Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake is a mile high crumb cake with a delicate fresh lemon flavor, it's made with my special lemon infused sugar ~ an easy technique for punching up the citrus flavor in your favorite recipes!

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake is a mile high coffee cake with a delicate fresh lemon flavor, it’s made with my special lemon infused sugar ~ an easy technique for punching up the citrus flavor in your favorite recipes!

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake on a wooden board

lemon crumb cake is a classic New York style coffee cake

I patterned this recipe after one of my favorite coffee cakes on the blog, my Cardamom Crumb Cake. I made it for the family and realized it was too good not to share with you guys. It bakes up nice and tall, and it’s fluffy on the inside with a nice thick nubbly crumb crust on the top. But best of all it’s laced with the most delicate lemon flavor ~ that’s because the flavor is infused into the sugar that then bakes into the cake. The kitchen smells incredible, and everybody lunges for the first piece.

“I made the cake today and it turned out great! Super delicious. Thanks so much. Already looking forward to making it again. I’m so happy to have a ‘go to’ source.”

a slice of lemon sugar crumb cake

my easy lemon sugar technique infuses this lemon crumb cake with citrus flavor

You know I adore lemon, and I’m constantly on a crusade to figure out new and better ways to get lemon flavor into my food. This is a favorite technique of mine, you first saw it when I made my buttery Lemon Sugar Shortbread. That stuff is divine, by the way.

I knew the I could make an incredible lemony sugar by processing the zest of lemon with the sugar. The zest becomes a part of the sugar and flavors everything it touches with aromatic citrus. You see those little circles in the zest above? Each little bubble contains that aromatic citrus oil ready to burst into your sugar.

Making lemon sugar in a food processor

a food processor is the perfect tool for making lemon sugar

All I do is process the clean peel (minus any bitter white pith) with the sugar and it becomes a fragrant citrus sugar in seconds! This is a simple cake because the same dough is used for both the cake and the crumb topping, and everything can be made right in a full sized food processor. Since you’re using it to make your lemon sugar, there’s no need to dirty another bowl or mixer.

Homemade lemon sugar in a jar with spoon

more cake for breakfast!

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake is a mile high crumb cake with a delicate fresh lemon flavor, it's made with my special lemon infused sugar ~ an easy technique for punching up the citrus flavor in your favorite recipes!
3.63 from 273 votes

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake

Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake is a mile high coffee cake with a delicate fresh lemon flavor, made with my special lemon infused sugar!
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 12 servings
Calories 380kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • food processor
  • 9×9 baking pan


  • 1 lemon, organic preferred well washed and dried
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut in small pieces

wet ingredients

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×9 square baking pan and line with parchment paper if you want to be able to lift it out for cutting. This is optional.
  • Use a serrated vegetable peeler to carefully peel away the zest from the lemon. You want only the yellow, not any of the bitter white pith.
  • Put the sugar into the bowl of a food processor, along with the zest. Process, scraping down the sides if necessary, for about a minute or so, until the zest is completely incorporated into the sugar.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, and salt into the processor and pulse to combine everything.
  • Add the butter to the bowl. Pulse to combine, maybe about 20 pulses. The mixture should be crumbly with the butter well distributed and in very small pieces.
  • Measure out 1 cup of the mixture and set aside.
  • Whisk together the wet ingredients and add to the dry, mixing just until combined. Spread the batter into the pan, and top with the reserved crumbs. Note: I use my fingertips to make some larger, chunkier crumbs to create a nice texture on the top. Just compress the dry mixture a little between your fingers to make any size crumb you like.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out without wet batter clinging to it.

Cook’s notes

  • I like to use organic lemons when I know I’ll be using the peel, and I wash them really well.
  • If you don’t have a food processor you can do this by hand.  Grate the lemon zest and mix with the sugar.  I would use the zest of 2 lemons if you are doing it by hand.


Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 122mg | Potassium: 187mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 456IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 2mg
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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  • Reply
    June 29, 2022 at 9:53 am

    5 stars
    I made this crumb cake this morning because I love lemony breakfast goodies. Followed the directions, but found that like other commentators, it was not ready at 40-45 minutes and took another 10 minutes to completely bake. Ended up putting foil over it so the top wouldn’t get too brown and hard. The cake was moist, tasted wonderful and rose nice and high. My husband and I loved it. Next time I will bake it in a larger pan so that it will get done in 40-45 minutes as directed. Forgot to mention that I substituted lemon extract for the vanilla extract since I love the lemony taste. Great recipe!

  • Reply
    Marlene O'toolw
    April 22, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    I would like to make this gluten free, is it possible to just sub KA gluten free all purpose flour or the measure for measure flour and have an edible cake in the end.
    We’re a family of lemon lovers with 2 of us gluten free.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 22, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      I haven’t tried that Marlene, but I have a lot of faith in King Arthur’s products, so I’d say it’s worth a shot.

  • Reply
    Erin Corbin
    July 12, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    Wound you happen to know how much to increase the ingredients to make this in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish? This looks so delicious – I can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 3, 2022 at 7:04 am

      You could probably double it, Erin.

  • Reply
    Daniela Cobb
    July 6, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    5 stars
    I’m in Southern California and have lemons in my backyard almost all year long. I’ve made this with the small almost key lime like lemons I have on my tree and with Meyer lemons. When I use the tiny lemons I just add 2 whole lemons into my Vitamix with the sugar and it’s wonderful! I make the whole recipe in my Vitamix and it comes out wonderful.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Today is 9/1/2020. I put this cake in the oven 75 minutes ago and a toothpick still comes out gooey. I am so ready to try this cake, it looks delicious and hopefully it will be ready soon to take out of the oven. BTW, I put it in a 9×9 inch pan as directed.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2020 at 11:34 am

      It’s possible your oven temp is a little low, Karen, it’s pretty common for ovens to vary quite a bit. I always tent my cakes toward the end of cooking when they’re taking an extra long time, so they don’t get too browned.

    • Reply
      March 8, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      I am having the same problem. I just checked on it after 45 minutes (9×9 pan) and the center is still very loose and wet.

  • Reply
    susan finkelstein
    July 19, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    5 stars
    Made tis a week ago… and now I am getting requests for more. Really nice lemon flavor- I make the whole thing in the food processor- easy and yummy.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    5 stars
    Really delicious and I used lemon oil in it instead of the zest. I love lemon and this is a keeper. I love streusel and this one is delicious, the butter in it makes it almost crisp. Any ideas on or recipes like this with chocolate? There are not many chocolate streusel coffee cake recipes out there. This cake texture and crumb topping texture with chocolate would be great!

    • Reply
      August 12, 2020 at 10:46 pm

      5 stars
      I have to add an update as my Mom had this after I made it and wanted the recipe. She has literally been making and keeping it on hand for breakfast or a snack for months. As in ever since I gave her the recipe. Huge hit!

      • Reply
        August 13, 2020 at 5:36 am

        That makes me so happy 🙂

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