The Special Ingredient That Gives Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf Its Tender Texture

These days you can get far more than coffee at Starbucks — you can get breakfast, lunch, and an array of sweet treats (not counting the more dessert-esque drinks like Frappucinos and refreshers, of course) all at the ubiquitous chain. From breakfast sandwiches to baked goods, there are many Starbucks copycat recipes of popular items that fans can make for themselves at home. One of these is the tangy Starbucks lemon loaf.

Mashed recipe developer Lindsay D. Mattison carefully studied this particular baked good in order to create a copycat Starbucks lemon loaf recipe. This recipe embodies what people love about the Starbucks loaf — a tender crumb, a bright lemon flavor, and thick icing that seeps into the top and runs off the sides. Mattison's copycat loaf is word-for-word (or rather, bite-for-bite) similar to the version sold at Starbucks, and it's all thanks to the inclusion of one special ingredient you may have encountered in pancakes and biscuits: buttermilk.

Buttermilk adds moisture and tang

Buttermilk is a vital ingredient in many baked goods and quick breads, like pancakes, muffins, and loaves. It's a fermented milk, which lends a tangy scent and higher levels of acidity than standard milk. This acidity is buttermilk's superpower. When baking soda is mixed with an acid, it reacts to leaven the batter or dough. That's not all: Buttermilk also breaks down the tough proteins in gluten, making way for a delicate and moist texture.

With the inclusion of buttermilk (which is also in the actual Starbucks recipe), the resulting copycat lemon loaf is tender and moist with a tall rise. It also imparts some of its tangy flavor to the loaf, which harmonizes with the sugar and lemon.

Buttermilk isn't necessarily the most common ingredient you'd use in the kitchen. However, after making your lemon loaf, the rest of that buttermilk doesn't need to sit in the fridge until it expires. There are plenty of ways to use leftover buttermilk, including making pancakes or homemade ranch (plus, you'll want to bake another lemon loaf, too). Nevertheless, Mattison suggests the use of shelf-stable powdered buttermilk so you don't need to worry about immediately using it up.