Easy Lemon Crunch Cake with a Cake Mix

This easy lemon crunch cake is perfect for anyone who loves soft and moist lemon cake with a sweet and tangy lemon buttercream frosting and it's all topped off with a crunchy lemon coating on the outside of the cake.
Have Questions or Need More Details?

Don't forget to check out the Tips & FAQ section in the post!

Close up of lemon crunch cake with a fork on a white plate.

This easy lemon crunch cake is perfect for anyone who loves soft and moist lemon cake with a sweet and tangy lemon buttercream frosting and it’s all topped off with a crunchy lemon coating on the outside of the cake.

Close up of lemon crunch cake with a fork on a white plate.

Hey there! Before you scroll, there are lots of helpful things in this post…including an FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!

Table of Contents:

With its deliciously moist texture and bright citrus flavor, this layer cake is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at any gathering. Plus, the added crunch from the topping gives it a satisfyingly crunchy texture that you won’t be able to resist.

You’ll love the delightful combination of textures and tastes in this cake. Plus, using a cake mix as the base makes this recipe even more convenient and accessible for those who may not have a lot of baking experience.

Pinterest image of lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting and text overlay.

Ingredient Notes:

Now let’s talk a little about just some of the ingredients in this lemon cake. (The printable list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)

Lemon jello mix: The lemon jello mix adds a burst of tangy lemon flavor to the crumble.

Vanilla pudding mix: The vanilla pudding mix adds a nice vanilla flavor to the crumble. It’s great because it adds a little surprise of vanilla flavor when combined with the lemon portion of the crumble.

Lemon cake mix: The lemon cake mix serves as the base of the cake, providing a light and fluffy texture with a refreshing lemon flavor, not to mention the fact that it’s what makes this cake super easy to make.

Lemon pudding mix: The lemon pudding mix intensifies the lemon flavor and adds richness and moisture to the cake.

Sour cream: Sour cream contributes to the cake’s moisture and tenderness and gives it a subtle tanginess that I think really complements the lemon flavor.

Cream cheese: Cream cheese will be used for the frosting and it adds the perfect hint of tanginess to the lemon cake.

Unsalted butter: Unsalted butter adds richness and flavor to the buttercream.

Confectioners sugar: You’ll use this to thicken up the frosting and to add that sweet taste.

(Make sure to check out the FAQ section below in this post for ingredient and substitution questions.)

Tall slice of cake with lemon flavor and cream cheese frosting on a white plate.

How to make this cake:

Let’s talk about how to make a lemon crunch cake. (The printable instructions are in the recipe card below.)

Make the crumble:

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine lemon jello mix, half the flour, half the room-temperature butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix until crumbled. Set aside.

Lemon pudding crunch mixture in a white mixing bowl.

Step 2:

In another bowl, mix vanilla pudding mix, half the flour, half the butter, and salt until crumbled. Set aside.

Vanilla pudding crunch mixture in a white mixing bowl.

Step 3:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the crumbled mixtures onto the baking sheet, keeping them separate if desired. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees F, being careful not to burn. Allow the crumbles to cool completely.

Lemon and vanilla crunch mixture before baking on a large cookie sheet.

Step 4:

Break up the cooled crumbs and transfer them to a mixing bowl.

This next part is optional, but you can crush cookies and mix them into the crumble mixture for extra crunch and flavor.

Mixed up crunch mixture on a baking sheet.

Step 5:

Make sure to store the crumble in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze it until ready to use.

Make the cake:

Step 6:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease or spray two 8-inch round cake pans.

Two eight inch round cake pans greased and floured.

Step 7:

In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients on medium speed for about two minutes until the batter is thick.

Lemon cake batter in a white mixing bowl.

Step 8:

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs or clean with no raw batter.

Cake batter that is lemon flavored baked in two round cake pans on a cooling rack.

Step 9:

Let the cake layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before assembly.

Baked lemon cake layers cooling on a cooling rack.

Make the frosting:

Step 10:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla extract, salt, and 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, and mix on medium-high speed.

Add the remaining 2-3 cups of confectioners’ sugar and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing for about two minutes until fluffy.

You can chill in the fridge if the frosting is too loose in consistency.

Cream cheese buttercream in a large white mixing bowl with a spatual.

