I visit Starbucks nearly once a week and I must admit something: that's not enough! My favorite drink is a short, non-fat raspberry mocha and I haven't ever gotten tired of it. No, not in the fifteen years I've been drinking it since I 'discovered' it in California! (The only time I differ is for a brief time around Christmas when I opt for occasional Salted Caramel Mocha. Why, oh WHY can't Starbucks stock the salt year 'round? Surely it doesn't take up THAT much room!)
There's ony one item that I ever choose from the pastry case and that's the lemon loaf. It's bright citrusy flavor is something I crave throughout the entire year but especially in winter when the sky is a flat, grey color and I could use something cheering.
Unfortunately, I've noticed in the last couple of years that the quality of the lemon loaf at Starbucks has become so varied that it's become a risk to purchase a slice. Sometimes the slice is dry and crumbly but sometimes it is so moist that it feels as though it were a soggy sponge. The icing is crucial; it gives an even stronger burst of tartness but yet, sometimes half the icing has fallen off or there's the barest opaque scraping across the top curve of the slice. Once, I even received a slice still frozen!
I'm a forgiving person....most of the time. I still frequent Starbucks for my raspberry mocha but with the lemon loaf undependable I knew it was time to make my own lemon loaf. It took trying many recipes, casting them aside and then trying many more. I tweaked and added and minused. I scratched that and started again. Each time I got closer and closer but something was always off and it was usually the texture. I wanted it to be as close to that first, perfect slice of lemon loaf at Starbucks that I remembered and after nearly two years, I finally got it exactly as I wanted it.
Normally, I like to use all whole ingredients when I bake and cook. I avoid the shortcuts because I believe the end result is better. But to every 'rule,' there are exceptions and this lemon loaf recipe has one of them. The recipe requires two boxes of Jello Instant Lemon Pudding and though some flavor is imparted to the loaf by the pudding the more important thing is the texture the pudding mix gives to the loaf. Dense, rich and moist...just like that perfect first slice in my memory.
14 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
zest from one lemon, reserve lemon for glaze
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 small boxes of instant lemon pudding
---reserved lemon plus powdered sugar for glaze---
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or bundt pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and dry pudding mix. Set aside.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar and zest. Beat in eggs, one a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated. Stir in vanilla and sour cream.
3. Slowly add in the flour mixture and once it's fully combined, increase the speed on the mixer to medium and beat for three minutes. The mixture will be very thick.
4. Spread the batter in the pan and then bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make icing.
5. Juice the reserved lemon and add enough powdered sugar to get a thick, ropey icing consistency. Put a platter under the lemon loaf and then spread the icing over the lemon loaf. Some of the icing will drip down onto the platter. I like to scrape up all the icing that drips off and add it back to the top of the loaf to get that thick, crackling icing top.
6. When the icing has completely set and the loaf is completely cool it may be sliced for presentation or kept under a cake dome and sliced on demand. The lemon loaf will stay fresh for several days....if it lasts that long!