Let’s talk about cake for a second. Okay, I lied. Let’s discuss cake for more than a second. If I had it my way, I’d only talk about cake. All the time. That’s the only thing thing on my mind. If someone asked me a specific question or was talking to me about a completely different topic, I’d respond simply with “CAKE!” I’d just shout it out to them. Scream it to their face. Part of me wants to do it just because I’d like to see what their reaction would be. The other part wants to do it because I love cake. I wouldn’t even care if it made sense or not. Cake makes perfect sense. ALL THE TIME. In reality, if I could, all I would talk about is butter and sugar and cinnamon. Talk about a love affair. Those three ingredients have my heart. Forever and always, I’ll never say no to them. Butter and sugar and cinnamon together is the stuff dreams are made of. Put those three together and I kid you not, you could solve all of the world’s problems in one easy swoop. Seriously though, it would make the world a better place. Just imagine if criminals had a piece of cake before they committed their crime, they’d change their mind and wouldn’t go through with it. That’s how good cake is. That’s the power of the cake. I’m probably exaggerating a tad. I mean not all criminals would change their mind after eating cake. But I’m sure a select few would. I say, give everyone cake. Cake for all.
I’ve been on a savory kick lately, as you can probably tell from the last couple of posts. I mean sure, potato tacos are freaking delicious. I ate about fifty of them, and I’m not even joking. Okay, I’m joking. It was more like forty-nine. Calzones? Why not? Give them to me. On cold rainy days, panini and roasted tomato soup is sort of my jam. But with all that being said, cake (cinnamon, sugar and butter) well that’s just hands-down-no-contest, a sure fire winner for me. All I want to do lately is stuff my face with cake. Cake of all kinds. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you’ll have noticed the chocolate bundt cake recipe I included in it. Ate all of that without even a second thought. If you read the newsletter—which you should have by now because I sent it out at midnight. What are you waiting for?!—you’ll also know that it was my sister’s birthday this week. Of course I made her a birthday cake. It was a chocolate hazelnut cake with a nutella filling. Ate it. Stuffed the whole thing in my mouth. So when I decided to swing things back to sweet on the blog, the only logical thing to make and shoot and share was a cake. Duh. Cake for life. I immediately thought to myself that all I needed in life at that very moment was sugar, butter and cinnamon. So guess what…I made a cinnamon sugar coffee cake. I wanted it to be simple and yet a classic recipe that you guys would want to make. I hope you want to make this cake because let me tell you, it’s a delicious breakfast cake. I should make an entire cookbook of breakfast cake. I’d call it “Yes I’m Eating Cake For Breakfast And No You Can’t Have Any.” Or something like that, it’s a work in progress. It would give me an excuse to recipe test and eat nothing but cake for breakfast without people judging me. (Like my mom and doctor). I’d say, “I’m just working on the book. I have to eat this cake because it’s research!” We’d all have an excuse to eat cake first thing in the morning once the book came out. I’d be the reason every kid (and a few adults here and there) would be demanding cake for breakfast. I’m okay with that. I could live with myself. Gimme that cake.
This is a super easy recipe that you can’t really mess up. I don’t want you to worry or over think this recipe. I want you to just get in the kitchen, forget about everything and just make this delicious cake. Let’s make this one fun and stress-free. Let’s make this one your new favorite coffee cake, not only because it’s mine, but because it’s actually really really good. I might be biased though because coffee cake (all coffee and crumb cakes really) happen to be my favorite type of cake. Enough yapping, let’s throw some cinnamon cake into our face.
We start with the cinnamon sugar topping for this cake.
We’re going to need a bowl full of all-purpose flour.
Toss in the granulated sugar, a dash of salt and lots of cinnamon. And I do mean, LOTS of cinnamon.
Give everything a whisk until completely combined and well incorporated.
Okay so those are the dry ingredients for the sugar topping of the cake. We need to add some butter to this because it’s a coffee cake, and what kind of coffee cake would this be without any butter? A sad one, folks. One sad cake. A cake that I wouldn’t even eat, and that’s saying something because I will eat practically anything. But we’re not making a sad cake are we? We’re making a delicious buttery cake, so add the butter.
