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Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake

Layers of thinly sliced Meyer lemons lend a mellow complexity to this otherwise classic coffee cake. Thought to be a cross of a lemon and a mandarin, the fruit has an orange cast, a thin rind, and a heavily perfumed flesh that's valued by chefs.

  • Servings: 12
Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 2008

Ingredients

For the Streusel

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter

For the Cake

  • 5 Meyer lemons, cut into paper-thin slices, ends discarded
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 4 to 5 lemons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make the streusel: Mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter into the flour mixture until small to medium clumps form. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).

  2. Make the cake: Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of simmering water for 1 minute. Drain, and repeat. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch angel food cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream.

  4. Spoon 1/2 of the batter evenly into cake pan. Arrange 1/2 of the lemon slices in a single layer over the batter. Spread remaining batter evenly over the top. Cover with the remaining lemon slices in a single layer. Sprinkle the chilled streusel evenly over the batter.

  5. Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and remove outer ring. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the center tube. Slide 2 wide spatulas between the bottom of the cake and the pan, and lift cake to remove from the center tube. Let cool completely on rack.

  6. Make the glaze: Just before serving, stir together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake, letting excess drip down the sides. Let glaze set before slicing, about 5 minutes.

Variations

Martha has also prepared the lemon glaze with just two tablespoons of Meyer lemon juice.

Cook's Note

Mildly acidic Meyer lemons are available from late fall through early spring. For the rind to soften and sweeten sufficiently during baking or roasting, slice the lemon to near-transparent thinness. A mandoline, a handheld slicer, or a sharp knife and a steady hand will do the trick.

Reviews (73)

  • val17 28 Sep, 2014

    This cake is fantastic. It was the first time I was making a coffee cake and I had six guests for brunch. Everybody loved it and in order not to eat it all I gave half to my next door neighbour who enjoyed very much! Highly recommended!

  • Adele123 5 May, 2014

    This cake is fabulous! I omitted the sliced lemons but followed the rest of the recipe to the letter. The ingredient ratios are perfect...yes, even the salt. (My husband is a chef and says home cooks are hesitant to use an adequate amount of kosher or sea salt--the only kind you should be using). The streusel topping seemed like a lot but the way it cooks in it's really just right. This cake was beautiful and exceptionally delicious. I served it at a brunch buffet and it was a huge hit!

  • adrisirk 12 Jan, 2014

    This cake is absolutely delicious ! I made it for a brunch today and several people said it was the most delicious cake of any kind they had ever eaten ! It is very flavorful with a real lemon tang, and a crusty streusel and a rich, moist, cake in between ! Definitely will make it again. I also did do a bit less kosher salt than recommended.

  • poetees 10 Nov, 2013

    I made this yesterday and found it to be utterly scrumptious! I did make a few changes: I added less salt (as I was using regular table salt) in both the streusel and the cake; I also baked this in a bundt pan since I didn't have an angel food cake pan, so I ended up placing the streusel as a middle layer in the cake. The last thing I did was omit the meyer lemon slices. It was so good!! Nicely scented and sweet but in the right balance, with the icing. I'm making this again for sure! Yum!

  • Sister Moon 27 Oct, 2013

    Martha Stewart has done it again. This is a wonderful recipe. I have a Meyer lemon tree and am always looking for new lemon recipes. The glaze on top adds a nice tang to the moist case. I have seen some comments about the salt.From what I've read, you should use around half the amount if using table salt instead of coarse salt. I think perhaps the other commenter who said it was too salty may have used table salt without reducing the amount.This is a wonderful coffee cake that I will make again!

  • Ceege 23 Aug, 2012

    I would love to try this coffee cake but getting the cake out of the pan per directions scares me. I think the cake would just fall apart while trying to get spatula's under it and then trying to lift it out. Has anyone done this with luck? Could a cheese cake pan with removable bottom be used instead or do you need that "tube" in the middle of angel pan to help bake the cake in the middle. Would appreciate any help before I try this recipe. Thanks

  • Batel Shriki 27 May, 2012

    I'm from Israel, I don't believe we grow these kind of lemons here, but the recipe was so inviting that I made it with thin skinned oranges. It turned out amazing!!!

  • brianNNJ 9 Apr, 2012

    Made this for Easter and the family loved it, along with a New York Style Crumb Cake. Both were incredibly well received by my nephews! I was worried the lemon coffee cake would be a bit bitter but it actually had a nice taste (yes!!).
    Kudos to Martha yet again =)

  • saraddavis 21 Mar, 2012

    Could I make this in a bundt pan? If so, what would I do about the topping....? I don't have an angel food cake pan!
    Thank you!

