Trying Out A New Recipe: Iced Lemon Loaf

Athena ScalziI haven’t baked anything in a while, and it was starting to make me sad, so I said to myself, well why don’t I just bake something? So I did! I chose this lemon loaf for a couple different reasons, the first being that I scrolled past it on Instagram and thought it looked good in the moment. The second reason is that it’s from my favorite food blogger! And thirdly, I had all the ingredients.

So, here is Half Baked Harvest’s Iced Lemon Loaf.

Like I said, I happened to have all the ingredients already, which is kind of surprising because there’s one or two things on the list that I normally have to go specifically buy from the store.

Ingredients laid out on the counter. Powdered sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, honey, butter, eggs, lemons, sour cream, and cream cheese.

It’s a fifty-fifty shot whether I have sour cream or not, the cream cheese is definitely a bit of a rarer ingredient for me to immediately have on hand. The lemons are the only other thing that are what I consider a specialty item for this recipe, but last week I bought a two pound bag for like four bucks so I had that covered. Actually, the recipe calls for Greek yogurt or sour cream, but I only had the latter so that’s what I ended up using. If you make this recipe with the yogurt, I’d be curious to see if it turns out differently.

The first step of the recipe was easy enough, just beat together the butter, honey, and some lemon zest. I was surprised by how much honey was needed for this recipe until I realized there was no granulated sugar in this recipe at all. The honey is the only sweetener for the batter, so it makes sense you’d need a lot.

For the next step, the recipe warned that the mixture would look curdled, but I only expected it to look that way after adding the sour cream. It ended up looking funky after adding just the eggs, though.

A white mixing bowl full of a yellow mixture. It looks weird and curdled.

Didn’t love the look of that, but the recipe said it was okay so I kept going, and after the sour cream it definitely looked nasty.

Two beaters covered in a curdled mixture. Gross.

After that, all that was left was the dry ingredients, which went right into the same bowl (hooray for fewer dishes!). Once combined, the batter ended up being a weirdly light consistency. It was more like a dough and less like a batter, which is a distinction I don’t think I’d have been able to make until recently. The more you bake, the more you learn about baking! Who would’ve guessed.

A white mixing bowl containing a pale yellow mixture.

Now that the loaf mixture was made, it was time to make the cream cheese mixture that goes into the loaf. It was literally only cream cheese and lemon zest, so I thought it’d be easy, but the cream cheese was evidently not soft enough and immediately all went inside my whisk.

A whisk full of cream cheese, caged inside the wires.

This shit is mad annoying. I got a rubber spatula and got the cream cheese out of the inside and knew what I had to do. I had to go ham on this cream cheese to get it softer, so I hulked out and tried beating the hell out of it. Alas, it was too strong for me, and just kept being a pain in the ass to handle. So I microwaved it for ten seconds. That made it change its tune, and finally it was spreadable.

The recipe says to layer the loaf mixture and cream cheese, starting by putting a third of the loaf mixture into the loaf pan. How the hell am I supposed to know how much a third of it is? It’s batter dude, you just want me to eyeball that shit? Well, I definitely tried to wing it, but a third of the batter didn’t even cover the bottom of the loaf pan! So I said fuck it and poured half the batter into the loaf pan, then used all of the cream cheese mixture instead of half.

A loaf pan with half the bread mixture and a layer of the cream cheese mixture on top.

Coincidentally, all of the cream cheese mixture ended up covering the first half of the batter perfectly. Then I covered that with the other half of the batter.

A loaf pan, now filled with all of the bread mixture.

The recipe says to bake it for 45 minutes, so I did just that. Once the 45 minutes had passed, it definitely looked done, but when I tested it with a knife, it was most certainly not done. I wanted to let it bake for another five minutes, but I was worried about burning the top because it was already so done on top. Then I remembered the recipe said that you can cover the top with foil to keep it from getting overdone. So I threw some foil on top and let it bake for another five minutes, and then it was actually done!

A baked loaf of bread! Golden brown and delicious looking.

Of course, I had to make this lemon loaf in my lemon loaf pan:

The loaf of bread, turned over to reveal it has a lemon design on top from the loaf pan.

While that cooled a bit, I whipped up the lemon icing. It was just some powdered sugar, honey, and lemon juice. I don’t know what my issue is lately with powdered sugar, but everything I’ve baked that requires some kind of powdered sugar glaze or icing just doesn’t taste good. Like, the powdered sugar aspect of it always tastes funny to me. It’s definitely not expired, and I figured Domino was a good brand to go with, so I’m not sure what it is lately that makes powdered sugar taste kind of bad to me? Like I honestly think everything I’ve made that calls for a glaze or icing would just be better without it.