Most crumb/coffee/streusel cakes have you add cold or softened butter to this and you crumb it. This cake is slightly different. I don’t want it too be too crumby, so I’m having you melt the butter first. Then stir in the melted butter and it’ll be more like the consistency of moistened graham crackers for a pie crust.
This is not only melted butter, it’s actually browned butter. Browned butter is just butter (better butter) that has been melted over low heat until it browns and gets really aromatic. It’s a whole other butter experience. Another level of butter awesomeness. If you haven’t tried brown butter yet, you’re missing out. I feel sorry for you. BUT have no fear because now you can finally try it, in this cake. And if you’ve already tried brown butter and eat it everyday, well then you’re doing it right.
Use a fork or a whisk or your hands to really get up in there and stir the brown butter into the dry topping ingredients. Stir until everything is evenly moistened. It should be slightly dry but not too dry.
**Tip: If the topping appears to be too dry, just add a bit more brown butter (never hurts) and stir until desired consistency is reached.**
Once you’ve thoroughly combined all the ingredients, the topping is ready to be eaten with a giant spoon. Not really. It’s for the cake so put it off to the side and forget about it.
Let’s now work on the streusel swirl that we’re going to fill this cake with. It’s a simple three ingredient mixture, but it makes all the difference in the world. Most coffee cakes just have the cake part on the bottom and the crumb topping on the top. Sometimes, just like this time, you’ll come across a cake with a cinnamon-y sugar swirl in the middle. Those are the best cakes because you get that added flavor surprise in the middle.
Anyhow, so let’s mix together brown sugar (light or dark), cinnamon (a heaping amount), and cocoa powder (this is really just for color, not for flavor, so you don’t have to add it if you don’t want to or if you don’t have it on hand).
Whisk it all together and that’s it. You’re done. Super simple right? I told you, it’s a simple classic cake that you’ll quickly become obsessed with. No stress or fancy baking methods today. So you can set this bowl off to the side as well, along with our brown butter cinnamon sugar topping. Forget about both those bowls, even though I know how hard it is to completely forget about such goodness. I mean butter and sugar and cinnamon! CAKE! That’s what I’m talking about.
**Note: It’s okay if there are slight lumps in your streusel filling. You don’t have to worry too much about making it completely lumpless. I actually like the little lumps in it because it creates great texture in the middle of the cake.**
Let’s now turn our attention to the actual cake batter. We need to sift or whisk together the dry ingredients. You know me well enough by now to know that I don’t like to sift. It’s so time consuming. But don’t do like I do and not sift, that’s bad. I should be setting a better example, but alas I didn’t sift. I just whisked. I whisked like no tomorrow. I’m a whisker from way back.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Set the dry ingredients off to the side, sorry I seem to be saying that a lot but that’s how baking goes. Most of the time you have to get things ready for later on. But really, if you think about it, it’s helpful because then all your components are ready and waiting for you to just go ahead and put the dessert together.
Add the softened butter into a large mixing bowl. We’re about to cream it.
Okay, it’s time for a story. I’m going to tell you a story, incase you didn’t get that from the first sentence. The story is about a guy, just some random guy (it may or may not be me. I’m not saying it is but I’m not saying it isnt’). Said random guy was making a dough one cold gloomy day and he decided to use his fancy schmancy stand mixer to make it. It’s a yellow mixer, really nice. He got it for Christmas not too long ago. Everything was going according to plan. The dough was so soft and nice. He even said to himself, “Wow! This dough is so soft and nice.” Well guy turns the mixer speed on to medium-high and allows the dough to knead for about 10 minutes. So the dough is kneading away and then all of a sudden on minute 9, the mixer gives out. It stops working completely. There’s a clunking noise. Guy’s world came crashing down. Now the mixer is at the mixer doctor’s and guy is waiting for it to recover. Isn’t that the saddest story ever?
SO I’m going to go back in time and cream this butter with an old fashioned (not really that old) handheld mixer.
Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to the creamed butter.