How to Assemble:

Step 11:

Make sure that the cake layers are cooled down before you assemble the cake, then place one layer on a cake plate and add a layer of frosting as the filling.

A layer of lemon cake on a white platter with a layer of buttercream on top.

Step 12:

Sprinkle some lemon crumble over the filling and top with another layer of cake.

Lemon crunch mixture over a layer of cream cheese and cake layer on a white platter.

Step 13:

Cover the entire cake with frosting, and then cover it with the lemon crumble.

Lemon crunch topping covering a lemon layer cake with a small white daisy on the top on a white platter.

Step 14:
Enjoy!

(Remember that the instructions will also be in the recipe card below.)

Close up of lemon crunch cake with a fork on a white plate.

Easy Lemon Crunch Cake with a Cake Mix

This easy lemon crunch cake is perfect for anyone who loves soft and moist lemon cake with a sweet and tangy lemon buttercream frosting and it’s all topped off with a crunchy lemon coating on the outside of the cake.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easy Lemon Crunch Cake with a Cake Mix
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 12 slices
Calories: 612kcal
Author: Kara @ Quick and Easy Baking

Ingredients

For the lemon crumble: (Makes a lot, may cut in half if needed)

  • 1 (3 ounce) box lemon jello mix, dry
  • 1 (3 ounce) box vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, divided (1 stick)
  • 2 pinches of salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup crushed shortbread vanilla cookies, optional (like Lorna Doone, vanilla wafers, or Golden Oreos)

For the cake:

  • 1 (15.24 ounce) box lemon cake mix, dry
  • 1 (3.9 ounce box) instant lemon pudding mix, dry
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs

For the frosting: (see notes for a quicker and easier frosting option)

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 5 cups confectioners sugar
Have questions?Make sure to check out the Tips & FAQ section in the post!

Instructions

For the lemon crumble:

  • (This crumble recipe makes a lot of crumble. You will probably have some left over. Feel free to cut the crumble recipe in half or just freeze the leftover crumble to use on another cake or on top of cupcakes.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the box of lemon jello mix (dry), 1/2 cup of the flour, 1/4 cup of room temperature butter (1/2 of the stick) and a pinch of salt.
  • Mix well until crumbled. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, add the box of vanilla pudding mix (dry), 1/2 cup of the flour, 1/4 cup of room temperature butter (1/2 of the stick) and a pinch of salt.
  • Mix well until crumbled. Set aside.
  • Add parchment paper to a baking sheet.
  • Next, add the crumbled mixture to the baking sheet. You can add the vanilla on one side and the lemon on the other, but it's not vital that they be completely seperated. Spread the mixtures out flat.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for about 6-8 minutes. Don't bake too long or the mixture will burn. Watch it closely.
  • Once baked, allow the crumbles to cool completely. (You can pop the baking sheet into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to cool it down quicker.)
  • Once cooled, break up all the crumbs and transfer into a mixing bowl.
  • Next, crush up the cookies and mix into the crumble mixture. (This adds a little extra crunch and flavor but is optional.)
  • (If not using immediately, store in an airtight container in the fridge. It can also be frozen.)
  • The crumble can be used either chilled or close to room temperature when assembling the cake.

For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray two, 8-inch round cake pans very well.
  • In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. The cake is finished baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
  • Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before assembling. See assembly instructions below.

For the frosting: (see notes for a quicker and easier frosting option if you don't want to make your own.)

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth.
  • Add the vanilla extract, salt and 3 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix well on medium-high speed.
  • Add the last 2-3 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix well on medium-high.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again at medium-high for about two minutes to make it fluffy. If the frosting is a little loose in consistency, pop it in the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes or so.

To assemble the cake:

  • First make sure all the cake layers are cooled down. They don't have to be cold, they just can't be warm.
  • Add a cake layer to a cake plate, then add a layer of the frosting as the filling.
  • Sprinkle some of the lemon crumble over the filling and top with another layer of the cake.
  • Cover the entire cake with the frosting.
  • Next, cover the entire cake with the lemon crumble. You can also save a bit of the frosting to pipe a border around the top of the cake if desired.

