This lemon crunch cake is an old fashioned style breakfast or snack cake with a pillowy soft texture, bright lemon flavor, and a delightfully crunchy top.
lemon crunch cake is the latest addition to my collection of lemon cakes
I’ve made a lot of luscious, lemon-y cakes over the years, and my excuse to add another one to the list was the crunchy sugary topping on this one. But it’s not all about the topping, the texture and flavor of the cake itself is top notch, it’s super soft, moist, and layered with lemon flavor. It makes a fantastic breakfast treat, but this lemon-lover’s cake can stand in for dessert, too. I’d love to see it served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and some fresh berries (blueberries would be awesome.)
What you’ll need
- lemons ~ for the juice and zest. I use my fabulous lemon sugar technique for this cake, which really emphasizes that citrus flavor. Read all about how to infuse lemon into sugar, here.
- flour ~ I use all purpose, but cake flour will work, too.
- sugar ~ granulated.
- butter ~ unsalted
- eggs ~ large
- buttermilk ~ adds tang and tenderizes the texture.
- baking powder and baking soda ~ react with the acidity in the lemon and the buttermilk to rise the cake.
- lemon extract (optional) ~ the cake gets its lemon flavor from lemon zest, but extract doubles down on the citrus vibe.
What makes the ‘crunch’ in lemon crunch cake?
The “crunch” in this cake comes from a generous sprinkling of sugar over the top of the batter before it goes in the oven. As the cake bakes, that layer of granulated sugar becomes a very light, crisp, sweet topping that really makes this cake special. This trick can be used to great effect in other recipes too, so keep it in your back pocket! My Amish Cinnamon Bread uses this same technique to make that fun, crackly top.
when life gives you lemons…
- Lemon layer cake
- Lemon yogurt breakfast cake
- Lemon velvet sheet cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
- Lemon cheesecake
Lemon Crunch Cake
- 9×9 baking pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler into strips. You want the yellow part, with as little of the bitter white as possible. Note: you don't want the peel of the lemon, just the outer zest. Use a serrated vegetable peeler for best results and just peel off the yellow part, leaving the bitter white behind.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray and line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper. The paper is optional but helps lift the cake out for easy slicing.
- Put the sugar and zest in a food processor and process until the zest is completely incorporated, and the sugar is moist and pale yellow. Note: if you don't have a processor then grate the zest of 1 lemon and mix with sugar by hand.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or in a bowl with a hand held mixer.
- Beat in the eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and extract to the buttermilk.
- Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the creamed sugar and eggs. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Blend until everything is well combined, but don't over mix.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the entire surface. Note: I know, it seems like a lot, but go with it, it makes a nice crust.
- Bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, or until golden.
Questions and Reviews
Such a great cake and a wonderfully simple recipe. I was able to make this spontaneously with everything on hand. This will definitely be a new go-to for me. Thank you!
When needing lemon zest, shout the lemon be refrigerated or room temperature? I always have trouble getting the zest off the lemon, lol.
I use room temperature lemons, and the trick is to use a serrated vegetable peeler ~ then just wiggle it along the lemon peel and it takes it right off in large pieces.
This cake has become a go to when having friends over for dinner. I take your advice and top with homemade whipped cream and berries. It is fabulous. I also use turbinado sugar instead of regular on top. Sometimes I do lime instead of lemon. That is great too! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe Sue!
Looks Delightful. Can plain full fat yogurt be substituted for buttermilk ?
Sure, you might want to thin it down a tad with some milk, but it will work nicely.
How about doubling the zest since I have no extract?
More zest is always good in my book 🙂
Could this recipe be doubled for a 9×13 pan? It sounds delicious but a 9×9 wouldn,t be big enough for my family. We are lemon lovers. thank you.
Should work fine for you Nancy!