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Behind the Cup |November 1, 2021

The Last Coffee Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

A close German friend of mine, many years ago, always made sure that no matter how busy things got we always had 20 minutes in the late afternoon for coffee and cake. She explained it was a cultural tradition and was centered around the idea of making sure the people that you cared about were the priority in your life.

When I lived in Japan, the afternoon coffee and sweets service gave everyone a chance to energize and socialize in a way that allowed us to keep going with a smile.

So, I have a soft spot in my heart for coffee and cake, and while I get the human aspect and agree it is important, I will admit that I have put a great deal of effort into making the coffee as good as it can be and the cake a show stopper. (Mixed up priorities?)

A Brief History of Coffee Cake

We know that the eating of pasty or sweet bread with coffee became a thing in the 1700s, in Denmark (Danish), Germany, and Scandinavia. We also know that when immigration to America was in its heyday in the late 1800s (1870-1920) that many cultures brought their recipes from their regional provinces for cakes and sweets and would often substitute new ingredients as traditional ingredients may have been hard to get.

It is documented that in New York in the 1870s the term “Coffee Cake” seems to have made its first appearance and became quite popular.

The term “Tea Cake” or “Coffee Cake” referred to any cake that could accompany those beverages and does not contain any actual coffee or tea. However, dried fruit, sugar, spice and a lot of butter/cream are all essential for giving you that incredible paring between the coffee and the cake.

As we moved into the 1950s and baking trends changed, including the introduction of the Bundt Pan, easy-to-buy sour cream, and the rise of chemical leavening ingredients like baking soda and baking powder, coffee cakes again evolved.

Now, a quick Google search will give you thousands of recipes for what everyone claims are the “best” coffee cake recipes of all time.

Top That

A very important aspect of the Coffee Cake is how to add sweetness to the top. It is traditionally done with one of two methods, either a powdered sugar glaze (soft white frosting) or a crumbly (butter-based) streusel style topping. Some people do both.

I’m just going to come out and say it, but a perfect crumble topping wins every time in my book.

So, what I want is for the cake to enhance all of the notes in my coffee. The cake should be moist,  it should have mild sweetness in the cake, and higher sweetness in the topping. I need butter, fat, and spice as well as a perfect crumble topping.

This brings us to the last coffee cake recipe you will ever need.

The reason I like this recipe is that you can think of it as a basic recipe and then modify it as you like.  Where I use apples feel free to substitute raisins, peaches, apricots, pears, or any other fruit you may have. You can also add finely crushed pecans or almonds to the topping if you so desire.

I have even seen people drizzle a maple glaze over the cake.

This will give you a dense, moist cake, not overly sweet with a crunchy spiced topping and a thin spice layer in the middle accented by the elegance of the apples.

The Last Coffee Cake Recipe You Will Ever Need

Now certainly I want you to feel free to experiment, try new recipes and develop your own, but when you need a foolproof, always perfect, accompaniment to your 100% Kona Coffee, this is the recipe you will come back to again and again. It is dense, moist, crunchy on top, and the hint of fruit and spice plays well with coffee.

Perfect Every Time Spiced Coffee Cake

1. Pre-Heat Oven to 350

2. Make the Crumble:

  • 1.5 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of white sugar
  • ¼ Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1.5 Sticks of Chilled unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon of powdered ginger
  • ¼ Teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of clove
  • A dash of very finely ground black pepper

Mix all dry (crumble) ingredients in a large bowl and then slowly work the butter into the mix with your (clean) hands. Squeeze, roll, press, make clumps (maybe 6 minutes) until you have a bowl of pea-sized crumbles.

Let chill in the refrigerator while doing the next steps.

3. Combine:

  • ¼ Cup of Canola Oil
  • ½ Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 large Room Temp Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk

Whisk well and set aside

4. Sift through a Strainer into a large Bowl:

  • 1.5 Cups of Unbleached flour (can also use cake flour)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon of Salt

This is your dry flour mix. 

5. Prepare 2 apples, diced and peeled.

6. Slowly add your dry flour mix to your oil, sugar, and egg mix and stir thoroughly but gently making sure all of your dry ingredients are dissolved. This is your batter.

7. In an 8-inch, greased cake pan, pour in half of the batter.

8. Using just under half of the crumble mix, sprinkle evenly across the first layer of batter.

9. Add the rest of the batter on top.

10. Top the batter with the apples and then add the rest of the crumble so that it covers the entire top of the cake.

11. Bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees. You want the crumble to have a lightly toasted look. (Note: I live at 3000 feet and require longer cooking times.  I suggest that after 40 minutes you poke the center of the cake with a toothpick and when it pokes “clean” your cake is ready.

12. After a short cooling period, use a butter knife to release the edges of the cake. Hold a plate over the pan and turn it upside down. (You are now seeing the bottom of the cake) With another plate put on the bottom flip it again. (Now the cake is right side up)

13. Cut in triangular slices.

14. Enjoy warm with your favorite 100% Kona Coffee. (On the second or third day, place a slice in the microwave for 35 seconds to rewarm.)

Let me know how you like it and make sure to share some cake and coffee with someone you love.  : )

About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.

4 thoughts on “The Last Coffee Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

  1. Mary Davenport says:

    Wow , Sounds AWESOME !!!! Can’t wait to try :} Thank You for sharing.

  2. Looks good but haven’t made.

  3. James Hospital says:

    Looks good – plz email me recede thanks

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