Although the name implies a coffee flavor to coffee cake, traditional coffee cake is usually a simple cake without a hint of coffee. It's just a great accompaniment for that beloved beverage.
I usually make my coffee cake with some sort of streusel on top. Sometimes it's a nutty streusel, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or hazelnuts mixed with butter and just enough dark brown sugar to caramelize when the cake bakes. Somehow toasted nuts take a coffee cake from simple to sublime. Other times I make a streusel with oats, brown sugar, and melted butter, or simply flour, brown sugar, and melted butter.
But this week I branched out into a crunchy crumble topping made from crumbled snickerdoodle cookies. It is a carbolicious coffee cake, layer upon layer of sweetly spiced goodness. Because the snickerdoodles are essentially sugar cookies rolled in (more!) sugar and cinnamon, I cut the sugar in the cake by half. With only a hint of sweetness and a shimmer of vanilla extract, it's a much better accompaniment to the snickerdoodle crumble and meltingly good middle layer of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon streusel. By using already baked snickerdoodles, the crumble topping becomes even more crispy, providing an excellent contrast to the tender, moist cake.
If snickerdoodles aren't your thing, experiment with other cookies, especially leftover homemade ones that are a bit past their prime. Using them as a topping for the coffee cake perks them right up again. Try crispy ginger cookies or simple butter cookies. If you fancy chocolate, crumble dark chocolate crackle cookies over the top of the coffee cake batter.
After making coffee cake with buttermilk, I won't ever go back to plain cake batter. Buttermilk, or plain yogurt, provides a lovely tang and incredible moisture that keeps the cake fresh longer.
For my coffee cake, I prefer a bit of spice. I like adding a teaspoon of allspice or cardamom to the batter and flavoring it with rich maple extract instead of vanilla. You can give it a citrus twist by stirring in orange, clementine, or mandarin zest and orange extract. The citrus is marvelous with cinnamon, and also pairs well with allspice, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom.
Also consider a fruity coffee cake such as blueberry, peach, or apple. Simply mix the batter, then chop the fruit into bite size pieces and fold gently into the batter.
While coffee cake is divine still warm from the oven, it's just as lovely served cold and slathered with salted butter. Or be truly decadent and add a spoonful of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Nutty ice cream, such as Maple Nut or Pecan, goes especially well with coffee cake.
Coffee Cake with Snickerdoodle Crumble
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon maple or vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole grain flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 6 snickerdoodle cookies, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 9 x 13-inch baking pan with baking paper and set aside.
Place sugar and butter in medium bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
In a second bowl, whisk together first measure of flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. Alternating with dry ingredients and buttermilk, add 1/3 at a time, mixing until just mixed after each addition. Spread half the batter into the paper-lined baking pan.
In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter. Sprinkle over batter.
Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle crumbled snickerdoodles over batter, pressing gently into batter so it sticks after baking.
Place coffee cake in oven and bake 25-30 minutes until center of cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for 15 minutes or until ready to serve.