Recipe Review

Pecans! Chocolate! Espresso! This Coffee Cake Is Seriously Next-Level Good.

published Mar 17, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Headshot: Angie Mosier

From cakes to pies to biscuits, Cheryl Day is the queen of Southern baking. She co-owns Back In The Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia, with her husband, Griffith, and has written multiple cookbooks. She’s known for creating recipes that are somehow classic and fresh at the same time.

When I was searching around for coffee cake recipes to test, I happened upon Cheryl’s version with pecans, chocolate, and espresso and immediately knew I had to give it a try. The flavor combination sounds incredible and is guaranteed to pair well with coffee. Is it the most conventional coffee cake recipe? No. But it has the bones of one, with buttermilk and brown sugar and a streusel top. And how could coffee cake with the addition of chocolate and espresso be bad? There was only one way to find out.

Credit: Photos: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Headshot: Angie Mosier

How to Make Cheryl Day’s Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

Day’s coffee cake recipe is a crumb cake, so it leaves minimal cleanup and is quick and easy to make. Start by mixing together flour, brown sugar, white sugar, softened butter, and salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small mixing bowl and stir in chopped, toasted pecans, chopped bittersweet chocolate, and espresso powder. Set aside.

To make the cake, sprinkle baking soda over the remaining mixture, then add buttermilk, an egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract and beat just until combined. The mixture won’t be perfectly smooth and that’s OK. Grease a 9-by-9-inch pan, line with parchment paper, and spoon in the batter. Top with the crumb mixture and bake until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan, then lift it out of the pan using the parchment. Slice and serve with a hot cup of coffee.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Cheryl Day’s Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

This cake might enrage a few coffee cake purists because it skips the cinnamon, but I loved it. The cake is moist and fluffy with a lovely flavor from the buttermilk and almond extract. There’s plenty of sandy crumble on top, and it’s packed with flavor and texture, thanks to the espresso powder, chocolate, and crunchy pecans. It’s a true delight to eat a slice with a cup of coffee.

It’s also easy and takes about 10 minutes to make (maybe 15 minutes if you count chopping chocolate and nuts). It’s not a showstopper to look at — not unattractive, just not as tidy and impressive as some coffee cakes. It would be great for brunch and also is a solid snacking cake for nibbling on any time of day.

A Couple of Tips for Making Cheryl Day’s Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

  1. Grease your pan well. Day calls for greasing the pan and then lining the bottom with a sling of parchment. I’d also recommend greasing the parchment as well, since this moist cake is inclined to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Toast the nuts. The recipe calls for toasted pecans, and while you could easily swap for walnuts or even almonds, don’t skip toasting them first. It gives the topping an extra toasty flavor and a nice crunch.

Rating: 9/10