Regardless, I still drizzled some onto a slice of the bread. However, the bread was still too warm and immediately melted the glaze.

A slice of the bread, a ribbon of cream cheese running through the middle.

In the end, it tasted okay! It’s not amazing, but not bad or anything. I was hoping it would be better than Starbuck’s version, but I wouldn’t say it is. Maybe it’s baker’s error, or maybe it would’ve been better if I used Greek yogurt. Honestly, I think it’d be better without the cream cheese. It’s weird texturally inside the bread.

All in all, I don’t regret making it but I doubt I’ll make it again any time soon.

Do you like lemon pastries? Do you think powdered sugar has a funny taste? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


23 Comments on “Trying Out A New Recipe: Iced Lemon Loaf”

  1. Re: the powdered sugar.
    It could just be that your tastes have changed over time (I’m thinking that you used to like it?).
    Many recipes note that baking time may differ due to your oven. We’ve found that to be true.

    “Beating Batter” would be a great band name. 😆

  2. Looks good! Coupla suggestions. First, get a flat whisk (search Amazon for that phrase). Works just as well as a balloon whisk, doesn’t clog the way you experienced, and is WAY easier to clean.

    Second, look for Daisy sour cream in the 14 oz. squeeze tube. It’s good quality sour cream, but the packaging is what makes it amazing. Flip open the cap, squeeze out as much as you need, and it self-seals–no air ever gets inside the tube, so it doesn’t weep or get moldy. It keeps much longer than the stuff in tubs, so you can always have it handy.

  3. Powdered sugar tastes funky to me, too. It needs something strong (like cocoa, cream cheese, both) to overpower whatever that weird chemical taste is.

    Glad you’re baking again!

  4. Maybe try organic powdered sugar. It’s processed differently than regular (don’t ask me how) and is less grainy when used in things like icing or frosting. I also notice the taste is a little less sickeningly sweet.

  5. Sometimes powdered sugar tastes too much of the cornstarch used to prevent caking. Domino might have changed its formula. C&H might work better, or if there’s a Trader Joe’s near you, their powdered sugar uses tapioca starch instead of cornstarch. I find it makes a big difference.

  6. I’m addicted to lemon loaf. I think with powder sugar it is way too sweet. I cut mine with corn starch. I even get the diet version from Swerve and still cut that.

  7. If you don’t like the taste of commercial powered sugar, and you’ve got a blender or a food processor, you can try making your own powdered sugar. Throw some regular sugar in and blend/process until it’s a powdery consistency. See how that tastes.

    And I agree on oven temps. Your oven may be off a little. I got a thermometer meant for the oven, to discover that my oven is about 25 degrees lower than it says. I now know to modify my oven temp accordingly.

    But regardless, I agree with you on the cream cheese layer. Greek yogurt might work, but I would add it into the batter, not make a separate layer. But that’s just me.

  8. Hey! Thanks for sharing this! I love lemon loaf, so I’ll have to try this recipe at some point!

    Don’t know if comments count as “unsolicited advice”, but as a fellow baker I appreciated all the photos you shared, and I thought I would comment on the issue you’re having with powdered sugar.

    It sounds to me as if you might be a bit of a “super taster”–a person with a sensitive enough palette that you can taste the cornstarch that is added as an anti-clumping agent to a lot of industrial powdered sugar.

    Most corporate brands of powdered sugar use cornstarch to prevent clumping to some degree. The only real remedy for it, if you can taste it and don’t like the taste, is to make your own powdered sugar with a grinder that can reduce the size of the sugar crystals.

    The other answer, of course, is to swap out your icing recipes for one that uses ingredients that mask the taste of the cornstarch. A pinch of salt can sometimes do it, and this is also why a lot of people use cream cheese in icing for cinnamon rolls and such. I tend to hit my buttercream with both salt and a whack of real vanilla extract to kill the stale taste of cornstarch myself.

    Anyway, I adore your loaf pan, and I appreciate all the photos you shared, but it does look like your loaf might have gotten a little overbaked, judging by the color and crumb? If you have an oven thermometer, you could check to see if your appliance tends to run a little hot. And even if it doesn’t run hot, that pan may absorb a little extra heat, and merit taking your loaves out a smidge earlier next time, or lowering the temp 25 degrees and baking a bit more gently, a bit longer.

    Anyhoo, great entry and I’m glad that baking gives you joy. And I love your lemon loaf pan. :)

  9. Ugh, I was in my twenties when I discovered that sugar has a flavour. I was raised on cane sugar, then moved to a country that sells beet sugar in the same sort of packaging/format. (This sort of thing is also solved by going organic, but ugh.) Best of luck to you.

