Coffee cake is one of those magical cakes that gets away with being acceptable to eat any time of the day.
Curiously, coffee cake contains zero coffee itself. I think (and I am totally speculating here) that it’s meant to be served with coffee, sort of in the tradition of tea. My sleuthing on the internet points to origins in German yeasted cakes, but it’s not entirely clear.
A common theme of coffee cakes is the incorporation of streusel. And for many of us (at least in the U.S.), it means a rich yellow cake spiced with cinnamon and topped with as much crumble as the cake can handle!
Video: How to Make Classic Coffee Cake
Classic Coffee Cake
Better-Than-Starbucks Coffee Cake
My inspiration for this classic crumb coffee cake is the picture-perfect slices you find behind the glass at Starbucks—but bigger, better, and with more crumb!
The cake batter includes sour cream, which not only adds richness but also helps maintain a tender crumb. There’s a cinnamon stripe through the center of the cake and a blanket of crumble over the top.
To ensure that distinctive stripe, we layer about half of the batter into the bottom of the pan, sprinkle the cinnamon layer over the top, then the remaining batter, and finally, a thick cover of crumble topping.
Some of the crumble floats on top of the batter in spots and buckles in others, in a way that sort of resembles a sugar-scape of cinnamon-scented hills and valleys that are nearly impossible to resist peeling off and eating straight from the pan—or maybe that’s just me!
How to Store and Freeze Coffee Cake
This is one of those cakes that just gets better after a day or two on the counter. The texture improves and moisture remains. It also freezes well!
To freeze the cake, let it cool completely, then wrap it in a layer of plastic followed by foil. The double layer helps prevent it from drying out in the freezer. To defrost the cake, set it on the counter until it reaches room temperature—if you have that kind of patience! The cake, even half-frozen, is still delicious.
How to Adapt This Coffee Cake Recipe
This recipe is easily adaptable to include other spices.
- Add cardamom and a little zest for an interesting twist.
- Swap the cinnamon and sugar for pumpkin pie spice.
- Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped walnuts or pecans to the topping or batter.
This cake is great served as it is. The crumble and the rich cake batter are perfectly satisfying without embellishments, but a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream is always welcome!
More Cakes to Serve with Coffee!
Tips for This Coffee Cake
- Be sure not to overmix the batter. It should be thick and relatively smooth, but some small lumps are fine. The batter is thicker than regular cake batter.
- To spread the top layer of batter without lifting it from the cinnamon sugar middle, grease a silicone or metal offset spatula.
- Don't substitute margarine or anything else for the butter in the crumb topping. Butter will give you the best results.
- If your streusel topping is browning too quickly, tent the pan loosely with foil and move the cake to the lower third of the oven for the rest of the baking time.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake Ingredient Swaps
- Swap out the sour cream for plain, whole milk or Greek yogurt.
- You can use either dark or light brown sugar in this recipe.
- No brown sugar? No problem! Just combine 1 cup of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses to make a cup of brown sugar.
- Instead of whole milk, feel free to substitute with heavy cream for a richer cake, or 2% milk for a lighter texture.
Classic Coffee Cake
You can halve this recipe and bake it in an 8 x 8-inch pan. Start checking it for doneness after 40 minutes, but it will likely take closer to 50 minutes to bake.
For the streusel topping:
1 cup (180g) brown sugar, packed
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
For the cinnamon layer:
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cake batter:
3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups (450g) sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (230g) sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven and prep the pan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter or spray a 9 x 13-inch pan.
Make the streusel layer:
In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a fork to mash the butter into the mixture until completely combined and crumbly. Set aside.
Make the cinnamon layer:
In another small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Set side, as well.
Begin making the batter:
In the bowl of your mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Using the paddle attachment for your stand mixer, stir on low to combine.
Add the softened butter and beat on medium-low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until all of the butter is mixed in, and the mixture resembles moist sand.
Combine the wet ingredients and finish the batter:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Beat the batter on medium speed until you get a smooth batter. A few small lumps are totally fine.
Prepare the cake:
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar layer over the top of the batter in an even layer. Spread the remaining batter over the top (this does require some patience since the batter likes to lift off the cinnamon-sugar layer). Top with the crumble mixture.
Bake the cake:
Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 1 hour (or until the cake comes to room temperature) before serving.
Store the cake:
You can make this cake a day or two in advance. Remove the cake from the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Keep it on the counter at room temperature.
To freeze the cake, wrap it in plastic, followed by foil.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 15 to 18|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||56%|
|Total Carbohydrate 60g||22%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 38g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|