  • jgerwigdively 26 Feb, 2012

    Very good. Leaves a slightly bitter, lemony taste in the mouth but not overwhelming. I only had salted butter so I used that. I eliminated all salt from the streusel, cut back to ~1t in the cake itself, and cut the streusel AND glaze recipes in half.

  • kaylarae 14 Jan, 2012

    I think if you had trouble with the lemons you may not have sliced them thin enough. I followed the recipe, used meyer lemons and sliced them very very thin. Layered in the cake they just melted in and made it delightfully lemony!

  • kaylarae 14 Jan, 2012

    I think if you had trouble with the lemons you may not have sliced them thin enough. I followed the recipe, used meyer lemons and sliced them very very thin. Layered in the cake they just melted in and made it delightfully lemony!

  • sherilhale 23 Apr, 2011

    I made this for Easter, but skipped the lemon slices because I wasn't sure how I would like texture. Instead, I added 1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice to the batter. It turned out AWESOME!!! Also- I used regular lemons because I couldn't find Meyer.

  • Amarienolan 6 Mar, 2011

    Next time I make this I will leave out the lemon slices. My husband and I were pulling the rinds out of our mouths! Yuk. Also, I will leave out the salt in the topping. Other than those 2 things, the cake is delicious and very moist.

  • Amarienolan 6 Mar, 2011

    Next time I make this I will leave out the lemon slices. My husband and I were pulling the rinds out of our mouths! Yuk. Also, I will leave out the salt in the topping. Other than those 2 things, the cake is delicious and very moist.

  • nyjjinla 27 Feb, 2011

    I love all things lemon, but this cake was a little too much. I have a meyer lemon tree so I'm always happy to find recipes that call for them. The slices of lemon are just too tart for me, though. I had a slice of the cake about 3 hours ago. Since then, I had a sandwich and a piece of chocolate birthday cake, and my mouth is still tasting the tartness of the lemon cake!

  • bzip 27 Feb, 2011

    and reversing it...follow the directions to do this off of Martha's cherry streusel coffeecake. The Meyer flavor just pops after a day or two...this is my favorite coffeecake recipe!

  • bzip 27 Feb, 2011

    A Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. I am so excited to see them arrive in the grocery store, anytime between Oct - March. I agree with others recommendation to use less salt. I have better luck using halfed or quartered lemon slices as it makes for easier eating. I use a bundt pan that is just one piece. Makes for some fun when you're popping it out

  • Sunnybarbara 13 Feb, 2011

    Thank YOU for the recipe and the flavor presented to me by my VALENTINE after she made this delectable cake! Wayne

  • gruwellfam 13 Feb, 2011

    Can I use a different pan for this recipe?

  • rabendixen 8 Jul, 2010

    Con't from below: Added 1/2 c. slivered almonds in streusel for crunch. Simmered the sliced lemons in 1/2 c. water,1/2 c. sugar for sweetness. Next time I will try to candy them. I layered the sliced lemons on top of the cake before the streusel and it really gave it an interesting texture...like lemon curd. Cake is dense and rich with lemon flavor...excellent!

  • rabendixen 5 Jul, 2010

    can't get my whole comment on.....ugh!

  • rabendixen 5 Jul, 2010

    I made the cake w/meyer/reg. lemons. I decreased salt in streusel to 1/2 tsp.

  • rabendixen 5 Jul, 2010

    Made with meyers/reg. lemons. Decreased salt in the streusel to 1/2 tsp. Like the hint of salt in it to decrease sweetness

  • rabendixen 5 Jul, 2010

    Made it with meyers/reg lemons.Decreased salt in the streusel to 1/2 tsp. I Like the hint of salt in it to decrease sweetness

  • patwie 19 Mar, 2009

    I love this cake! Great show stopper....great flavor........everything great.....Been thinking about making this cake again since the first time I made it! And that was a week after I saw the show......I could not stop thinking about it....I just had to try it.....It proved to be great! I cant say enough! Except I am making it this weekend.....just cuz!
    Very pleased,
    Patty

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I was disappointed with this cake. The cake itself was wonderful. But, my meyer lemons must have been a little tart. The cake was kind of sour. I was careful to follow all directions. The streusel seemed to be not necessary. I doubled the glaze to sweeten up the cake. Making the cake in an a

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • reineman 17 Mar, 2009

    I had trouble with the lemons making the cake undercooked. I used Meyer lemons, and the cake was rather sour. If I made this cake again, I would make it in a 9x13 pan, with one layer of lemons on the top. The cake had a wonderful flavor, and I will use that recipe in other cakes. It seemed to have way too much streusel. This cake gets a mixed review from me.

