Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Copycat Recipe: Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake

One of the privileges of attending a large university was a 24/7 Starbucks in the library. I frequented the coffee shop not for Venti Americanos but for the Iced Lemon Pound Cake. Between classes, I’d indulge in a slice of the tangy yellow cake (well, until I read the nutrition facts)—and ever since then, I’ve possessed a certain nostalgia for the treat. 

Which is why, for the last year, my phone’s photo album has included screen shots of a recipe claiming to be a near-perfect replica of Starbucks’ Lemon Loaf (as it used to be called). Of course, I took this screen shot when I was in the midst of what I call the Couch Era, those weeks after Asa’s birth when I barely left my living room. She was a baby who liked to be held as often as my college’s Starbucks was open, which meant I spent lots of time surfing the web—and lots of time imagining the desserts I’d someday bake, if I ever had more than 10 minutes to myself again.

One year later, that day has (finally) come, if you can count cooking with a one-year-old wrapped around your leg as “me” time—and my filed-away recipes are being put to the test. 

This one didn’t disappoint. 

Although my loaf pan isn’t nearly as deep as the one Starbucks must use—my cake ended up only about half the size of the original—the taste was more than convincing. The secret, I believe, isn’t in the cake itself—it’s the dash of lemon extract in the powdered sugar-based icing, giving it just enough zing to trick your tastebuds into coming back again…and again…and again. (I’m to the stage where I’m just skimming off the top half of the cake, so I can ensure I enjoy a bit of icing with every bite.) 

I will admit the texture is a bit different than the original. The copycat recipe yields a light, fluffy cake, much like a traditional box cake, whereas the Lemon Loaf of my memory was denser (perhaps the reason Starbucks changed its name to pound cake). That being said, I have heard that Sweet Streets, the bakery that Starbucks supposedly buys from, makes its desserts, like, a year in advance, then freezes them, which could explain the textural difference. I’ll take freshness over density. 

In 2014, in a tragic turn of events, Starbucks discontinued the dessert, but after my lemon-loving brethren protested, the company brought it back. So if you've never tried it, get it while you can, in case Starbucks tries to can the cake again. Or just make this recipe, courtesy of

What you need:
1.5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract (hint: it's sold at Aldi for $1.99!)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup oil

For the icing
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Put it all together:

  1. Using a mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract, and lemon juice, then add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the oil, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. 
  2. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5" loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.
  3. While the cake is cooling, combine all the icing ingredients. When the cake is cool, remove it from the pan, and drizzle the icing over the top. Let the icing harden before serving.