Beat on high until the sugars and butter are light and fluffy. It should take about 4 to 5 minutes to completely get to that stage.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the vanilla extract and mix once more. It’s a good idea to stop mixing every once in a while and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. This will ensure a smooth and well incorporated batter.
Once you’ve mixed in the vanilla extract and have scraped the sides and bottom of the bowl, give it another mix just to smooth everything out and make sure it’s all combined.
We need to turn our attention to the wet ingredients. This cake requires milk and sour cream. The sour cream makes sure the cake will be moist and tender. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re looking for in a cake. Moist and tender. For the milk, I decided to use buttermilk. I always swap out the milk in cake recipes for buttermilk because that too ensures a moist and tender cake. Believe me, it works.
In a large measuring cup or a bowl, combine the buttermilk and sour cream. Then we’re going to add it to the batter along with the dry ingredients.
**Tip: It’s important to alternately add them. Start and end with the flour. I’m not sure what that does. I’m sure there’s a whole baking science behind it but I don’t really know or have the head for it. That’s how I learned so that’s what I continue to do on this day. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?**
So again, add a bit of the dry ingredients and then mix until just combined. You don’t want to overmix the batter at this point.
Then add a bit of the wet ingredients (sour cream and milk) and stir until combined. Repeat in that manner (dry, wet, dry , wet, dry) until all the ingredients are used up.
When the last bit of the dry ingredients have been added, I like to give the batter one final stir. I just grab a rubber spatula and do it with that because I like to make sure everything is mixed well from the sides and bottom and also because it prevents me from overmixing the cake batter. I don’t want dry cake so I’m conscious about such things when it comes to baking.
Let’s talk about baking pans shall we? This makes a lot of cinnamon sugar coffee cake. You can make it in a 9x13in baking dish. You can throw it into a bundt or tube pan and wow a crowd. You can also split this into two cakes and share one with people. Use two 9in cake circle pans or two 8in square pans.
I opted for the two 8in square pans. I just think a coffee cake is classically square so that’s what I used.
Whatever you decide you have to split the batter and topping and filling in half. (or quarters if you opt out for the two pans instead of one).
So for instance, I used two square pans. I sprayed them with cooking spray to prevent the cake from sticking. You can also just grease it with butter.
Then I poured a quarter of the batter into one pan and then another quarter of the batter into the other pan.
**Note: If you were using a 9x13in dish or a bundt pan, you’d pour half of the batter.**
Then you’re going to sprinkle half of the streusel filling into one pan and the other half into the second pan.
**Note: If you’re using a 9x13in baking dish, you’re going to just evenly sprinkle all of the streusel filling onto the batter.**
Then we’re going to pour another quarter of the batter into one pan on top of the streusel filling and then the rest of the batter into the other pan.
**Note: If you were using a 9x13in dish or a bundt pan, you’d just pour the remaining bater over the top of the streusel filling.**
Lastly, you’re going to divide the cinnamon sugar topping in half and sprinkle each half over each baking cake.
**Note: If you’re using one 9x13in pan or a bundt pan, then you’d just sprinkle all the cinnamon sugar topping over the cake.**
**Note: I still have all that batter and filling and topping left because I hadn’t assembled my second pan yet. Don’t think you’re going to end up with all that leftover!**
That’s it, we’re done! The cake is ready to hit the oven. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes or until it is golden brown and a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and place over a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool for about 25 minutes before cutting and serving.
You can tightly wrap the leftovers in plastic or store in an airtight container and store at room temperature for about 4 days.
This cake is the perfect breakfast. Shall we go over the reasons why? Well the number one reason (for me anyway) is the cinnamon. I love cinnamon with a passion greater than life itself. Throw cake and cinnamon together and stand back because Jonathan will go crazy. And yes I just referred to myself in third person, that’s how serious my love of cinnamon is. This is also the perfect excuse to eat cake for breakfast. This IS a breakfast food so no one can stop you from devouring a giant piece or two first thing in the morning. And if someone were to complain, you can send them over to me and I’ll have a few words with them. This isn’t dessert it’s a hearty and healthy breakfast. Sugar and butter is healthy right?