  • jkath 16 Mar, 2009

    Actually, Meyer Lemons are a winter fruit, easily accessible here in California.

  • CrepeGirl 14 Mar, 2009

    I made this with regular lemons and it was still delicious. I omitted the sliced lemons in the middle of the cake, but did everything else the same. The only other change I will make next time is I will NOT add the salt called for in the topping. The taste of salt came through (not in a good way). At a minimum, I would cut it down to 1/2 tsp. Otherwise, the cake was delicious - even with plain old lemons!

  • arthursj 14 Mar, 2009

    It's called a coffee cake because you serve it at coffee hour (similar in concept to a tea cake not containing tea...). Also, baking powder is baking soda and cream of tartar, and is called double action here as it will react with both water and an acid such as vinegar. To make your own (not sure of metric conversion, so forgive me), use 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp. corn starch (for stability).

  • CarolinaDesigna 13 Mar, 2009

    it's called lemon coffee cake, but no coffee? I'm writing from the UK so maybe it's a cultural difference! Also, can someone tell me the difference between baking powder and baking soda in the US? I the UK they are really the same thing, and it's a problem I have with a lot of the recipes on this site. Thanks.

  • junesantapaula 12 Mar, 2009

    I have a Meyer Lemon tree and decided to make this cake. I followed the recipe carefully. The cake looked beautiful, but it was so salty we could not eat it. I think 2 1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt is way too much.

  • KathleenLutz 12 Mar, 2009

    We have Meyer Lemons here in Florida and can buy them at local Fruit Markets,
    I think you may be able to find them at Whole Foods.

  • babyu 12 Mar, 2009

    How do you know the diffence between a reg. lemon and a meyer lemon?
    http://www.babyuniques.com

  • babyu 12 Mar, 2009

    How do you know the diffence between a reg. lemon and a meyer lemon?
    http://www.babyuniques.com

  • babyu 12 Mar, 2009

    How do you know the diffence between a reg. lemon and a meyer lemon?
    http://www.babyuniques.com

  • GreenlikeaBean 25 Jan, 2009

    I just saw 3 bags of Meyer lemons at our Meijer. I did not buy them because I couldn't remember how many I needed. I am making this cake this week, and I am praying it will look as luscious as the photo because I think it just might be one of Martha's best. What actually does that blanching of the lemons do to the overall flavor?

  • aesmer 10 Dec, 2008

    Meyer lemons are only available in Dec-January. I would not substitue them with regular lemons; oranges or tangerines would work.

  • tjhmlb 24 Jul, 2008

    Fabulously wonderful....

  • tiffanyburns 15 Jul, 2008

    Meyer Lemons are in season in mid-late Spring so don't bother driving yourself insane to find them. Cut the rinds and pith mostly off regular lemons. A food processor with the slicing blade makes beautiful thin slices that bake perfectly! I baked this cake, 3 days ahead of time, for July 5th breakfast at the cabin. Topped with glaze just before serving and the cake was still moist and extremely flavorful. Everyone loved it!

  • FluteFreak 9 Jul, 2008

    I decided to make this cake when I was looking through the Martha Stewart Magazine one day. Ever since I made it the first time, everyone has been requesting the recipe and asking me to make it for family get-togethers. The cake has such a great flavor and texture. I did eliminate the cooked lemon slices in the middle of the cake, and it tastes just as great, plus it saves time. Trust me, you will want to try this cake. Simply Delicious!

  • nyc_via_pdx 27 May, 2008

    My husband baked this cake for my birthday and it was delicious. We did substitute small regular lemons and only a couple rinds were thick enough to be noticed in the finished product. We also eliminated the salt from the streusel and the cake still had enough salt for my taste. Yummy Lemony Desert!

  • nyc_via_pdx 27 May, 2008

    My husband baked this cake for my birthday and it was delicious. We did substitute small regular lemons and only a couple rinds were thick enough to be noticed in the finished product. We also eliminated the salt from the streusel and the cake still had enough salt for my taste. Yummy Lemony Desert!

  • fairycake 25 May, 2008

    In Oz we don't have Meyer lemons (yet !) I used two mandarins two lemons and two limes instead. I zested the skins first then sliced in food processor for paper thinness and to eliminate the bitterness of standard lemon/lime rinds. I also used no fat yoghurt instead of sour cream .Yummy!

