Apple Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Streusel

published Aug 4, 2022
Apple Coffee Cake Recipe
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Credit: Kelli Foster

As apple season draws near, this all-day apple coffee cake is a must for your fall baking bucket list. I can never decide the best part: Is it the thick, buttery cake studded with sweet-tart chunks of apple or the craggy streusel topping? I’m first won over by the cake’s subtle tang (a nod to classic coffee cake), along with the hints of warm cinnamon, rich brown sugar, and tender apples. But then it only takes a moment for the irresistible, sandy crunch of the buttery, sugary, spice-laden streusel topping to take the lead. Although, truly the best bite is when you get both cake and crumb in one perfect bite.

Best Apples to Bake With

The best apples for baking are ones that are firm and hold their shape when baked. Here, I like tart or sweet-tart apples because their flavor really shines and offers a nice balance to the buttery cake and richness of the brown sugar. Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or a combination all work nicely in apple coffee cake.

Credit: Kelli Foster

What Is Apple Coffee Cake Made of?

Apple coffee cake has two distinct layers: the tender, apple-studded cake and a cinnamon streusel topping. Both are made with a combination of pantry items, a few ingredients from the fridge, and the signature ingredient: apples. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Apples
  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Light brown sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Grated or ground nutmeg
  • Vanilla extract
  • Unsalted butter
  • Sour cream
  • Eggs
  • Whole or 2% milk

What Makes a Coffee Cake a Coffee Cake?

Despite the name, you won’t find coffee in the ingredient list for coffee cake. Coffee cake is simply a single-layer butter cake topped with a sugary streusel, or sometimes a crumb topping. Some versions may contain streusel with nuts, cake studded with fruit (like apple coffee cake or blueberry coffee cake), or a ripple of fruit and/or streusel through the center of the cake.

Apple Coffee Cake Recipe

Prep time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook time 58 minutes to 1 hour 3 minutes

Makes 1 (9x13-inch) cake

Serves 18-24

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons

    (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

  • 2 large

    eggs

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    medium apples, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady (3 apples)

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the streusel topping:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    grated or ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Cut 12 tablespoons unsalted butter into small cubes, then place in a stand mixer and let sit at room temperature to soften. (Alternatively, place in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer.) Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with butter. Place 2 large eggs and 1 cup sour cream at room temperature while you prepare the streusel and cut the apples. Prepare the streusel.

  2. Make the streusel. Place 8 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 20-second bursts until completely melted, 50 to 60 seconds total. (Alternatively, melt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.)

  3. Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the melted butter and stir until combined and the salt is melted. Add1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar and stir with a fork until evenly moistened and a variety of crumb sizes form. Do not mix into a paste of uniform consistency. Refrigerate until the butter firms up, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the cake.

  4. Make the cake. Peel and dice 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady apples (about 3 2/3 cups).

  5. Place 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  6. Add the eggs, sour cream, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  7. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the butter in the stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in color fluffy, about 7 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture and beat until mostly incorporated. Add the milk mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

  8. Return the mixer to low speed, add the remaining flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stop the mixer, add the apples, and fold in by hand with a flexible spatula.

  9. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Crumble the chilled streusel evenly over the top.

  10. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 58 to 63 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely, about 3 hours. Cut into squares and serve straight from the pan.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 4 days.