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
4.98 from 44 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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37 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    joan
    January 23, 2022 at 1:59 am

    5 stars
    The cake was enjoyed by all. I had to give the recipe to a few. The only thing is the cake sunk in the middle. The toothpick test showed it was baked completely thru. But while it was cooling the middle sunk in. I’m lost why, can you think of any reason for this to happen???? Please let me. I only used yogurt instead of buttermilk.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      January 24, 2022 at 9:52 am

      Sometimes toothpick tests can be deceiving. It does sound like it didn’t quite get a chance to cook completely through.

  • Reply
    joan
    January 22, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    5 stars
    I also used plain greek yogurt instead of buttermilk.

  • Reply
    joan
    January 22, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    It’s in the oven now. Going to dinner at a friends house tonight and I know this cake will make at hit. (your recipes always do)
    Have a nice day and stay safe.
    Joan

  • Reply
    Cher
    January 20, 2022 at 1:36 am

    Can you suggest a non-dairy replacement for the buttermilk?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      January 20, 2022 at 11:07 am

      You might use coconut or almond milk instead.

  • Reply
    Cheryel
    January 14, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    5 stars
    Could I do this with limes?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      January 14, 2022 at 3:10 pm

      Sure, they’re basically interchangeable in most recipes.

  • Reply
    Debra
    January 13, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    5 stars
    This cake is lemony, moist, delicious! It will definitely be making a reappearance in our home often. Yum!

  • Reply
    Debra Mattingly
    January 13, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Sue! OMGoodness this is the very best Lemon Crunch Cake! Living in Florida this is so me however I
    I have baked this for my Kansas family when they have came for a visit. Needless to say it was a hit and they have made it for their family and friends. Everything about this cake is so delicious. I have used your wonderful citrus sugar on cookies, drinks, and sprinkles. I have signed up for your e-mails and I want to say Thank you for sharing your love to bake. I like so many of your recipes. Stay safe Healthy and keep baking!

    PS: this freezes well! I usually make 1/2 recipe but when I dont, I have frozen; then cut how much I want, let it sit room temp and enjoy with coffee.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      January 13, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks Debra for the nice feedback <3

  • 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?

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