Happy Sunday, friends! This bright, fresh, and healthier Lemon Loaf Cake just screams Sunday brunch to me. Are you a lemon dessert fan?! It’s hit or miss for me, but this one is definitely a winner. The lemon flavor is strong thanks to plenty of lemon zest, but it’s not overpowering and there’s no artificial lemon flavoring to throw it all off. I know some of you will cringe when I say it, but I played with this recipe until it gave me what I was looking for – a super moist and tender loaf cake! That’s thanks in part to the lightly sweetened lemon soak that you brush on while it’s still warm. Yum!
Of course I used protein powder in this recipe to bump up the protein content and keep things on the healthier side…and before you start freaking out – no, that doesn’t mean this is the most healthy thing out there! I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a protein cake even though it has 9 grams per slice. But I tested the heck out of this recipe to get the texture and flavor just right so that you wouldn’t even guess that it’s healthier than your average loaf cake. (Seriously, I think I made it 6 or 7 times before I was happy with the recipe.) Compared to a slice of Starbucks’ Iced Lemon Loaf, mine has half the fat and double the protein when you stack them against each other gram for gram.
The batter for this loaf cake should look a bit lumpy – that’s totally fine! You don’t want to overmix the batter just because there’s a little spot of flour still visible. Just stick it in the pan and it’ll all work itself out in the oven.
I tried this loaf cake out in both normal size and mini loaves. I have to say I’m partial to the big loaf, but the mini ones are super cute and are really easy to wrap up and gift to friends! I used my Souper Cubes 1-cup tray to get the perfect size. It worked out great because you can just pop the little cakes right out of the silicone without having to mess with parchment paper.
Another thing I love about the little loaves is that you get maximum icing (and lemon soak) on all sides! When your cake is still warm, you brush on a mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar – this soaks right in to the warm cake, keeping the outside from getting dry and really maximizing the fresh lemon flavor. Don’t skip it!
Here are some goods that came in handy while making this recipe. Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links.
Healthier Lemon Loaf Cake
- 1 1/4 cups AP flour (150 grams)
- 6 tbsp Dymatize Elite Smooth Vanilla Casein Protein Powder (50 grams)
- 2 tbsp Cellucor Whipped Vanilla Whey Protein Powder (16 grams)
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup low fat 1% buttermilk (4 fl oz)
- 1/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt (2 fl oz)
- 1 cup sugar (192 grams)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature (100 grams)
- 2 tbsp lemon zest (zest of 3 lemons)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (1 fl oz)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (1 fl oz)
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar (15 grams)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (120 grams)
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (0.75 fl oz)
- 1 tbsp whole milk (0.5 fl oz)
Pre-heat oven to 325°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Mix flour, whey and casein protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Cream on medium high until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn speed to medium and add eggs one at a time. Next, add yogurt and wait until combined. Then add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute, then turn off.
Add one third of the flour mixture, then turn mixer on at low speed until almost combined. Add half of the buttermilk until just combined. Repeat this process with another third of the flour mixture and remaining buttermilk. Once it is just combined, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined, being careful not to overwork the batter.
Transfer the batter to a loaf pan and bake at 325° for 1 hr and 15 minutes. Tent the pan very loosely with foil when 20-30 minutes of baking time remain to ensure the top doesn't get too browned. The loaf is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Note 1: Don't add the foil too early or leave the oven open too long or you'll risk having a collapsed loaf.
Note 2: If making mini-loaves, check for doneness starting around the 1 hour mark.
Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing. As it cools, whisk together the ingredients for the lemon soak. Brush the top of the loaf while it is still hot in the pan. Once the loaf is removed from the pan, brush it again on all sides with the lemon soak. Set aside to cool completely.
Once the loaf is completely cooled, whisk together icing ingredients and drizzle it over top of the loaf. I like to do this over parchment paper so I don't lose any icing, but you can also do this over a cooling rack so the excess icing drips off.
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