Coffee Coffee Cake

This coffee coffee cake gets a caffeine boost from the ribbon of espresso swirl running through it and is lavished with a sweet streusel.

Several pieces of coffee coffee cake stacked on a wire rack, with a cup of coffee next to them.

Although a coffee cake is one that is served with coffee rather than one actually made with it, I still feel a little short-changed when coffee cake is missing its main identifying ingredient. So to correct decades of baking injustice, I’ve snuck espresso powder into this otherwise classic coffee cake. The sour cream gives the cake a little tang and results in a wonderfully textured coffee coffee cake that stays moist for days.–Edd Kimber

Coffee Coffee Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 2 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12
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Ingredients

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  • For the brown butter streusel
  • For the espresso swirl
  • For the sour cream coffee cake

Directions

Make the streusel

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, light brown or superfine sugar, and salt.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, stirring frequently. The butter will melt, sizzle, splatter, and then start to foam. As it foams, little golden brown flecks will start to appear. Before these flecks burn, remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately pour the butter over the dry ingredients, using a fork to stir until it all clumps together. You’re looking for a mix of fine crumbs and big chunks. Stash the bowl in the freezer while you prepare the swirl and cake.

Make the espresso swirl

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, espresso powder, and cinnamon.

Make the sour cream coffee cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking pan and line it with parchment paper long enough to overhang the 2 long sides of the pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the vanilla to the butter mixture and mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until fully combined before adding another. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream, starting and finishing with the flour.

Spoon 1/2 of the cake batter in the prepared pan, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle it with the espresso swirl. Dollop small spoonfuls of the remaining batter on the swirl, covering as much of it as possible before gently spreading it with a spatula so that all of the swirl mixture is covered.

Sprinkle the streusel on the batter in an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned at the edges, wonderfully aromatic, and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Let the coffee cake cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes.

Use the parchment paper handles to gently lift the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cut into squares and serve. (You can keep the coffee cake, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

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    Recipe Testers Reviews

    Crumb cake is one of my favorite types of coffee cake.

    This is a good solid coffee cake. My husband loved the coffee cake. Anyone who makes this will not be disappointed. It would be lovely for an office gathering or Sunday brunch.

    Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to crumb cake. There are many things to recommend this coffee cake, but it has, I fear, one fatal flaw if you make it with superfine sugar. There’s no brown sugar in the streusel topping. The cake is light and very pleasant tasting, but it lacks those large chunky bits of brown sugar that make the streusel on a crumb cake so plate lickingly delicious. The espresso swirl neither added to or detracted from the overall flavor of the cake. I was expecting a more pronounced coffee flavor.

    I would suggest that streusel topping could be made with light brown sugar instead of the superfine sugar. This would give it a more traditional crumb cake feel. As it produced a large pan, my husband and I did our duty by consuming it for breakfast until it was all gone.

    My only reservation is one of personal taste, brown sugar versus superfine in the streusel. My other observation is that it could be made with yogurt rather than sour cream. I usually use yogurt in my crumb cake because I get more of that tangy taste to balance the sweetness.

    UPDATE: Under the pretense of satisfying my curiosity, I made the coffee cake a second time.  As I stated above, I'm pretty persnickety about crumb cake and was concerned by the omission of brown sugar from the crumb.  To that end, I replaced the superfine sugar in the topping with light brown sugar. I also substituted 180 ml of Trader Joe’s European-Style Yogurt for the sour cream in the cake recipe. My go-to crumb cake recipe uses both. The end result was an equally satisfying coffee cake.

    I had an epiphany, this recipe is a lighter, more delicate version of the standard crumb cake. The cake is less dense and more spongy. The topping is equally yummy with the superfine sugar or the brown sugar.  The yogurt provides a tad more tang than the sour cream.  The recipe can be made either way and the results will not disappoint. We ate the whole pan the first time and we are working our way through this pan. 

    I’ve been on the search for a great "coffee" cake for a while now and am happy to report that this one has made the cut! Many other recipes I’ve tried have either been too overwhelming with the coffee flavor, too "cake-like," too dense, or just not what I consider a coffee cake to be. This one, however, meets all my criteria and will definitely be returning to our house. It was loved by both my coffee-loving husband and my sweets-loving kids.

