Lemon Crunch Cake

taking a bite of a slice of lemon crunch cake

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.

taking a slice of lemon crunch cake with a cake server

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.)

a lemon crunch cake, sliced, on parchment paper

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.
a piece of lemon crunch cake on a small plate

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.

taking a bite of a slice of lemon crunch cake

when life gives you lemons…

taking a bite of a slice of lemon crunch cake
Print
4.97 from 33 votes

Lemon Crunch Cake

This lemon crunch cake is an old fashioned style breakfast or snack cake with a pillowy soft texture, bright lemon flavor, and a delightful crunchy top.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 12 servings
Calories 225kcal
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • 9×9 baking pan

Ingredients

  • 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

topping

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

  • 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.
    prep shot 9x9 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper
  • 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.
    making lemon sugar
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or in a bowl with a hand held mixer.
    creaming butter and sugar together
  • Beat in the eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
    beating eggs into batter for lemon crunch cake
  • 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.
    batter for lemon crunch cake in a bowl
  • 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.
    batter for lemon crunch cake in pan
  • Bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, or until golden.
    Baked Lemon Crunch Cake in pan

Nutrition

Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 83mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 298IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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26 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    Barbara
    July 21, 2021 at 10:29 am

    I’d like to make this crunch cake for an upcoming function. Is it best eaten the day it’s baked, or is it better the next day?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 21, 2021 at 11:24 am

      I’d say best the same day.

  • Reply
    Steven
    June 15, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    5 stars
    New to baking so apologize for the beginners question, but could I use sour cream instead of buttermilk?

  • Reply
    Terese Dondero
    June 15, 2021 at 9:23 am

    5 stars
    What a delicious cake & so lemony. Definitely will make it again. I wondered if it freezes well?

  • Reply
    Jaon
    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    5 stars
    This cake is just so delicious. I know it will be a hit at my friends dinner party. Nothing like a lemon cake and coffee to end a dinner. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    CAROL TREICHEL
    June 10, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    4 stars
    Yummy recipe. Have you tried making muffins from this recipe?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 10, 2021 at 4:13 pm

      I haven’t but it should work fine.

  • Reply
    Bj
    June 10, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    Looks delicious! Can the recipe be doubled and baked in a larger pan? Plan on making it for an adult birthday and topping with whipped cream and blackberries.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 10, 2021 at 4:13 pm

      Yum! I think you should be able to double it for a 9×13 pan.

  • Reply
    Lee Ann
    June 9, 2021 at 8:10 am

    Sounds tasty! Do you use additional sugar to sprinkle on top, or do you set aside part of the lemon sugar? I only see one cup of sugar in the recipe, but it’s added twice. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Lee Ann
      June 9, 2021 at 8:12 am

      LOL Never mind, I found it! I read the recipe three times looking for that extra sugar, too!

      • Reply
        Sue Moran
        June 9, 2021 at 8:13 am

        But you bring up a good point, you could make 1 1/4 cups lemon sugar and then use the extra 1/4 cup for the top, I like the idea, and will try next time I bake this!

  • Reply
    Sherri Garcia
    June 9, 2021 at 12:03 am

    5 stars
    This is a truly scrumptious cake !!!

  • Reply
    Peggy
    June 6, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    5 stars
    Just made fabulous

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 6, 2021 at 3:18 pm

      Love your quick work Peggy, thanks for the feedback 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    June 6, 2021 at 9:20 am

    5 stars
    You had me at lemon..had to try it. Made it this morning and can’t stop tasting it. Mine came out very moist and dense but very light.
    I will definitely be making this again and again.
    Thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Robyn
    June 4, 2021 at 6:38 am

    Good morning
    May I use a metal or glass 9×9 pan?
    Thank you for sharing this,
    Robyn

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 4, 2021 at 6:57 am

      Hi Robyn, I’d use a metal pan, glass can bake unevenly. Hope you love it!

      • Reply
        Robyn
        June 4, 2021 at 7:05 am

        Thank you I’m sure we will :))

        I’ll keep you posted
        Robyn

      • Reply
        Becky Sheehan
        June 10, 2021 at 3:23 am

        I am an experienced baker, and I’ve never had any issues caused by a using a glass pan.

  • Reply
    KATHY LEONARD
    June 4, 2021 at 6:17 am

    Hi Sue,
    This cake looks delicious. I have celiac disease. Can I use gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour?

    Thanks,
    Kathy

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 4, 2021 at 6:30 am

      Yes, you can use your favorite gf flour mix for this, it should be fine.

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