Gluten-Free Lemon Streusel Torte

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Looking for something a little different to make for your holiday festivities? Me too! I decided to hack an incredible cake created decades ago by the renowned cookbook writer and cooking teacher Carole Walter. It graced the cover of one of her well-known cookbooks, Great Cakes (Ballentine Books, 1993).

Walter’s luscious lemon torte is a little out of the ordinary. A little special. But it’s not one of those make-it-at-the-last-minute desserts. Maybe that’s why I haven’t made it in over 15 years, and why I never bothered to convert it to gluten-free when I was diagnosed with celiac. Her recipe calls for a complicated genoise cake (her instructions run six pages), a multi-step lemon cream filling with a long list of ingredients, and a mouth-watering cookie streusel topping.

As you know, I’m from the life-is-too-short-school of baking.

EditLemonStreuselTorteAnd in my wheat baking days, I used to substitute a simple sponge cake for her genoise whenever I made the recipe because the thought of having to follow six pages of instructions made me want to bang my head against the wall. For my gluten-free version, I used my simple-to-make sponge cake recipe again (from Gluten-Free Baking Classics); I’d converted it many years ago. Easy peasy.


In my wheat baking days, I used to make Walter’s lemon cream filling from her book, although it always made way more than the cake needed (she said to use it as a sauce on the side). Her version also used orange juice, which I never completely understood (even though it was delicious). I made the lemon cream filling for my new gluten-free version with the filling from my Lemon Cream Pie (from Gluten-Free Baking Classics – The Heirloom Collection).













But- I wasn’t going to mess around when it came to the cookie-like streusel topping that gets sprinkled all over the finished torte: I converted her really good, very-easy-to-make recipe to gluten-free. And that was it.












What a dessert! Bright lemon flavor. Delicate cookie-like crumbs. Tender and moist sponge cake. This Lemon Streusel Torte is a smash hit that will have everyone around your table coming back for more. Make one for your next holiday party!



Lemon Cream (recipe below)
Streusel Crumbs (recipe below)
Vanilla Sponge Cake (recipe below)

  1. Carefully slice one of the two layers of the sponge cake in half across the middle. You should now have three layers of cake in total (two thin layers and one thick). Place one of the thin layers (cut side facing up) on a cake plate and spread about 1/2 cup of Lemon Cream across the top.
  2. Place the thick layer on top of the filling and spread another 1/2 cup of Lemon Cream across the top of that layer. Place the third layer on top (cut side facing down) on top. Spread the remaining Lemon Cream across the top and sides of the cake.
  3. Sprinkle the Streusel Crumbs across the top and sides of the cake and gently pat them into the Lemon Cream (I like to spread the crumbs slightly thicker on the top). Refrigerate the cake uncovered for several hours (about 3-4 hours) until it is very cold and the Lemon Cream has set.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Can be made a day ahead. Store frosted torte in refrigerator. Best when eaten within three days of baking.


(From Gluten-Free Baking Classics – The Heirloom Collection)

4 large egg yolks
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup corn starch
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 packed teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons pure lemon extract

  1. Beat egg yolks in large bowl of electric mixer at medium-high
    speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar a little at a time and continue beating until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Add corn starch and salt and beat until well blended.
  2. Bring milk to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat while you are beating the egg yolks.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add hot milk to egg mixture in a thin stream. Quickly scrape sides and bottom of bowl and mix at medium speed until well blended.
  4. Pour the custard mixture back into the saucepan and cook it over
    a medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wire whip, until it comes to a boil and thickens. Lower heat and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, lemon rind, and lemon extract.
  5. Pour filling into small bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent hardening. Refrigerate until cold.

Can be made a day ahead and stored tightly sealed in refrigerator before spreading on cake.


