Recipe Review

I Tried King Arthur’s 2023 Recipe of the Year and It’s Perfection

published Jan 13, 2023
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Credit: Patty Catalano

January is the best month for baking. It’s during this post-holiday lull that I spend time baking breads and breakfast sweets rather than opting for store-bought (as I do the rest of the year).

At the end of every year, King Arthur Baking Company — the source of my favorite flour, high-quality baking supplies, and foolproof recipes — announces their Recipe of the Year. This year it’s a new crumble-topped coffee cake, along with 10 variations to celebrate the 10-year anniversary. Not one to pass up the chance to serve cake for breakfast, I headed into the kitchen to try it as soon as I could.

How to Make King Arthur’s Recipe of the Year: Cinnamon-Crisp Coffee Cake

There are four parts to this coffee cake: the filling, the crumbs, the cake, and the glaze. You will assemble each component separately, so be prepared to dirty a number of mixing bowls in the process.

Make the filling by combining granulated sugar, cinnamon, and unsweetened cocoa powder in a small bowl. Next prepare the crumbs. Combine all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and table salt in a separate bowl. Work cubes of room temperature unsalted butter and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients until the mixture is very moist with no dry spots. The mixture should hold together in irregularly-sized crumbles.

The cake is mixed using the reverse creaming or paste method. To do this simply combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, table salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer, then mix in cubes of room temperature, unsalted butter. Beat until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture has a sandy appearance. Add two eggs and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Finish the batter with buttermilk or Greek yogurt (I used buttermilk), mixing until smooth.

Spread half of the cake batter into an 8-inch square baking pan, lined with a parchment paper sling. Sprinkle the cinnamon-cocoa powder filling over the batter, then top with the remaining cake batter, spreading into an even layer. Scatter the crumbs over the top of the cake. Bake at 350°F until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the coffee cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then use the parchment sling to remove it to a wire rack. Drizzle the cooled cake with a glaze made of powdered sugar, water, and a pinch of cinnamon.

Credit: Patty Catalano

My Honest Review of King Arthur’s Coffee Cake

As the primary cook in my house, a lazy weekend breakfast for my family can mean a lot of work for me. So I started adding coffee cake to the rotation to give myself a restful start. While I thought I had found my one and only, this breakfast bake changed it all. The King Arthur Baking Company’s coffee cake is tender, moist, and not too sweet divided by a ripple of fudgy cinnamon filling. Boulders of sweet cinnamon crumbles and a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze are the crown jewels on top.

Baking this cake is not difficult, especially with the guidance of a specific and well-written recipe, but it does require the use of a pile of mixing bowls and a stand mixer too. The batter is prepared using the reverse creaming method, where the dry ingredients and butter are combined before adding the wet ingredients. By coating the flour in fat, gluten development is limited, so the cake bakes up tender and fluffy, greatly reducing the chance of a tough texture from over-mixing.

Sandwiched between layers of cake is the cocoa and cinnamon filling. I used a very rich Dutch-process cocoa powder which gave the ripple a more prominent chocolate flavor that overpowered the cinnamon. Next, time I’ll use a more mild, unsweetened natural cocoa.

The third element of the cake is my favorite — the crumbles. This recipe calls for a combination of granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar in the crumble, a combination I haven’t seen before in other recipes. The reasoning is that confectioner’s sugar contains a bit of cornstarch. The cornstarch absorbs some of the moisture during baking, resulting in perfectly crunchy crumbles. The finishing touch? An optional powdered sugar glaze, but if you’ve made it this far I can’t imagine why you would skip it.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You’re Going to Bake this Coffee Cake, a Few Tips

  • Use natural cocoa powder. Including cocoa powder in the filling adds a slightly fudgy texture. Use Dutch process cocoa for a more prominent chocolate flavor or natural cocoa for a subtle chocolate flavor that allows warm cinnamon to shine.
  • Form large crumbles for topping. Generously-sized cinnamon sugar crumbles are the crown jewel of this coffee cake. Make sure to keep working the butter into the dry ingredients until it is very moist with clumps ranging in size from large, walnut-sized pieces, to smaller pea-sized pieces.
  • Wait before icing. It is tempting to drizzle the icing over a just-baked coffee cake in order to serve it right away, but wait until at least 20 minutes of in-pan cooling. This is when you remove the cake to a wire rack and it’s cool enough to ice. The glaze will sit atop the cinnamon crumbles without melting into the cake and any excess will drips off the edges through the rack instead of puddling around the cake.

Have you tried King Arthur Baking Company’s Recipe of the Year? Share your thoughts in the comments below? Look back to see our thoughts on their picks for 2022 and 2021.