Notes

For an even easier frosting, feel free to use pre-made, canned cream cheese frosting.
How to Store: This cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can last up to 6 days.
How to serve: This cake can be served cold or at room temperature.
For other questions: Make sure to check out the TIPS & FAQs for this recipe in the blog post, which should answer other questions you may have about ingredients, substitutions, other pan sizes etc.
Nutritional values are an estimate.
*This recipe card may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 612kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 130mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 925IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 1mg
Baking at higher elevation?You’ll need to make adjustments for high elevations. This website does not specialize in that type of baking. Please take time to research high elevation baking websites for adjustments that should be made.
DislaimersTo see food safety, allergy & nutrition disclaimers, go here: Disclaimers!

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Tips & FAQs:

Do I need to prepare any of the pudding or jello mixes?

No, you will use all of them dry, so do not add the ingredients listed on the boxes.

Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted butter?

Yes, you can, for both the crumble and the frosting, however, you will need to omit the salt that both the crumble and the frosting recipes call for as the butter will already contain enough.

Tip when making the crumble:

Note that this recipe makes a lot of crumble. You can cut the recipe in half if you like, or save the rest for later use. Storage tips are in the recipe card.

Do I have to add the crushed vanilla cookies to the crumble?

No, that’s listed as optional in the recipe card. It just adds a little crunch.

Should I prepare the cake mix by adding the ingredients on the box?

No, you’ll just add the dry cake mix to the mixing bowl.

Can I use any brand of cake mix for this recipe?

Probably, I tend to use Betty Crocker brand, however, most major brands should work.

I don’t have sour cream. Can I substitute it?

I have only made this cake using sour cream, so I cannot guarantee that if you use a substitute, that it’ll turn out exactly the same.
However, if you’d still like to try it, you can substitute the sour cream by using plain yogurt instead.

Can I use canola oil instead of vegetable oil?

Yes

How can I tell when this cake is done baking?

This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.

Can I cut down on the confectioner’s sugar for the frosting?

Well you can, but that’s what thickens it up, so if you don’t use the full amount, then the frosting consistency will likely be too loose to cover the cake and not slide off.

Can I use lemon curd as the filling?

Sure! That would be delicious.

The crumble won’t stick to the cake. What am I doing wrong?

Is the cake cold? If the frosting is too cold and firm, then the crumble isn’t going to stick to it.

Do I have to make and add the crumble?

No, you can just make the cake and frosting, although it won’t be a lemon crunch cake. It’ll just be a lemon cake, which would be good as well.

Can I make this cake in advance? Can it be frozen?

The cake layers can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake layers on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add frosting, then the crumble.

How do I store this cake and how long does it last?

This cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and can last up to 5 days.

How do I store the leftover crumble and what can I do with the leftovers?

If you have leftover lemon crumble, just store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze up to a couple of months. The leftovers can be used for another cake, to top cupcakes or even to sprinkle on ice cream.

How do I serve this cake?

This cake can be served cold or at room temperature. If the cake is cold, (and you don’t want to eat it cold) just set out a slice for about 10-15 minutes before eating, so that it’s allowed to come closer to room temperature.
If you microwave cake slices, the frosting will melt very quickly.

Can I make this cake into a bundt cake?

Probably, although I have not tried it. It should work though, but make sure to grease and flour the bundt pan very well. I would probably bake at 325 degrees F for a longer period of time. I don’t have an exact time as I haven’t tried this cake in a bundt pan but start checking it at about 40 minutes, but it will likely take longer.

Can I make this recipe into cupcakes? If so, how many cupcakes will it make?

Yes, just bake at the same temperature but start checking at around 15 minutes or so. This recipe should make around 24 cupcakes.

Is this cake good for stacking?

Yes, this cake should work fine for stacking as long as you use proper supports and cake boards as you would stacking any cake.

Close up of layer cake that is lemon and buttercream frosting with lemon crunch topping with a fork on a white plate.

Supplies used for this recipe:

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Collage of lemon layer crunch cake with text in the middle.
Kara

2 thoughts on “Easy Lemon Crunch Cake with a Cake Mix”

    • Hi Priscilla, yes I think it would work. I haven’t tried it, but I can’t think of any reason it couldn’t work. You might have extra frosting and a lot of extra crunch topping left over (I’d actually just make half the crunch topping), but honestly it’ll probably be much easier to decorate and assemble if it’s in a 13×9 inch pan.

      Reply

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