2/3 cup Brown Rice Four Mix
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Position rack in center of oven.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, almonds, and xanthan gum in a small bowl; stir to blend. Pour in butter and stir until all dry ingredients are completely moistened. Press the dough into the bottom of bowl with the back of the spoon until it all in one solid piece, then gently break it up into medium and small crumb pieces (the size of plain and peanut M&Ms®) with a fork.
  3. Place crumb pieces in a 9-inch round cake pan and bake for about 18 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Stir crumbs once or twice if they appear to be browning unevenly. Baking time will vary depending on size of crumbs and baking pan.

Can be made two days ahead and stored in a tightly sealed in refrigerator before spreading on cake.


(From Gluten-Free Baking Classics, 2006 and 2nd edition 2008)
This recipe can also be baked in a jellyroll pan or in 9-inch round cake pans. For instructions see Gluten-Free Baking Classics.

Makes two 8-inch rounds

3⁄4 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum if guar gum is unavailable
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature*
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon pure almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Position rack in center of oven. Line two
    8-inch round layer cake pans with parchment or wax paper and grease very lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, guar gum, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat egg whites in large bowl of electric mixer. Start mixer at medium speed and beat until whites are foamy. Gradually increase speed to high. Add 1⁄4 cup of the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until sugar dissolves and whites form medium soft peaks. Do not scrape bowl while beating. Set aside.
  4. Beat egg yolks in large bowl of electric mix until thick and lemon colored. Add remaining 1⁄2 cup sugar gradually, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until light colored and thick. Add flour mixture, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix until smooth. Batter will be thick.
  5. Fold 1⁄3 of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten it; gently fold in remaining egg whites. Pour batter into cake pans and place in center of preheated oven. Bake 20–22 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly.
  6. Use a small knife to cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Invert pans onto a rack. Peel off paper. Cool completely before filling or frosting.

*Separate eggs when they are cold, and then let them warm to room temperature.

Can be made a day ahead. Cake layers can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and stored in refrigerator for up to one day. Unfrosted cake layers can also be covered with plastic wrap and then with foil and stored in freezer for up to three weeks. Best when eaten within three days of baking.
©2015 by Annalise Roberts

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6 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Lemon Streusel Torte”

  1. Hi Annalise,
    Once again your creation makes me want to lick my monitor screen! Absolutely lovely! Question, tho, do you use nonstick dark or light pans?
    Thanks again…..

    1. Hi Betty!

      Thank you!

      And I typically recommend lighter colored pans that are not non-stick. However, my 8-inch round cake pans were really more medium colored (but they were not non-stick). Let me know how the cake turns out if you make it!

      Very best,

  2. Kathy Chmielewski

    This looks yummy! But I actually have a question about something else. I started baking gluten-free for my husband several years ago, and we love your cupcake recipes (I adapted your vanilla cupcakes to a strawberry cupcake, adding mashed strawberries, coconut and chopped almonds). I brought some in to work for a co-worker’s birthday, and now everyone wants the recipe! Since they don’t need to be gluten-free, I am not sure if you can just eliminate the xantham gum and sub cake flour for the brown rice flour blend. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi!
      I made those vanilla cupcakes for years before I was diagnosed. To make the wheat version, leave out the xanthan gum and reduce the baking powder to 1 1/8 teaspoon. I was lucky– it was a pretty simple adjustment. Doesn’t always work out that way!

      I love your idea for how you adapted the recipe. It sounds delicious!

      Very best,

  3. This looks amazing. Is it possible to use Cup4Cup flour and eliminate the xanthan gum in place of the brown rice four?

    1. hi Nancy,
      Not sure if you read my review of the Cup4Cup flour mix, but it still stands. So yes you could use Cup4Cup in my recipe, but in my opinion, you’d end up with a dense, tough, rubbery sponge cake. My recipe only uses 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum in the cake and another 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum in the crumbs. The Cup4Cup mix contains a much, much higher ratio of flour to xanthan.

      Also, please note, my recipe also doesn’t use plain brown rice flour. It uses my all-purpsoe Brown Rice Flour Mix, which you can read about by clicking on the scroll down menu Gluten-Free Baking and then, going to the link for flour mix information

      Let me know if you decide to make it. It is a really amazing cake!

      Very best,

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