Healthier Lemon Loaf Cake

My boys love that Starbucks lemon loaf cake, so I was on a mission to create a healthier version I could make at home. This is still a dessert recipe, but definitely a lot lower in sugar than the original. I added in some whole wheat flour for some extra fiber and sweetened the loaf with honey. A little yogurt keeps the cake super moist and tender. Plus, it’s super easy to make–no mixer needed! This would be the perfect dessert for a brunch or just as an afternoon treat. Happy to say that my lemon loaf lovers gave this healthier cake two thumbs up!

Kids in the Kitchen: Healthier Lemon Loaf Cake

  • Gather all the ingredients before you invite your little one to bake with you. It will get things off to a smooth start. If you are baking with a very young child or if you would like to keep the mess down to a minimum, consider pre-measuring the dry goods like flours.
  • Zest and juice: this recipe is all about lemons so make sure to show your little baker how to zest and juice. Hold the lemon and microplane zester together. Show her how to get only the yellow part of the lemon skin and not any of the bitter white pith. Juice the lemons together then measure the juice for the recipe.
  • Make sure to crack the egg into a separate bowl in case any shells get in there. If the child isn’t cracking the eggs, he/she can help dump the eggs from the small bowl into the larger bowl.
  • Dump! Teach kids to add ingredients to the center of the bowl to avoid spilling.
  • Mix! Have a little one that wants to do everything herself? Ask if you can take turns mixing. Kids usually understand that concept well and that way the child can have some independence and you can get things well mixed.

Subs and Tips for making Lemon Loaf:

  • Gluten-free: Instead of wheat flour, use a cup-for-cup style gluten-free flour blend.
  • Egg-free: I haven’t tested it, but I’m pretty sure a flax “egg” or other egg substitute would work well in place of the one egg in the recipe.
  • Dairy-Free: This recipe has yogurt and milk. To make it dairy-free, use a plain, unsweetened dairy-free yogurt such as a coconut or soy yogurt. You can use any kind of dairy-free milk that’s unflavored and unsweetened.
  • Refined sugar-free: the cake is sweetened with only honey, but the glaze is made from powdered sugar. If you want a less-sweet cake, you can leave the glaze off or just dust it lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
  • Helpful Tools: my favorite zester and citrus juicer are on my Amazon “kitchen essentials” list. Find those by clicking HERE (affiliate link).
  • Make ahead? This cake is great to make ahead of time if you are serving it for a party or get together. Bake it one or two days in advance, let it cool completely, then cover it very well with foil and store at room temperature. Glaze the day of serving.

Healthier Lemon Loaf Cake

Lower in sugar but full of sweet lemon flavor!
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 9-by-5-inch loaf pan


  • 1 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or more whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup avocado or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup but the loaf will be darker in color
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt I use full-fat but any kind will work
  • 1/4 cup milk (any kind)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest from about 3 lemons
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice or use half milk for a less sour glaze


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. I like to place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom and up the sides like a "sling" so the loaf is easy to remove.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the remaining ingredeints together until combined. (Tip: measure the oil in a 1/4 cup measuring cup then measure the honey in there twice. It will come out really easily.)
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined and no dry flour remains. It's ok if there are some lumps in the batter. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the top.
  • Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Lemon Glaze

  • Add powdered sugar to a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice (or milk) a little at a time until you get a thick but pourable glaze.
  • Spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cooled loaf. Allow to sit for 15 minutes for the glaze to harden then cut into slices.
Keyword healthier dessert, lemon, loaf cake

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Other Healthier Dessert Recipes:

Carrot Apple Snack Cake

Lemon Poppyseed Muffin Tops

Strawberry Oatmeal Snack Cake

Healthier Monster Cookies






  1. Janet on April 14, 2021 at 2:45 am

    5 stars
    I made this with my little one today! So delicious, moist and easy to make. Thank you for creating healthy and delicious recipes for families.

    • Heather on April 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Janet! That’s so awesome to hear! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. 🙂 Heather

  2. Natasha on April 16, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    5 stars
    This lemon loaf is better than Starbucks! I used all whole wheat flour and it turned out amazing 😻

    • Heather on April 26, 2021 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Natasha! I’m so glad you loved the recipe. Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review. 🙂 Heather

  3. Lola on August 24, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    I made this cake today but somehow the middle fell after it came out the oven and the texture was all gluey/uncooked even though I baked it for 52 minutes! I’m sure that it was my fault seeing as other comments said it came out wonderfully so could you help me see where I went wrong? I used 2 cups of all purpose (didn’t have whole wheat) and I used 0% Fat yogurt. I also only had about 3/4 tbsp lemon zest so I added about 2 more tbsp lemon juice to make up for the lack of lemoniness. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. I may have overmixed the batter too since I forgot to add the lemon until I was about to pour it into the pan… 😅 (if you can’t tell already I’m a very inexperienced baker) I’m sorry for messing up your lovely recipe so badly!

    • Heather on August 25, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Hi Lola, I’m so sorry that happened. I made this recipe last week and it turned out fine. My guess is that the batter had too much liquid/moisture. I wouldn’t have added the extra lemon juice, but maybe there was also too much liquid in the yogurt. Wish I could make one with you! 🙂 Heather

  4. Duygu on November 18, 2021 at 10:20 pm

    5 stars
    I did this recipe and it was pretty good. I used milk for the glaze and it did not look as white but the sweetness was there. Overall a very good recipe!

  5. Tracy on December 4, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    4 stars
    I made this and had to bake an extra hour because the bottom was soggy. It’s not sweet so adding the glaze is perfect!

  6. Meghan on April 18, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    So excited to make this! Do you know approximately how many calories per slice?

    • Heather on April 27, 2022 at 12:47 pm

      Hi Meghan, I don’t calculate the nutritional value for my recipes, but you can use an ap to calculate the serving size and calories if you’d like.

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