I worked at a local bakery called Sweet Teensy Bakery throughout high school, and this coffee cake was one of my favorite things we made there. The bakery no longer exists in its original capacity, but Angela Winter, who was the head baker, taught me this recipe.
This coffee cake proves that less really can be more. I often think the key to making perfect desserts is to try to “optimize” every ingredient — Greek yogurt can make something lighter and fluffier than milk or a bit of lemon zest usually helps make things pop. However, after numerous tests for this coffee cake, I can say with some authority that those kinds of enhancements do not improve this particular recipe. This cake is impossibly light and tender even without sour cream or yogurt. And much to my surprise, the lemon zest really threw off the flavor profile and made it taste like something different entirely.
All that said, I do like to suggest twists. While I strongly recommend you try the recipe as written, you could use it as a base for a cake called “boy bait,” which is coffee cake with lemon and blueberries. If you’d like to try that variation, add the zest of 2 lemons and 1 to 2 cups of blueberries.
’Since I had made this recipe dozens and dozens of times at the bakery, I thought it would be one of the easier recipes to test for this book . . . but alas, this was not the case. At the bakery, we would make batches four to eight times the size of the version here. The coffee cake was made in giant pans, and the commercial ovens were really different from a typical home oven, so the temperature was also not exactly comparable. After I adjusted the proportions to work in a home kitchen, this recipe still needed some tweaks to get the right texture — simply dividing it by four did not work. Additionally, I wanted to make every baking recipe in this book possible without an electric mixer, so with further testing I adapted it to be made with a whisk.
From “SCHECKEATS – COOKING SMARTER” by Jeremy Scheck. Copyright © 2023 by Jeremy Scheck. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
For the cake batter:
- 4 Tbsp (½ stick/57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whole milk
For the topping:
- ⅓ cup (45 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (160 g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 4 Tbsp (½ stick/57 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
- Prep the pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch metal cake pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper (for easy release) and spray with cooking spray.
- Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and use a wooden spoon to smash the butter and break it up into the sugar. Without a mixer, it is difficult to properly cream the mixture until you add in the egg, and that’s OK!
- Add the egg, then whisk vigorously until the mixture is completely smooth, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix gently, stopping before the flour is completely incorporated. Add the vanilla and then slowly add in the milk while whisking. Whisk just enough to incorporate the milk.
- Make the topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. With your hands, work in the cold butter until the mixture has a homogeneous crumbly texture.
- Pour two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan. Spread half the topping over the batter (try to distribute it evenly). Add the remaining batter and top with the rest of the topping.
- Bake for 38-42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Ashkenazi