Coffee cake can get a bad rap. The stuff you get at coffee shops is fine, but certainly nothing you tend to remember past lunch. It’s just a quick sugar fix in the morning, or something pretty safe to grab off a continental breakfast buffet. But man, when it’s good, it is a totally different food! Crumbly, dense, tender, and moist all at once. The first time I made this I was completely floored by how good it was. And I’m always down for cake for breakfast – especially when it’s judgement free. Like muffins, where everyone just pretends you aren’t eating a cupcake, this coffee cake is deliciously decadent and no one will bat an eye as you casually serve cake for breakfast.
I will note that this cake requires some planning. It bakes for about an hour, then takes about two and a half hours to cool. So, once you add in the time it takes to make the batter and streusel, you’re looking at over 4 hours. It tastes even better the next day, so it’s perfect to make the day before you want to serve it, just don’t think you can make it on a whim one morning (unless your mornings start much earlier than mine).
That being said, it is definitely worth it. The cake itself is super dense and rich, but just melts in your mouth – thanks butter and sour cream! The pecans add a great nuttiness and a little crunch, but they’re chopped fine enough that you’re not left chewing on a mouthful of pecans after the cake has dissolved. There is also a pretty hefty serving of cinnamon, which not only pairs perfectly with an equally hefty serving of brown sugar, but also makes this coffee cake wonderfully fragrant. Your kitchen will smell absolutely amazing (although that can make it hard to wait for the cake to cool!). And while all of this would be enough on it’s own, I threw in some chocolate chips for good measure. They can be easily omitted if you don’t want chocolate in your coffee cake… but c’mon.
Just as a warning, the batter goes through some pretty weird stages if you’re used to baking classic cakes. You cut the butter into the dry ingredients, and then pour in the liquid, so it starts sandy and gets sort of gloopy and unappealing in the middle (see above) of the mixing. The first time I made it, I was certain I had done something horribly wrong. But just keep going and eventually it all comes together into a reassuringly smooth batter.
The only downside of this cake is it’s a little difficult to gage how long it takes to bake. Because it’s so dense, and filled with melted chocolate and buttery brown sugar, the old tooth pick method doesn’t quite work. I use a longer metal cake tester, but even when that came out clean (or seemed to only have melted chocolate on it), I’d say the cake needed about 5 more minutes. And if the crispy edges get even crispier… well, I’m not complaining.
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Streusel
¾ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in a few pieces and chilled
½ c. chopped pecans
- Mix together the flour, granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
- Transfer 1¼ of the mixture to a different small bowl and add another ¼ brown sugar. Set aside – this is your streusel topping!
- Take the other bowl and pour into a food process with the remaining brown sugar, pecans, and butter. Pulse in the food processor until the butter and pecans look like tiny pebbles (about 10 pulses). Place back in the bowl and set aside. This is your streusel filling!
12 tbsp. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
4 large eggs
1½ c. sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla paste or extract
2¼ c. all-purpose flour
1¼ c. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
Streusel filling and topping (above)
1 c. chocolate chips (optional, but you should totally do it)
- Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and set aside on the counter. (Doing this first will make it the correct temperature by the time you add it in!)
- Adjust the oven rack so it’s on the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan generously with butter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, 1 cup sour cream, and vanilla until combined. This might take a minute or two, but the mixture will eventually combine nicely.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined.
- Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix on low until the mixture looks sandy with some larger chunks of butter left. Increase the speed to medium until the mixture combines and resembles cookie dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Lower the speed to medium-low and add the egg mixture in 3 additions, mixing for about 30 seconds and then scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. (This is the gloopy stage-do not fret!) Increase the mixer to medium-high and mix until the batter is smooth, light, and fluffy.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread about ⅓ of the batter in the bottom of the pan, smoothing it out so it covers the bottom. Sprinkle half of the streusel filling evenly on top of the batter, then sprinkle on half the chocolate chips. Repeat with about another ⅓ of the batter, the remaining streusel filling, and remaining chocolate chips. Be gentle smoothing the batter, as it will pull away easily due to the streusel. Don’t worry about it too much though. Cover with the remaining batter and then sprinkle the streusel topping evenly across the top to finish.
- Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (but probably with some melty chocolate and some sugar on it), about an hour. Continue baking 5 minutes after the skewer test.
- Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert the tube pan onto a large plate or baking sheet and remove the pan- the streusel side will be down. Place the wire rack on the top of the cake and flip so that the streusel side is up and the cake is again cooling on the wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, about two hours, before serving.
- Eat cake for breakfast (and lunch, and a post dinner snack… and maybe a pre dinner snack too?).