaze will harden as it cools.
15. Garnish with lemon zest and serve.
16. Loaf should be stored in the refrigerator to keep icing intact.
More Helpful Tips
- If you really like a lot of lemon flavor, add more lemon zest.
- Make sure to chop your lemon zest EXTRA FINE — you don’t want big pieces of it in your cake.
- You really really REALLY need to let this cake cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan. I usually use parchment paper and let mine sit in the refrigerator for a while before attempting to remove it! You can even add the glaze while it’s still in the pan to be extra cautious.
- There are two versions of the glaze — thin and thick. Totally personal preference, they’re both yummy.
- Don’t be alarmed if your glaze isn’t stark white. The lemon juice has a slight yellow color so it’s not supposed to be super white.
- This cake will taste more lemony the next day.
Hope you guys enjoy it! I think even my Grandma Wilma would approve.
Gluten Free Iced Lemon Loaf
- 1/2 cup butter softened to room temp
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1-2 tablespoons of lemon zest very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 dash vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups fine almond flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk I always whip my coconut milk before using to make sure all the lumps smooth out!
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for thinner glaze
- 1 tbsp lemon juice for thicker glaze add 1/2 tsp more for thinner glaze
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease an 8x4 inch loaf pan with butter or melted coconut oil. My personal preference is lining the pan with parchment paper for easier removal!
- In large bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat until smooth.
- Add the eggs and beat until well blended.
- Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix again until batter is smooth.
- In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients: almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and sea salt.
- Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat to combine.
- Add coconut milk and beat again until batter is very smooth.
- Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for about 60-70 minutes. Toothpick inserted in center should come out smooth, and sides should begin to pull away from sides. Top will be very golden.
- Let cool for about 30 minutes, preferably longer.
- Loosen loaf around sides and flip onto cooking rack or serving tray to cool completely. Or lift out of pan by holding onto parchment paper. (You can even refrigerate it for a while to make sure it's set! Or you can ice it while still in the pan.)
Prepare Lemon Glaze
- Prepare glaze by mixing powdered sugar and lemon juice together. Beat until smooth.
- Pour thinner glaze over loaf, and let it drip down the sides. Texture will be somewhat runny but will harden as it cools.
- Spread thicker glaze over loaf, using a spreader or spatula to fully cover cake.
- Garnish with lemon zest if you choose and store in refrigerator to keep icing intact.