How To Make Coffee Cake
While there are many types of cakes we like to make a Relish, nothing beats a simple coffee cake. Coffee cake can be defined as a moist, tender butter cake that is topped with a crumb topping and its the topping that sets it apart from other types of cakes. A coffee cake might have coffee in it but the name comes from the simple fact that it is usually served with coffee.
The Cake: The base of a coffee cake is generally a riff on a basic butter cake, however the biggest difference is that most recipes use sour cream or Greek yogurt instead of milk. This gives the cake a tender crumb and a ever-so-light tanginess. Because it makes a thick batter, you might not think you have enough batter for the pan, but it rises significantly in the oven to reach the proper cake proportions. Serious Eats suggests using Greek yogurt instead of the traditional sour cream. Greek yogurt contains more protein overall which can help with the structure, but it’s casein, a protein the can improve moisture retention and volume. Also because its strained it has a higher concentration of lactose – the milk sugar that gives dairy such a delicious flavour as it browns. And its slightly tangy, so it rounds out the sweetness of the cake. Plus the yogurt will also help keep the cake moist for days.
The Crumble: The crumble is the most integral part of the entire cake, so it’s not something that can be missed. Otherwise known as a streusal, the term is Old German, meaning something “strewn” or easily thrown together and sprinkled on top giving the cake a lofty decadence. Ideally you want the crumble topping to be crunchy when it is baked, so be careful not to mix too thoroughly or you’ll lose those pebble-sized crumbles. While you can certainly make it by hand, the topping can come together very easily with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
Temperature of Ingredients: As with any cake, the temperature of your ingredients is important to keep in mind. Many recipes suggest “room temperature” but that can be fairly subjective. We like to aim for about 65F which means, set everything out well in advance of baking. A microwave can help soften the butter and a quick dunk of the eggs in warm water will quickly bring them up to just about the right temperature.
Serving The Cake: We like to use a good quality metal 9 x 13-inch baking pan from Chicago Metallic or Le Creuset or our favourite ceramic bakeware from Emile Henry. You want to look for a pan that conducts the heat to the batter steadily; one that’s large enough to let the batter grow and light enough to keep the batter delicate and delicate and thin.
Our Favourite One Bowl Coffee Cake
- 4 oz light brown sugar, about 1/2 cup
- 2 1/2 oz whole wheat flour, about 1/2 cup
- 1/2 oz ground cinnamon, about 1 tbsp
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt or 1/8 tsp table salt
- approximately 1/4 tsp ground cardamon
- 2 oz softened unsalted butter, about 4 tbsp/55 g
- 14 oz sugar
- 6 oz room temperature unsalted butter, about 65F
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt or 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/2 oz vanilla, about 1 tbsp
- 3 large eggs, brought to room temperature, about 65 F
- 12 oz all purpose flour, about 2 2/3 cups, spooned
- 15 oz plain Greek yogurt, 2 cups minus 2 tbsp, any percentage will do
- Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9 x 13 inch metal baking pan with parchment paper.
- Topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine brown sugar, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, cardamon and butter. Mix on low speed until sandy and well combined. Scrape onto a piece of parchment paper and set aside. Wipe out bowl and paddle attachment with paper towel – no need to wash.
- Cake: In the bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, butter, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Mix on low to moisten, then increase speed to medium and cream until soft and light, about 10 minutes. Pause to scrape bowl down with a spatula, then resume mixing on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate into batter before adding the next.
- Scrape bowl down with spatula, then resume mixing on low. Sprinkle in 1/3 of the flour, then add in 1/3 of the yogurt repeating twice more. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with prepared topping a handful at a time, squeezing each addition in your palm to help form streusel nuggets.
- Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes until cake is puffed and firm (testing with a toothpick – it should come out with a few moist crumbs.) Cool cake in pan for 30 minutes before serving as its crumb will be soft and gummy until it has had a chance to firm.
For Freshest Cake: Cover with plastic wrap, then overwrap with aluminum foil. Leftovers will keep for 3 days at room temperature.
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