This cake always reminds me of elementary school. I’d always look forward to the days when they’d serve this for recess. I’d get a piece bigger than my head and believe you me, I would eat it all. No shame in my game. I was this scrawny tall kid eating giant pieces of cinnamon coffee cake. Life was good. The cake I had at school was much like this, minus the swirl in the middle. But it had this same cinnamon sugar on top. Not a crumb topping but this powder like topping and it was unbelievable. I’m sure if I had a piece now I’d think this cake would be better but I love the idea of the cake from elementary school.
Sometimes we all just need something simple to make. Not because we’re feeling lazy or just don’t feel like making something fancy but for the mere fact that simple treats are actually the most delicious. You don’t need fancy or complicated ingredients, all the time. It’s perfectly acceptable to get in the kitchen and not think about anything. To just make a classic cake with staple ingredients you have in your fridge and pantry. This cake is nothing more than butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, sour cream and cinnamon. I mean, it doesn’t get any easier than that. The last couple of recipes have been fun to make and eat of course, but it’s nice to step away from the delicious savories and go back to the baking with a simple recipe. No fuss no muss. I think that sometimes we forget to savor the little things in life. This cake is a little thing in life and I think you should make it this weekend. Invite me over. We’ll share a piece. The weather is finally cooling down, it’s the perfect time for a cinnamon sugar coffee cake. But in all reality, when isn’t it a good time for a cinnamon sugar coffee cake?
Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake
You can turn this simple coffee cake into anything you want! Let your imagination go crazy. Mix in all sorts of nuts, like walnuts, pecans or pistachios into the sugar topping. Or you can add some awesome treats to the filling, like raisins, cranberries or chocolate chips. You can even flavor the batter with some sinful choices like rum, coffee liqueur or bourbon. The possibilities are endless. But if you like the classics, like me, then you can leave the cake as is and enjoy the a moist and tender cake that will bring you back to your childhood (if you had this as a child that is). It’s a simple cake you can whip up in a jiffy and have on a cold weekend morning.
yield: One 9x13in cake, one 10in bundt cake, two 9in circle cakes or two 8in square cakes
Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (tablespoon, you read that right)
- 1 stick butter, melted and browned
Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
- 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (I love cinnamon what can I say?)
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional, just for color really)
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 3 egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease and flour a 9×13-in baking pan, 10-in bundt pan, two 9-in circle cake pans or two 8-in square pans. Set aside.
2. Make the cinnamon sugar topping: In a medium bowl, combine the granulated sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the melted brown butter until the crumbs appear to be moist and well incorporated with the butter. It shouldn’t be lumpy and should have the same consistency of a graham cracker pie crust mixture. Set aside.
3. Make the cinnamon sugar filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder (if using). It’s okay if this mixture is slightly lumpy. Set aside.
4. Make the cake: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the sour cream and buttermilk, set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to evenly combine everything. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the dry (sifted flour, baking powder) alternately with the wet ingredients (sour cream and buttermilk) to the cake. Start and end with the dry ingredients. So add a bit of dry ingredients, mix until just incorporated and then add a bit of the wet ingredients, mix until just incorporated. Repeat in that manner until all the dry and wet ingredients are used.
4. To assemble the cakes: If you’re using a 9×13 or bundt pan spread about half of the batter onto the bottom of the pan. If you’re using two 9-inch circle pans or two 8-inch square pans, spread about a quarter of the batter onto the bottom of each. Top with the cinnamon sugar filling. If you’re using a 9×13 or bundt pan, pour all of the filling over the batter. If you’re using two 9-inch circle pans or two 8-inch square pans, divide the filling between both pans. Then top the cakes with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping. If you’re using a 9×13 or bundt pan, pour all of the topping over the batter. If you’re using two 9-inch circle pans or two 8-inch square pans, divide the topping between both pans. Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown. A toothpick, inserted in the middle, should come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack for about 25 minutes before cutting and serving. Wrap any leftovers tightly with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Enjoy!