Jeannette * Lemon Tea Loaf

Photo credit: Jeannette Ordas

This is a simple cake with humble origins. It isn’t showy, or high-maintenance, and if you pass it over it won’t come calling after you. But if on the off chance you pause to notice it — this quiet, modest little lemon loaf — you’ll find that there is more to this cake than meets the eye.

Born in the early 1980s, this particular lemon tea loaf made its first public appearance in a cookbook called Lighthearted Everyday Cooking, produced by the Canadian Heart Association. It wasn’t a glamorous cookbook by any means, but when Jeannette Ordas’s mother stumbled upon a copy in the grocery store check-out lane, she gave in to an impulse and brought it home.

Jeannette Ordas

“It was her first English language cookbook,” Jeannette says of her mother. “She was French-Canadian, and up until that point, all of her cookbooks were in French.” The cookbook appealed to Jeannette’s mother for its emphasis on healthy, natural dishes; Jeannette liked the cookbook because she could actually read the recipes. It was an unlikely love, but this “average, run of the mill” cookbook soon became a family staple. “Some people grow up on Julia Child, but not in my house!” Jeannette laughs. “In high school, it was this weird, heart-healthy cookbook that became my go-to guide to cooking.”

One recipe in particular called out to both Jeannette and her mother — the lemon tea loaf made with yogurt and lemon zest. “Even on special occasions, my mother never made cakes with frosting because she had such a sweet tooth and was always worried about gaining weight,” Jeannette says. “That was fine with me.  I never had a sweet tooth, and growing up, I couldn’t stand frosting.”

Photo credit: Jeannette Ordas

Photo credit: Jeannette Ordas

The tea loaf, then, was the perfect compromise between guilt-free and decadent. It wasn’t loaded with sugar, but a simple, sweet glaze was enough to turn it into a special treat. It was pleasantly dense, like a pound cake, but with less butter and hints of tangy-tart lemon giving way to the honeyed syrup drizzled over the top. It felt wholesome somehow — lovely and nostalgic in its simplicity.

“My mom and I made this cake more times than I can count,” Jeannette says. “It was usually a weekend thing, a sort of project, where we’d take our time baking and then settle down and watch a movie together. By the time I moved out of the house, I had gotten kind of sick of the tea loaf, but years later, I’ve come back to it. I have a real soft spot for the cake, and it always reminds me of my mom.”

Photo credit: Jeannette Ordas

Three Quick Questions…and Jeannette’s Answers

It’s your last meal. What do you have?

My favorite food is probably a cheeseburger, so I would say a really good cheeseburger with bacon and some salty fries. That would make me pretty happy.

Your kitchen is burning down. What’s the one thing you grab?

I think I’d grab my cast-iron fry pan. It was given to me by my husband’s grandmother who passed away a few years ago, and I use it for everything.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

Right now, it’s Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. I have a lot of cookbooks and always tell myself I can’t buy any more, but this one I took out from the library and it just blew me away. The photographs are beautiful — they’re printed on this sort of matte paper so the ink really sinks into the paper, and many of the recipes are written almost like stories. They’re really quite simple and beautiful, and so of course, I had to go out and buy the book.

Want to learn more about Jeannette Ordas? Head over to her award-winning food blog, check out her  web design & development company, or take a peek at her own fun, quirky greeting cards over at The Beautiful Project.

Jeannette * Lemon Tea Loaf
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: makes 1 loaf (8-10 slices)
Serve alone, with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of fresh berries, or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream for a quick and delicious treat.
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons plain or lemon-flavored yogurt
  • ½ cups milk
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest from 1 large lemon
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  1. Butter & flour an 8x4" loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together sugar and butter. Add in the egg and yogurt and mix to combine. Beat in the milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; dump into egg mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in lemon zest.
  3. Pour into prepared loaf pan; bake in 350°F oven for 1 hour or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Once done, let the loaf sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack with a plate underneath.
  4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Pour over top of the warm cake. Let loaf cool completely before cutting.

Course: Desserts

Tagged: , , ,


  • Lemon gives such a beautiful aroma and subtle taste to cakes…
    Pretty little loaf!

  • Grace

    Hi Magda– I agree! I think the subtlety of the lemon goes really well with the sweetness of the glaze.

  • shweta sylvia

    yummy…and so beautiful. i love loaf cake..i am going to try this soon. Book marked !!

  • Lemon loaf is my favourite! This recipe looks really good.

  • Grace

    Thank you Shweta & Natalie — If you try it out, let me know how you like it!

  • I’m a complete sucker for lemon cake, humble or not. :)

  • This cake looks so moist! It’s got everything going for it – yogurt, butter, milk, egg, and the glaze is simple, but sounds so flavorful. I love lemon cakes, so I will have to give this recipe a try.

  • Thanks so much for taking down my story! And it’s delicious with yogurt – which is what I paired it with in the photo above – and of course, makes it an ideal breakfast cake!

  • Grace

    Kickpleat — you’re right! Now that I think about it, this would make for an incredible breakfast :)

  • This looks so delicious! I just had a really amazing Lemon Polenta bread the other day and am now on a lemony baked goods kick. Can’t wait to make this. I also love that Jeanette made this with her mom. With my mom it was always Banana Bread. Ah, memories…

    • Grace

      Yumm…lemon polenta bread sounds great!

  • hag

    I was the recipient of one half of the lemon loaf in the picture above, and I can say it was delicious! Very lemony and sweet ( but not too sweet) and super moist. It is a keeper!

    • Grace

      jealous you got a whole half a loaf! :)

  • Ah, I also have this cookbook, and have made this lovely lemon loaf many, many times. Delicious!

  • Grace

    So funny, a couple other people mentioned to me that they also have this cookbook — I’m thinking it might not get the attention it deserves!!

    • I use it *quite* a bit, too!

  • Robert F

    Seems odd that the Canadian Heart Association would promote a recipe that calls for half a stick of butter…

    • I should point out to Robert that the original recipe calls for margarine. I don’t go near the stuff, unless I’m baking for vegans & use Smart Balance instead. So butter it is!

  • Grace

    Robert — true, a 1/4 cup of butter is no bowl of berries, but for a cake it is pretty light overall.

  • Ooh! What a nice, lightened-up version of a lemon pound cake. Can’t wait to bake one the next time it’s particularly dreary and rainy outside (which, in Portland, Oregon, is every day from September to June!)


    • Grace

      Haha, on the bright side, Kate, you’ll have lots of great days for a lemon loaf!

  • Rachael

    made this loaf today. didn’t have any yogurt around but substituted sour cream and the loaf was light, moist and just sweet enough. thank you for this simple tasty recipe. perfect for a spring day when the dogwoods are blooming

  • Faye

    I grew up with the Heart Healthy cookbook but now living in a lemon-loving and lemon-abundant household in Australia I needed to look it up online. I’m currently baking my 3rd loaf in as many months (last two loaves are double-batches!)
    It’s easy, simple, beautiful. Thank you for sharing it online for me to find!

  • Faye

    P.S. I’ve never had castor sugar for the glaze. I’ve used raw sugar and even when it’s too watery it gives the cake a nice soggy bottom. I’m trying with icing sugar for this loaf.

  • Annabelle

    Hello Jeannette:
    Just found this recipe and the blog it’s linked to; the tea bread looks great. Even though I have my own lemon tea bread recipe that I usually bake, as I always say, you can’t have too many recipes. Gonna try this one later on today, after I pick up a lemon. Thanks again.

Add a Comment

Rate this recipe: