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.
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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.
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.)
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:
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.
In another bowl, mix vanilla pudding mix, half the flour, half the butter, and salt until crumbled. Set aside.
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.
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.
Make sure to store the crumble in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze it until ready to use.
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease or spray two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients on medium speed for about two minutes until the batter is thick.
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.
Let the cake layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before assembly.
Make the frosting:
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.
How to Assemble:
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.
Sprinkle some lemon crumble over the filling and top with another layer of cake.
Cover the entire cake with frosting, and then cover it with the lemon crumble.
(Remember that the instructions will also be in the recipe card below.)
Tips & FAQs:
No, you will use all of them dry, so do not add the ingredients listed on the boxes.
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.
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.
No, that’s listed as optional in the recipe card. It just adds a little crunch.
No, you’ll just add the dry cake mix to the mixing bowl.
Probably, I tend to use Betty Crocker brand, however, most major brands should work.
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.
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.
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.
Sure! That would be delicious.
Is the cake cold? If the frosting is too cold and firm, then the crumble isn’t going to stick to it.
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.
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.
This cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and can last up to 5 days.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, just bake at the same temperature but start checking at around 15 minutes or so. This recipe should make around 24 cupcakes.
Yes, this cake should work fine for stacking as long as you use proper supports and cake boards as you would stacking any cake.
Supplies used for this recipe:
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- Mixing bowls
- Silicone spatulas
- Electric hand-mixer or stand-mixer
- Baking sheet
- Round 8-inch cake pans
- Cooling racks
Easy Lemon Crunch Cake with a Cake Mix
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
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.
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