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The Trick to Better Coffee Cake Is Simple—Obvious, Even

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Choosing the best part about a piece of cake is challenging. It's all good! It's cake! But if I were pressed, I could identify one particularly good bit about every kind of cake. I do love the soft, moist crumbs that cling to the frosting on a layer cake, or custardy, clafoutis-like pockets that form around bits of fruit in a simple strawberry yogurt cake. And in a coffee cake, it's all about the streusel.

Photo by Posie Harwood

I am no mathematician. But it has always seemed to me that doubling the streusel in your standard coffee cake would double the deliciousness. I can now report back that this is true. Today's coffee cake batter is a pretty standard one, although I like to use Greek yogurt as the dairy (although sour cream is a fine option). Yogurt keeps it moist and not overly rich, letting the streusel take center stage as the real star.

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The recipe yields a lot of streusel, as planned! You can either divide it evenly between the middle layer and the top layer, or you can do one-third in the center and two-thirds on top. Life is your slice of cake. Do what you wish.

If you want to kick things up even further, add a dash of cardamom and espresso powder to the streusel. This is a coffee cake for people who want to maximize their baked good enjoyment, and I assume you are that sort of person if you are reading this. (Between you and me, I almost called this cake the Carpe Diem Coffee Cake, because it is all about upping the pleasure of the present.)

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Double-Streusel Coffee Cake

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Makes one 9" x 13" cake

For the streusel

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  • 2/3 cup (142 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (113 grams) cold butter, in chunks

For the cake

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (285 grams) Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
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