Lemon Coffee Cake

5 from 2 votes

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Moist lemon cake with crunchy crumble topping and sweet lemon glaze. This lemon coffee cake is bursting with bright lemon and perfect for brunch. You’ll love the moist, tender cake crumb and delicious lemon flavor. 

Slice of lemon coffee cake with crumb topping and drizzle of glaze

**This post was updated March 27, 2024 with new photos & recipe tips**

This lemon coffee cake is perfect for anyone who loves lemon recipes. It’s delicious for breakfast or brunch, or if you’re looking for a lemon dessert that’s not too sweet or decadent. I like to think of it as a sunshine-y version of a classic coffee cake – because lemon is the perfect way to brighten any day.

The recipe starts with an incredibly moist buttery vanilla cake that’s infused with a kick of citrus. The lemon flavor is bright and tastes like sunshine without being too tart or sour. Then the cake is topped with a delicious crumb topping. The crunchy streusel on top complements the tender cake perfectly. I like to add a drizzle of lemon glaze to add a little extra sweetness and lemon flavor9-inch round lemon coffee cake with streusel topping drizzled with glaze

Making Lemon Coffee Cake

Below, I’ve included step-by-step photos and recipe tips to help ensure your coffee cake is moist and tender.

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 350F (180C) and preparing your pan. I made this cake in a 9-inch round springform pan. You will need to use a springform pan, as opposed to a sandwich tin, because you need a pan with high sides. As well – because of the crumb topping it makes it much easier to serve. You’ll first lightly grease the pan then sprinkle with flour.
    • I highly recommend wrapping the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to prevent any cake batter seeping out of the pan.
    • You can also make this recipe in a 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) square pan.

Then make the crumb topping:

  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, brown sugar and salt. You’ll notice that we’re only using a little brown sugar in this crumb topping recipe – that’s because I didn’t want the brown sugar flavor to overpower or compete with the lemon.
  2. Then stir in the melted butter until the mixture forms small crumbles. Note that some streusel/crumb topping recipes use cold butter. However, I like to use melted butter for coffee cakes because I find that it makes the crumble topping more uniform and a little more moist and therefore the cake is easier to slice. Bowl of dry ingredients and melted butter and bowl of streusel topping

Then it’s time to make the lemon cake:

  1. Start by sifting together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then give the ingredients a little whisk so that the leaveners are evenly distributed. Set aside.
    1. Sifting the dry ingredients together first is important for getting rid of any lumps. It’s important not to overmix the cake batter in this recipe – so removing any lumps of flour at this step is crucial for avoiding overmixing.
  2. Then in a large bowl, use your fingers to rub/pinch the lemon zest into the sugar. This step helps the lemon zest to release its flavor. It won’t dissolve or anything – you just want it the lemon zest to be covered in sugar and pressed into the sugar. Sifting dry ingredients into a bowl and bowl of sugar and lemon zest
  3. Add the butter into the sugar and lemon zest mixture, then beat together until creamy.
  4. You’ll then add in the vanilla extract, and beat in the eggs one at a time turning off the mixer and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go. It is so important to beat in the eggs 1 at a time to avoid overmixing. Bowl of butter, sugar and lemon zest, and bowl of butter, sugar and lemon zest creamed together with egg and vanilla
  5. Then mix in the sour cream and lemon juice. Note that the mixture may start to look a little curdled at this point – that is OK.
  6. Carefully add in about 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix on a low speed until combined. I always do a few stirs by hand first, then beat with my electric mixer. Again – this is to avoid over mixing. Sour cream and lemon juice added to cake batter, and bowl of dry ingredients added to cake batter
  7. Whisk in the milk. You can do this by hand with a wire whisk, or your electric mixer.
  8. Last but not least. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients. The batter will be thick. I highly recommend doing this by hand to avoid over mixing. Whatever you choose to do, stop mixing as soon as you no longer see streaks of big lumps of flour. The batter will be thick. Note that you may see pieces of lemon zest – which is totally OK. Bowl of cake batter with milk added into the bowl, bowl of cake batter with flour added

Then it’s time to assemble and bake the cake.

  1. Gently spoon the batter into your prepared cake pan and smooth the top.
  2. Then sprinkle the crumble on top of the cake. It will look like a lot – but some will sink and melt into the cake batter as the cake bakes. Springform pan with unbaked lemon cake, and springform pan with unbaked lemon cake with streusel topping
  3. Bake in the middle of your preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes if using a round pan and about 35-40 minutes if using a 9×9 inch square pan. Coffee cakes can be a bit hard to tell when they’re done baking because of the crumb topping. However, when it’s done baking an inserted toothpick should come out clean and the cake shouldn’t wobble whatsoever if you give the pan a nudge. If you aren’t sure, I recommend baking for a few extra minutes.

