Coffee cake is just about the most perfect cake there is, if you ask me. I mean, of course: yes, I adore a generously frosted birthday cake, and I am nothing if not a huge fan of snacking cakes (small, single layer cakes often baked in an 8x8x2-inch square pan). But coffee cake is special because it is breakfast cake, cake to be enjoyed with your first cup of coffee of the day (or on its own, if coffee is not your thing). In other words, coffee cake is cake that you are permitted to eat as soon as you wake up, for no reason at all except that YOU LOVE CAKE. You need not wait to make a coffee cake until there is an event that needs celebrating, and you certainly need not wait any longer than it takes you to roll out of bed and mosey into the kitchen to enjoy a slice.
This particular coffee cake is an oil-based cake (my favorite kind) which means it is an extremely moist cake – and stays that way for days – and also a relatively easy cake to assemble, as you do not have to remember to soften your butter, nor do you have to cream it until fluffy (you’re welcome). Instead you combine a mild olive oil (my favorite choice) or vegetable oil with granulated sugar and a nice glug of vanilla in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until well combined. There are a couple of yolks added to the mix, for extra richness along with two eggs. And rather than call for sour cream, as so many coffee cakes do, I like to use Greek yogurt, for the tang and moisture it imparts.
The crumb for the swirl in the cake’s center, as well as for its topping, is all about brown sugar and butter and cinnamon, as all the best crumbs are; and the fact that it does double duty as both swirl and topping means just the tiniest bit less work for you.
The cake is assembled in a tube-pan making for an extremely impressive presentation, but it can also be whipped up in a 13x9x2-inch pan which I like for its simplicity and ease of serving.
I originally developed the cake when writing my second cookbook, The Vintage Baker, as the book is full of recipes for old-fashioned desserts and coffee cakes easily fall into the “vintage” cake category, as there is something wonderfully homey and nostalgic about them. And homey and nostalgic treats are exactly the kind I’m craving as the weather cools and the holidays creep up on us. And although you might not serve this coffee cake as part of the Thanksgiving dessert spread, it would be lovely on the morning-of, as a pre-game treat, and then could be nibbled at all weekend long, or, at the very least, once the last slice of pie has disappeared.
Crumb topping and swirl
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup mild olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups plain whole Greek yogurt
Confectioners sugar for dusting
What you’ll do is…
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10- to 12-cup tube pan with non-stick cooking spray or softened butter and dust with flour, knocking out any excess.
For the topping and swirl: Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl with a fork until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate covered in plastic wrap, until ready to use, up to one day in advance.
For the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla on medium-low speed until well combined, stopping and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, as needed, for 2 to 3 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, stopping and scraping the bowl after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients on low speed in three additions with two additions of the yogurt, scraping the bowl, as needed with a rubber spatula. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl when there are still streaks of flour in the batter. Finish mixing by hand.
Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula or butter knife. Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture evenly over the batter. Add the remaining batter and smooth the top again. Using your fingers, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top of the cake, pressing down lightly.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point. The cake is ready when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a moist crumb or two. Let cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. The cake will keep, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to three days on the counter.
The photo depicted above is from “The Vintage Baker” and was taken by Alice Gao, provided to us by Jessie Sheehan.
Jessie is a baker and cookbook author; you can learn more about her through her website jessiesheehanbakes.com.