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Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Do you love coffee cake? Do you love lemons? Well, this recipe is for you! This Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake is moist, fluffy, and full of flavor. It’s the perfect treat to enjoy with your morning cup of coffee or tea.

slice of Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on a white plate with more slices of cake in the background

Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

This soft-yet-dense Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake is bursting with lemon flavor. There’s lemon juice and/or zest in each of the three components of the cake. If you love lemon, then I think you’ll adore this cake in all its lemon glory.

Added to all that lemon flavor is a good dose of cream cheese. I spread the sweetened cream cheese filling between layers of cake batter to create a distinct line of filling. But if you prefer, you can swirl it with the top layer of cake batter for a little different look.

The flavors of this Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake are so lovely, they will make your taste buds tingle with joy! Pair it along side a cup of coffee or tea for the perfect breakfast or brunch treat. You can also enjoy a slice as an afternoon snack. Either way, you’re sure to love every bite. I think what I like best about these kinds of cakes is their sweet simplicity. Why not have a slice later on after dinner, too?

overhead view of slices of Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on a white plate and on white parchment paper

What You’ll Need

Besides the lemons, everything else here is a basic baking ingredient. Don’t be put off by the long-ish list of ingredients, as some of them repeat among the different components.

For the topping:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Unsalted butter – Make sure your butter is cold. I like to cut it into cubes and return it to the refrigerator while I gather the other ingredients.

For the filling:

  • Cream cheese – I recommend full-fat cream cheese for the best results. Bring it to room temperature for a smooth filling.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg – Also at room temperature
  • Lemon juice

For the cake:

  • All-purpose flour – As always, measure by weight or use the spoon and sweep method.
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Lemon zest and juice
  • Unsalted butter – Set out the butter about half an hour before baking so it can soften.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg – Bring to room temperature.
  • Milk – Set out the milk with the egg so it can come to room temperature.

How to Make Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

You’ll be making three separate components for this cake, but each one mixes quickly and easily with no special equipment.

Make the topping

Combine most of the ingredients. Stir or whisk the flour, sugar, and zest until combined.

Add the butter. Mix the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or your fingers until the mixture forms crumbs. Refrigerate until time to assemble the cake components.

Make the filling

Mix the ingredients. Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add the egg and lemon juice, and mix well.

Make the cake

Prepare for baking. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Alternatively, you can line the pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

Combine the wet ingredients. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color. Mix in the egg and lemon juice.

Add the dry ingredients and milk to the wet ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three portions alternating with two portions of the milk. Don’t over-mix; mix just until combined.

Assemble the layers. Transfer about half of the cake batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Top with the filling mixture, carefully spreading it almost to the edges. Dollop the remaining cake batter on top of the filling, and gently spread it to cover the filling. Sprinkle the topping mixture over the top of the cake.

Bake. Place the pan in the heated oven, and bake 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is done when the edges are golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool. Place the freshly baked cake on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool before serving.

overhead view of sliced Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Tips for Success

  • Use fresh lemons. For the best flavor, use fresh lemon juice and zest. Learn more: How to Zest and Juice Lemons
  • Use a light-colored metal baking pan. The cake will bake more thoroughly and evenly in this type of pan.
  • Don’t over-mix. Too much mixing can lead to dense, tough cake. When it’s time to add the flour and milk, mix just until the batter is combined.

How to Store

After the cake has cooled, store it tightly covered in the refrigerator. Make sure it’s well-sealed, as the refrigerator can make cake dry over time. Properly stored, the cake should keep up to 5 days.

Let servings come to room temperature before serving. If you like, you can briefly warm servings in the microwave.

How to Freeze

Wrap any remaining cake in two layers of plastic wrap and then wrap again in aluminum foil or place in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag. Make sure the cake has cooled completely before storing. It should keep up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator.

Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Recipe

Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Yield 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

This sweet, tart Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake is a must-make for lemon lovers!

overhead view of slices of Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on a white plate and on white parchment paper

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces (226g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • juice of 1 medium lemon

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) milk

Instructions

To make the topping:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and lemon zest. Add the butter and mix with a fork or your fingers until the mixture forms crumbs.
  2. Refrigerate the topping while you make the rest of the cake.

To make the filling:

  1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until thoroughly combined. Mix in the egg and lemon juice.
  2. Set aside while you make the cake.

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and lemon juice, and mix well.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of milk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Transfer about half of the cake batter to the prepared pan, and spread evenly.
  6. Top with the filling mixture, and carefully spread it to cover almost to the edges.
  7. Dollop the remaining cake batter on top of the filling. Gently spread the batter to cover the filling.
  8. Sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the top of the cake.
  9. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before serving.

Notes

For efficiency's sake, I recommend zesting and juicing both lemons before you start making the cake. My favorite tool for zesting citrus is a Microplane.

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    21 Comments on “Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake”

  1. Lemon is my favorite flavor and will be trying this one soon.

  2. I will definitely try this coffee cake. Lemon is a cheerful flavor for the spring.

  3. I am totally obsessed with all things sweet and lemon lately…I really think this cake is going to push me over the happy edge.

  4. I think it would be a great cake matching with a smoothie for a relaxing tea time! Such a great coffee cake mixing with lemon cream cheese, such a creative recipe 🙂

  5. Hi a Friend brings me a ton of lemons every year from Louisiana. I squeeze them all and freeze in ice cube trays, and the bag them.How much lemon juice do you think is in a average lemon ? 1/3 or 1/4 cup ????

  6. Hi Jennifer! Happy New Year! What a great list of favorites! And not surprising this recipe made the list! I’m making it tomorrow and, given the group of willing eaters I’m serving, one just won’t do it. Do you see a problem with doubling this and using a 9 X 13 pan, or would you recommend I make two 8 inch square? Also, I would rather not refrigerate coffee cake but because of the cream cheese filling, I’m supposing I would have to? Your opinion is appreciated, thank you!

  7. Made this tonight and it’s delicious! Thanks for the tip on taking care of the zest and juice first before diving into the recipe.

  8. Question can I use a bundt pan instead of an 8 inch flat pan

    • Hi, Margaret. This recipe won’t make enough batter to fill a regular Bundt pan. The volume of a regular Bundt is about twice that of an 8-inch square pan, but without testing it myself, I can’t give you a definitive answer for how it would need to be scaled.

  9. I love this recipe!. I’m making it for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding. I added some elderflower liquor to match the Wedding Cake. I will enjoy it with my English tea.

  10. I cooked this cake today.
    My verdict: wow, wow and wow!!!
    I recommand it

  11. I’m making this now. I cooked for 35 minutes at 350. It was still jiggly in the center so I put it in at 375 for additional 15. I will let you know how it turns out.

  12. Made this last night. Disappointed. I’m an experienced baker and followed the recipe carefully. The topping and cheese layers we’re fine. The cake was dense. Made it in an 8 X8 glass dish. So maybe that was the problem . It took about an hour to cook. We’re still eating it s l o w l y.

    • I’m sorry you had troubles, Sandia! Glass pans conduct heat differently than metal, so I generally don’t recommend using them for baking. A light-colored, non-shiny metal pan usually works best.

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