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

Photo by Julia Gartland

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.

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.)

More Cake, Right This Way

This article originally ran in July 2017. We're bringing it back because you can never have too much coffee cake—that's a fact! What are your coffee cake tricks? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kgw
  • AntoniaJames
  • Brian Logan
    Brian Logan
  • Ash
  • Jason Hargrove
    Jason Hargrove
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


kgw July 16, 2017
This looks worthy! For the "coffee cake" aficionados, let me point to another awesome recipe in Thomas Keller's "Bouchon Bakery" cookbook, streusel and all!
AntoniaJames July 14, 2017
Even better, put seasonal fruit in that middle layer, e.g., this: Unpeeled ripe nectarines and peaches work great in this during the summer. When using apples, saute them in butter for a few minutes and cover to let soften while preparing the batter and topping. Tinker with and substitute spices according to the fruit. ;o)
Brian L. July 14, 2017
Another tip for better coffee cake it to only call it coffee cake when it is coffee flavoured.
AntoniaJames July 14, 2017
Brian, it's called "coffee cake" because traditionally this type of cake was enjoyed with a cup of coffee; similarly, Madeira cake is never made with Madeira, but was originally accompanied with a glass of Madeira {though now it's often eaten for breakfast) and tea cakes are served with tea. ;o)
Ash July 15, 2017
It's always been called a coffee cake!
Jason H. September 13, 2017
boom! thanks for teaching the uninformed