How To Make Classic Coffee Cake

How To Make Classic Coffee Cake

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Emma Christensen
Sep 28, 2018
(Image credit: Christine Han)

Sure, coffee cake can be any cake-like substance served with coffee, but for me, there is only one kind of cake that I want sharing space with my cup — and that is a big square (it must be square) of rich, buttery cake topped with giant, cinnamon-scented crumbles. This one is my go-to favorite for all occasions.

The Cake

This coffee cake is a riff on our yellow butter cake, which (not coincidentally) is also my favorite butter cake. The biggest difference is that I use sour cream instead of plain milk to give the cake a tender crumb and an ever-so-slight tanginess.

Once you make it, this might seem like not enough batter for the baking pan, but it rises significantly in the oven to reach proper cake proportions.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

The Crumble

I'm a big believer in crumble topping. And in this cake in particular, it should not be an afterthought. After all, the crumble is a central, integral part of the whole coffee cake experience, creating a very desirable layer of lofty decadence. I love big crumbs that get crunchy during baking, giving some textural contrast to the softer cake beneath. Be careful not to mix this topping too thoroughly, or you'll lose those big pebble-sized crumbles.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Serving the Cake

Bake this coffee cake in a 9x13-inch baking dish and you'll have a nice number of servings for a crowd (or for my own coffee breaks over the course of a week, ahem). The larger pan also provides increased surface area for crumbs, and therefore, the best cake-to-crumble ratio.

This cake keeps well for several days, staying moist and tender right up until the last crumb is consumed. Serve it, of course, with a cup of very strong coffee.

How To Make Classic Coffee Cake

Makes 1 (9x13-inch) cake

What You Need

Ingredients

  • For the crumble topping:
  • Cooking spray or butter, for the baking dish

  • 1/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup

    packed brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground cinnamon

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • For the cake:
  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 1/4 cups

    full-fat sour cream

  • For the icing:
  • 1 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla or almond extract

  • Equipment
  • Mixing bowls

  • Stand mixer or hand mixer

  • 9x13-inch baking dish

  • Baking sheet

  • Wire cooling rack

  • Whisk

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and prepare the baking dish. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with baking spray or butter.

  2. Prepare the crumble topping. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter and stir to combine. Add the flour and use a fork to stir and gently toss the flour into the mixture until big, slightly floury crumbs form; set aside.

  3. Mix the butter, sugar, and eggs. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and lightened in color. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until each is incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  4. Beat in the dry ingredients and sour cream. Place the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. With the mixer on low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 the sour cream. Beat in half of the remaining flour, followed by the remaining sour cream, and finish with the rest of the flour. Beat until there is no more dry flour in the batter, then increase the speed to high and beat just a few seconds until the batter is smooth and has no more lumps.

  5. Transfer the batter to the pan and sprinkle with the crumbs. Pour the batter into the pan and spread into an even layer. Using your hands, break up the reserved crumble mixture and sprinkle it evenly over the top.

  6. Bake the coffee cake for 40 to 45 minutes. Bake until the cake feels springy when you touch the middle and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. If the crumbs start to get too browned and toasted before the cake is done, tent the top of the cake loosely with aluminum foil.

  7. Cool the cake. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let the cake cool to room temperature.

  8. Drizzle the cake with icing. Place all the icing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Let the icing set for a few minutes before cutting the cake and serving.

Recipe Notes

Coffee cake with a middle crumb layer: If you prefer your coffee cake with a layer of cinnamon crumble running through the middle, bake it in an 8x8-inch pan instead. Divide both the batter and the crumble in half and layer it into the pan. Place a baking sheet under the pan during baking just in case the cake rises too much and some of the batter spills over the side.

Storage: Leftovers can be kept in the pan, covered tightly with plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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