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!
3.6 from 267 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
    Jeanette Waters
    August 1, 2017 at 5:26 am

    Sorry, me again (new to baking; love lemon!) is the butter cold when mixed into the other ingredients? Can I sub yogurt for sour cream? Thanks.

    • Reply
      August 1, 2017 at 6:43 am

      Yes, great question Jeanette, and I just clarified that in the recipe, thanks. This is an unusual process with this cake, so it can be a little confusing. You can substitute yogurt, but the texture will be a little different.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Waters
    August 1, 2017 at 5:20 am

    If making with no processor how long should I beat/mix, etc. I don’t want to over mix. Thanks!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2017 at 6:41 am

      You’d mix the butter in like you would when making a pie crust, so you’d have to cut it in. Then just mix until well combined.

      • Reply
        Jeanette Waters
        August 2, 2017 at 9:27 am

        I’m so sorry (I don’t want to be a pest!) but I meant how long to beat everything in general. For example the recipe states to “process” the sugar and zest for a minute or so. How long should I use my mixer, or is it by hand? And how long do I beat (again, by hand or mixer?) the dry ingredients with the sugar and zest? I really am trying to get this right. And, I’ve never tackled a pie crust (yet)….I’m 67
        and retired recently and baking is my new hobby. Thanks so much!

        • Reply
          August 2, 2017 at 10:15 am

          For the sugar and lemon peel, that’s best done in a food processor, so you would pulse or run the machine until the peel is fully incorporated into the sugar. If you want to do that step by hand, you would grate the lemon zest and just stir it together with the sugar until it’s mixed.

          To combine the dry ingredients with the sugar, just mix until it is combined. This can be with a spoon or whisk or right in the processor.

          Hope this helps! Let me know how it all turns out!

  • Reply
    debbie stewart
    April 20, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Hi Sue, gorgeous cake! just wondered if you had ever thought of showing the ingredients in grams/ounces as well as cups? I am in London England and we don’t really use cups that often here.. although some of us use them we tend to have to dig them out when a recipe requires them Ha! 🙂

    • Reply
      April 20, 2017 at 6:07 am

      It’s a good point Debbie, and I guess I should get in the habit of weighing out everything as I go. I hate to rely on converters, especially when it comes to baking. I always feel it’s easy for something to get lost in the translation!

      • Reply
        debbie stewart
        April 21, 2017 at 2:51 am

        Who knows, you may get even more subscribers as bakers can get a bit confused when trying to convert, as you say, something can easily go astray! Looking forward to maybe seeing grams & ounces in the future…

  • Reply
    April 16, 2017 at 12:21 am

    5 stars
    I made this fantastic cake for a birthday party saturday night. My friends could not stop raving how good it tasted.
    My food processor died half way thru the mixing, so I finished by hand. Using a springform pan extended the cooking time. Your recipe was so easy to follow. I’m looking forward to making your Irish Apple Cake. thanks again.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2017 at 7:22 am

      I’m thrilled Joan ~ and you might also like my pumpkin crumb cake, and my cardamom crumb cake, they’re similar. I’ll try my springform pan next time!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    5 stars
    I made this cake today – it’s absolutely delicious!!! Thank you for a new go-to recipe.

    • Reply
      April 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Thank YOU for coming back to let us know Kate. I hope you get many years of pleasure out of this recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    April 13, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    can you use a 9″ springform pan?

    • Reply
      April 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm


  • Reply
    Belinda Seal
    April 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    5 stars
    This cake was delicious! Directions were good and easy to follow. It baked up beautifully and I think it was even more moist on the second day.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks so much for your feedback Belinda ~ I’m so glad you like this. I hope you use that lemon sugar for other recipes, too 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    OH my goodness! I’m a sucker for any cake (especially if it involves a crumb topping), and I’m all about the lemon right now. It’s just such a bright, fresh spring flavor. This recipe sounds PERFECT!

  • Reply
    Dawn Harriman
    April 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Sue, This cake sounds so good I can’t wait to try it! I am new to infusing sugar with anything (I found a recipe using infused vanilla sugar), so I’m unsure as to the ratio of sugar to lemon zest, or does it matter? I’m thinking the more lemon I use, the more lemony the sugar becomes. And how long does it take to infuse? Thanks for your help! I’m enjoying your recipes as I’m on your list! Thanks! Dawn

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 3, 2022 at 7:08 am

      Best to follow the recipe exactly Dawn.

  • Reply
    Susan Ewing
    April 8, 2017 at 9:59 am

    I love lemon. Cannot wait to try your recipe. Need lemons.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2017 at 10:01 am

      I’m right there with you Susan, lemons are amazing.

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