  10. Do you drink diet soda? Once you do that, foods with regular sugar can taste weird.

  11. Yogurt & sour cream are interchangeable in baking when they’re not the main flavour ingredient. It’s there to add tanginess to the flavour & moisture to the cake. (That’s why some recipes, especially those for chocolate cake, call for mayonnaise.)

  12. I love lemon anything, and this looks delicious. Especially in that adorable pan! You are smart to buy a bag of lemons. I just found out that you can freeze lemons. They’re really juicy when you take them out of the freezer and let them thaw. And they’re very easy to zest when they’re still frozen. Lemons in a bag are much cheaper so I do that all the time now. I also second the suggestion of sour cream in a squeezable tube. It keeps so much longer that way.

    I love to hear of your baking adventures, so thanks for sharing this one.

  13. When mixing anything as acidic as lemon, you have to use a glass bowl. Using a metal bowl will cause some of the metal flavor to leach from the bowl.

    That might be why your glaze tasted off.

    Love lemon, lemon curd, lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon loaves, lemon cream pies, and so on.

    I am not sure about using just honey as a sweetener in baked goods. Sugar add a type of structure that honey doesn’t and I like that particular structure.

  14. It might be worth trying powdered sugar without corn starch in it. Organic powdered sugar is also GMO-free [the audiences have a lot of crossover] by using tapioca starch instead of corn starch (previously always, but check the label before buying, since I haven’t checked them for a while), and tapioca starch is a lot less… chalky?… something?… than corn starch.

    I can definitely taste the corn starch (along with maybe whatever odors the corn starch has picked up? plasticky tastes or something?) with most uncooked powdered sugar things, and I do not like it. Cooking powdered sugar renders the cornstarch inoffensive to me, though, for whatever reason.

    (re: metal bowls and acid: no problem if it’s stainless steel. Aluminum or iron, though, yeah, you’ll get some metallic additions with acids, although usually that will be apparent with lemon juice in terms of some color changes.)

    Brilliant to bring the cream cheese up to room temp (or a little warmer); that is indeed the way to beat it!

  15. Honestly, this recipe seems a bit odd to me. I love lemon anything, my favorite being lemon pound cake. That’s the basis for sbux lemon loaf, too. (I used to work for sbux.) Try finding a basic pound cake recipe and adding a shit ton of lemon zest and the juice. You can make a glaze by melting regular sugar with some lemon juice on the stove, then you don’t get the weird powdered sugar and cornstarch taste.

  16. Oh, that PAN. I want to find that pan and use it for everything. Thanks, Athena. And I second the people who wrote about powdered sugar fixes.

  17. Really enjoyed the blow-by-blow description of your midnight baking. I wonder if the off-taste of the powdered sugar could be a remnant of your Covid? No way to tell, and the other remedies suggested are probably worth a try. I’m quite fond of lemon cake, myself but don’t bake much anymore.

  18. I made my first cheesecake a couple of weeks ago, lemon. It was AMAZING. I left out my cream cheese for about an hour before starting it, it was still a PITB to ‘beat until fluffy’. I use a Hobart stand mixer, so at least I didn’t destroy my arm doing so.

  19. For all the people saying squeezable tubes of sour cream will last longer: How? Does it come with Granny-proof locks that keep me from eating it with a spoon?

  20. So I was curious and checked the original recipe.. It says you are supposed to swirl the cream cheese into the batter, not make a layer of cream cheese. That probably caused some of your weird texture issues as well.

  21. I enjoy most things baked with lemon. Lemon bars, lemon pound cake, lemon cupcakes! We have baby lemon trees, and generous neighbors who have their own.

    Powdered sugar is good on donuts for me, but little else.

    I enjoy your experimental cooking posts. Thanks!

  22. Lemon-poppyseed cake is great. Various lemon-curdy type things also.

    I’ve seen you say repeatedly that you don’t like tea, but I wonder if you have ever had known good tea, that would get a tea-snob’s nod of approval. Because some of your food posts just practically have me screaming “but where’s the tea? There should be tea with that!”

  23. Looks tasty! Sorry it wasn’t as great as it looks.

    Mostly popping in to share my expert knowledge having… um. Watched ALL the seasons of Great British Bake Show and owning (and having used at least twice in 6 years) a hand mixer. Apparently, for measuring “1/3rd” of a mixture, the easiest way it to weigh it! I have a little food scale, so I weigh the bowl, add the stuff, then do the math.