    The texture is perfect—light in crumb and with the perfect crumbly topping loved by those who love streusel coffee cakes. The espresso powder gives just enough of a hint of coffee so as not to overwhelm the other flavors in the cake itself but to still give that taste I was looking for.

    We ate half of it on the first morning it was baked (still warm—just couldn't wait for it to fully cool!) and the rest we had the following morning for breakfast before church. The second morning I warmed my piece and topped it with a little butter for extra indulgence.

    This recipe does take a little bit to prepare but no more than most coffee cakes. I was unable to find superfine sugar in my supermarkets but did pulse my granulated sugar in my food processor for 30 seconds to grind it finer. I sifted my flour mixture together onto a sheet of waxed paper for ease of adding to the bowl when incorporating it with the sour cream. Full fat sour cream is definitely the thing to use here as it has great mouth feel. I will consider using Greek yogurt to test with in the future, but for this time I went with the real thing.

    My only thought for next time is that I may add a little extra milk to the 1/3 of the batter that’s reserved for adding to the top of the swirl mixture when layering the cake ingredients. Because this is a thick cake batter, spreading the batter "blobs" over the crumbly swirl mixture was difficult and I believe that thinning that last 1/3 would help it spread easier. I’ll also try patting the swirl mixture down into the batter underneath a bit to make it less crumbly on top. As it was the top layer, the batter tried to pick up the swirl when I attempted to gently spread it. I didn’t achieve full coverage of the swirl mixture with the batter but in the end I think it didn't matter as much because the crumb topping covered what the batter didn’t.

    As I mentioned, we didn’t wait for it to cool completely before eating the first few pieces and had a sliver more later in the day with tea. The next morning I warmed mine for 15 seconds in the microwave and put a dollop of butter on top but the texture was still just as perfect as day 1. This cake serves 12 (maybe 16 with smaller appetites!) and is wonderful at all times of day. I will definitely be making this one again!"

    If there were crowds gathering anywhere these days, this coffee coffee cake would be dubbed a crowd pleaser. As it is, three people managed to polish it off in five days, and on day five it was just as scrumptious, if a tad drier, than it was on day one. The pieces around the edge were particularly delicious, with their caramelization and little crunch.

    I tend to like a coffee cake that's not too sweet but this one is very sweet. So be prepared. But it's not cloyingly sweet—it gets cut by the espresso and the brown butter (mm-mm-good) streusel. That said, I would add another tablespoon of espresso powder and maybe 1 less teaspoon of cinnamon to the swirl. Cinnamon can be overpowering and I did find myself wanting more, more, more of the coffee.

    As far as making it, it’s a very straightforward cake recipe, with no tricks or traps. The biggest challenge I had was swirling the top layer of batter to cover the whole cake. It seemed the espresso swirl layer acted like teflon, so when I tried to swirl the batter, it just lifted off the espresso layer. But if you are persistent, you will get it. And it will be worth it. I wouldn't change anything, although I might consider cutting the sugar down. What's the deal with superfine sugar? I buzzed regular granulated sugar in my food processor, which was fine (see what I did there?), although it's hard to know when to stop before it turns to powder. I've made plenty of cakes with regular granulated sugar and they turned out fine. It's not clear to me what the purpose of that was in this recipe. Anyway, I will make this one again. I actually thought next time I would consider making it in the pan I use for individual brownies.

    I noticed in days two, three and four that the cake did lose a little moisture but not enough to make anyone stop eating it!

    This coffee cake is absolutely wonderful. While I did mess up virtually every bowl in my kitchen, I'd happily do it again. The cake is light in texture and the sour cream counteracts the sweetness just enough. I thought the coffee flavor came through in the espresso swirl, but the cinnamon is definitely more in the forefront.

    My house smelled heavenly while it was baking. I did not use parchment paper as I was out, I just buttered and floured the pan and had no problems with sticking. I also had no superfine sugar and the food processor trick worked fine to break down the granulated sugar just enough.

    Perfect to have with a good cup of coffee. The cake is dense but moist and has a crunch from the streusel and a light cinnamon and coffee flavor from the expresso swirl in the middle. It’s made with ingredients that we usually have at home, so we can prepare it at any time. It has a few steps but it’s so easy to prepare!

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