lemon streusel cake

fun fact: did you know that coffee cake usually doesn’t have any coffee in it?

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coffee cake is named the way it is because it’s meant to be consumed with a cup of coffee. misleading, huh?

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when i first mentioned i was making a lemon coffee cake, it sounded absolutely strange. lemon and coffee aren’t an ideal combo. side note: i actually tried a lemonade and cold brew drink once in canada. it was weird. anyways, i’m renaming this lemon coffee cake concept to lemon streusel cake so i don’t confuse the world.

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this cake has lemon in three parts: the pound cake base, buttery streusel topping, and milky glaze. it sounds like it’s a bit much, but the lemon is done well in each part. and trust me, the glaze is worth it, especially because i usually don’t like taking that extra step to make glazes.

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you start by making the streusel topping by mixing together the flour, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, and lemon. then you cut in the cold butter, and stir in the chopped pecans (essential, also!). you let the streusel chill out while you make the rest of the cake.

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you make the cake next by creaming together the butter, sugar, and more zest until it’s light and fluffy. you beat in the eggs and sour cream, then the dry ingredients until it’s just combined.

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spread the batter into a baking dish (i used an 8x11-inch baking dish), sprinkle the streusel over the batter, and bake away! make the glaze in the meantime with powdered sugar and lemon juice. when the cake is done, after about 35-45 minutes, drizzle the glaze over the cake.

the cake is dense and moist, with a crunch from the pecans and tanginess from the lemon zest throughout! it’s perfect for your weekend brunch plans or a dessert for your summertime potlucks.

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baker’s notes: you can bake this in a tube pan as well, but i prefer a baking dish because it’s easier to serve! follow instructions on the kaf website if you decide to use a tube pan. also, you’ll need about 4 lemons for this cake.

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lemon streusel cake

makes one 8x11-inch or one 9x13-inch cake
adapted slightly from king arthur flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
lemon zest of 2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
lemon zest of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream, at room temp
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar


preheat the oven to 350 f. grease an 8x11-inch or 9x13-inch baking dish, and line with parchment paper.

make the streusel: stir together the dry ingredients and lemon zest. cut in the cubed, cold butter, until it’s chunky and the size of peas. stir in the chopped pecans. place the streusel in the fridge to chill while you make the cake.

make the cake: cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. add the eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated. scrape down the bowl, and beat in the sour cream.

add the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and stir just until incorporated.

pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and smooth out the top. sprinkle the chilled streusel evenly over the batter.

bake the cake for 35-45 minutes (depending which baking dish you use), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. let the cake cool slightly while you make the glaze.

make the glaze: whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar. drizzle over the warm cake.

slice and enjoy! or dig right into the cake straight from the pan. i won’t judge.

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