  • harribob 25 May, 2008

    I made the cake using regular lemons. It tasted great, but next time after simmering the rinds, I would cut them into small bits using a scissor or knife. That way one could avoid the "surprise" of finding a much too large rind when taking a bite.

  • kundry 17 May, 2008

    Looks like the Martha test kitchen ought to develop a similar recipe using regular lemons since Meyer lemons aren't as readily available as we are led to believe.

  • sammiejoney 17 May, 2008

    The area around the lemons leaves the cake looking raw in the center, even with more baking time. However, it needs less baking time. About 10 min less. Also, the Meyer Lemons were not available and I used the regular. It was very sour and the rinds were bitter. Next time I dusted them with sugar but still bitter. Today I am going to try it one more time with lemons cooked in a simple lemon syrup. Also, will cut with a razor so they are as thin as possible.

  • gnell 16 May, 2008

    I need to know if one can buy these lemons in a store or where? I am not able to buy the tree and would really like to try this with to right lemons. Also, being one with diabetes, can I use subtitutes to cut fat and sugar? Thank You

  • Thewall22 15 May, 2008

    I tried this cake last night, WITH REGULAR LEMONS. I have not had the cake with Meyer lemons, but the regular lemons were mighty tasty to me. It seems regular lemon rinds are thicker, so I would recommend chopping off some of that on the lemon before slicing. I liked the 2 layers of lemon in it, and didn't think it was overpowering at all. I really thought the lemon flavor came in with the glaze, which was yummy.

    I increased baking time to 20 minutes though. It needed it. Thanks MSL!

  • cc94115 14 May, 2008

    This is really good...a keeper. If you are pressed for time, the nice thing about this cake is that you can omit the lemon slices in the cake, and even the icing and strudel. But the strudel is yummy, and the lemon slices add a subtle complexity and freshness.My only comment is that one layer of slices in the middle is enough - you don't need two layers (a little overkill), thus less lemons needed. Area around slices tend to leave a slight rawness in batter and creates less height in cake.

  • Thewall22 13 May, 2008

    That's what I want to know too. I too couldn't find them, so I'm going to be trying it soon with regular lemons. Wish me luck!

  • amistylady 12 May, 2008

    Has anybody tried to make this coffee cake using regular lemons in place of Meyer lemons? I am having difficulty findin Meyer lemons at me local grocer.
    Thanks in advance for the help.
    Linda

  • juliebulie 11 May, 2008

    I was wondering the same thing! Please let me know if this works with your idea!!!!

  • thecookieartisan 10 May, 2008

    Sorry for the repeated question - nothing happened when I hit submit and so I apparently hit it a few more times!!!!!!!! Happy Mother's Day!!!!

  • thecookieartisan 10 May, 2008

    Can regular lemons be used in this recipe or possibly tangerines or oranges???
    When I asked my grocer if they carried Meyer Lemons - he replied - "no, we carry Sunkist"!!!! Oh boy - so much for my perfect Mother's Day treat!!! I'm going to be brave and try it with a combo of regular lemons and tangerines to try to get the lemony orange flavor. Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!!

  • floridasrecipejunkie 9 May, 2008

    I live in Citrus County,central western Florida-zone 9 and I have several Meyer lemon trees along with orange,lime,grapefruit,kumquat trees,Meyer lemons are sweeter than the Persian variety which are in grocery stores.You can find miniature and dwarf varieties of Meyer lemons in catalogs,put them in a very large pot,they must be inside in cold weather,citrus trees love the heat,that's why they are in the south

  • Purplelady49er 9 May, 2008

    Martha or ? please answer question about using regular lemons. I LOVE anything lemon, too. In what zones can you grow Meyer Lemon Trees?

  • ulihelisdi 9 May, 2008

    I love anything with lemons, however, I believe this cake will also do well with oranges and dried cranberries and cinnamon, or oranges and almonds.

  • brookemmy 9 May, 2008

    Meyer Lemons are sweeter than regular lemons and their rinds are thinner so I don't think the cake would taste the same if you used regular lemons.

  • JCsMelodie 9 May, 2008

    I can't wait to try this one - I only wish there was enough room to write the funny, funny story I heard about a sweet little old lady who used to always give Lemon Cakes. Right to the point and sooooooo funny.

  • lmdobbs3 9 May, 2008

    I thought Martha stated that meyer lemons were in season all year. i've called several local groceriers, and they all said that there season was over. I so wanted to make this coffee cake. Can you use regular lemons?

  • anneward 7 May, 2008

    Absolutely wonderful !

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