Baking Tips & Tricks

  • Use fresh lemons. Zest the lemons first, the squeeze the lemon juice. You’ll need about 3 medium lemons for this recipe for the cake and the glaze. Do not use lemon juice form a bottle. Bottled lemon juice is far too tart for baking with.
  • Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature before getting started. This ensures that everything mixes together evenly without having to over mix the batter.
  • Measure the flour carefully – otherwise the cake can become dry. Whisk the flour first, then spoon into a dry measuring cup and level off the surface. Or use a kitchen scale for the best results.
  • On that note – don’t over mix the batter. Mixing too much makes the cake tough instead of tender and soft. Over mixing will also cause air tunnels in the batter.
  • Don’t add all the dry ingredients at once, followed by all the wet ingredients (or vice versa). In this recipe you’ll alternate between additions of wet ingredients and dry ingredients to avoid over mixing and ensure a uniform cake crumb.

 

Slice of lemon coffee cake with crumb topping with a bite taken outThis lemon coffee cake is so delicious for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon coffee/tea. The lemon is bright and happy without ever being sour, the cake is perfectly moist, and the crumb topping is deliciously crunchy. What more could you want???

Well… maybe a second piece.

And for more lemon treats, be sure to try:

Slice of lemon coffee cake
5 from 2 votes

Lemon Coffee Cake

Moist lemon cake with crunchy crumble topping and sweet lemon glaze. This lemon coffee cake is bursting with bright lemon and perfect for brunch. 
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 12 Slices
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Equipment

  • 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan or a 9x9 inch (23x23 cm) square pan with high sides

Ingredients 

Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (125 grams)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (70 grams), melted

Lemon Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (313 grams) , measured properly
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (250 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter (150 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (120 ml) , room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (60 ml) , freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup milk (60 ml) , 2% or whole milk is best, room temperature

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (110 - 165 grams)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice (15-30 ml) , freshly squeezed

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
  • Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the pan and dust with flour. Set aside.

Crumb Topping

  • Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt
  • Stir in the melted butter. It should be like crumbly, wet sand. If it feels too wet, mix in 1 extra tablespoon of flour and granulated sugar. Set aside.

Lemon Cake

  • In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then whisk the ingredients together. Set aside.
  • Add the sugar and lemon zest to a large bowl. Using your fingers, pinch/rub the lemon zest into the sugar. This activates the lemon flavor.
  • Add the butter to the sugar bowl. Beat the butter and sugar mixture together until fluffy.
  • Add in the vanilla extract. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, turning off the mixer and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go.
  • Beat the sour cream and lemon juice into the butter mixture.
  • Add about 1/2 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. With the mixer on a low speed, beat together until just combined.
  • Whisk the milk into the batter. Alternatively, use an electric mixer on a low speed.
  • Add the rest of the flour mixture into the batter. Gently mix together until you no longer see streaks of flour. Do not over mix. I typically fold in the flour by hand, then if needed, beat for a few seconds with the electric mixer on a low speed.

Assembling and Baking

  • Spoon/pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  • Sprinkle the crumb topping over top of the batter, so that the the cake is fully covered in an even layer of crumb topping. It will look like a lot.
  • Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes if using a 9-inch round springform pan or about 35 minutes if using a 9x9 inch square pan. When the cake is done baking, an inserted toothpick should come out clean and the cake shouldn't wobble if you give the pan a nudge. If you notice that the crumble is starting to brown, but the cake isn't close to being done yet, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top.
  • Cool the cake in the pan.

Lemon Glaze

  • Whisk together 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice with about 1 cup of powdered sugar.
  • Slowly whisk in a little more lemon juice or powdered sugar as needed. You want the glaze to be thin enough to drizzle but still opaque.
  • Unclamp the outer ring of the springform pan and drizzle the cooled cake with glaze. 

Notes

  1. Lemons: You will need about 3 medium lemons for the cake and glaze, or 4 smaller lemons. 
  2. Sour Cream: Sour cream can be substituted with plain Greek yogurt. 
  3. Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and based on 1 slice of cake, assuming that all the crumble and glaze are used and the cake is sliced into 12 uniform pieces. 
  4. Storage: Cake can be stored in an airtight container or covered tightly at room temperature for up to 3 days. Fresh is always best. 

Nutrition

Calories: 488kcal, Carbohydrates: 76g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 92mg, Sodium: 121mg, Potassium: 144mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 47g, Vitamin A: 597IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 59mg, Iron: 2mg
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6 Comments

  1. Looking forward to trying this recipe! Question – why wrap the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil? Does it protect against leaks?

  2. This sounds so delicious, but then I love just about any lemon dessert! We also have lots of lemons on our trees this year.

  3. 5 stars
    So delicious!!! I was in the mood for coffee cake but needed to use up some limes (we live in a country where lemons are impossible to come by and limes are abundant), so I stumbled upon your recipe and decided to give it a try. The whole house loved it!! Will definitely make it again.

  4. 5 stars
    An absolute delight. My boyfriend comes to stay over every weekend and I always make a new dessert for when he comes over, and he practically ate ALL OF THESE! My sister absolutely adored them as well, and my father! I am very happy with this recipe and I tweaked it to my liking (lil more lemon zest because I’m obsessed with it lol). Truly a great recipe <3 It is so light and fluffy! Perfect crumb topping and glaze!!

  5. I just made this last night and it was a hit with my coworkers! I overmixed the batter (I am a repeat offender for this) but it otherwise turned out well!