Sour Cream Coffee Cake With Cinnamon Swirl

January 18, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson. Food Stylist: Kate Buckens.
  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes one 13x9-inch sheet cake
Author Notes

It’s true, coffee cake is not as simple to prepare as muffins or scones; nor is it as over-the-top as a gooey, yeasted cinnamon roll. But a tender, plush, vanilla-infused cake with a cinnamon-sugar swirl and crispy, buttery topping is fantastic not only because it is our license to eat cake for breakfast—and for that we will always be grateful—but because it is our license to eat cake all day. A slice of coffee cake is as appropriate at 9 a.m. with black coffee, as it is at lunch with creamy tea, or after school with a glass of cold milk, or at night with Netflix and a nip of whiskey.

The cake must be delicious on its own—but also humble enough to let the spiced sugar filling and crunchy streusel topping shine. This cake is oil-based, making it wonderfully moist (even more so on day two), with a soft crumb and an easy-peasy assembly. The filling must hit the right balance between sweet and spice, as well as be dark enough in color to yield that quintessential curvy ribbon. Twelve parts dark brown sugar to one part cinnamon does the trick nicely.

The ideal streusel topping must be generous, covering the entire cake; but not thickly so, like on a crumb cake, where the topping and cake layers are of equal height. There is some disagreement as to whether the ideal streusel is made with cold or melted butter, but for ease of use I call for melted butter. Streusel enthusiasts also differ over the model ingredient ratio. Mine is similar to a German streusel: more flour than butter or sugar, holds its shape, and is less sweet than most, which works for me when I’m planning on eating cake several times a day. It is crispy but not sandy, the perfect contrast to the fluffy cake.

This recipe makes for an impressively tall, beautiful sheet cake that can be sliced into 24 petite pieces or 16 large ones. Leftovers can be frozen if you’re hosting a smaller group. The cake can also be halved and assembled in a nine-inch square or round baking pan. But if I were you, I’d go the freezer route: Being flush with cake is highly undervalued if you ask me. —Jessie Sheehan

What You'll Need
  • Sour Cream Cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (or mild olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • Cinnamon-Sugar Filling:
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Streusel Topping:
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease a 13x9x2-inch pan with cooking spray or softened butter. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to extend up the two short sides of the pan.
  2. To make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the sugar, oil, and vanilla for about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, whisking after each.
  4. Using a flexible spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet in two additions, alternating with two additions of the sour cream. Stop folding as soon as the flour disappears—do not overmix.
  5. Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula.
  6. Make the cinnamon-sugar filling: in a small bowl, whisk both ingredients until combined. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the first layer of batter and gently press with your hands to adhere. Transfer the rest of the batter to the pan, evenly dolloping it in large clumps and carefully spreading it over the filling.
  7. Make the streusel topping: stir the sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in a small bowl. Add the flour and stir until small clumps form. Evenly sprinkle the streusel over the surface of the cake and then lightly press it into the batter with your hands.
  8. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a moist crumb or two.
  9. Let the cake cool for an hour, then run a paring knife around the edges. Using the ends of the parchment paper, gently lift the cake out of the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Or don’t.
  10. The cake will keep on the counter, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days. You may also freeze it (or half of it!), wrapped in plastic wrap and a sheet of aluminum foil, for up to a month.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Debra Lee McShane
    Debra Lee McShane
  • Judy Choo
    Judy Choo
  • Jessie Sheehan
    Jessie Sheehan
  • Meyer
Bio: Jessie Sheehan is the author of The Vintage Baker and Icebox Cakes. Her new easy-peasy baking book, Snackable Bakes, hits shelves in spring 2022. She contributes to the Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Food Network, and the Kitchn, among others.

10 Reviews

Meyer July 20, 2023
This cake is absolutely delicious, very moist and just sweet enough to compliment a good cup of espresso. This was my first time trying it and I used "True Convection" which I think was a slight mistake in that it over-baked a bit (at 60 minute bake time), but still really good. Next time I'll just stick to the "Bake" setting on my oven. Will be making this cake on a regular basis for sure!!
Jessie S. July 20, 2023
yay! makes me so happy.
Anna June 24, 2023
Had a craving for the coffee cake my mom used to make and found this similar recipe. So glad I tried it! Delicious, not overly sweet, light and has a great crumb. I baked mine in an angle food cake pan like my mom would so I had to increase the baking time. Loved how the streusel topping turned out, it has a nice crunch and not too sweet. Also subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream as it’s what I had in the fridge.
Jessie S. June 24, 2023
yay! so happy to hear this.
Debra L. May 1, 2021
I made this today with Greek yogurt- great recipe, easy to follow, and eating warm out of the baker. Wow so delicious! Thank you!
Jessie S. May 2, 2021
Yay! So happy to hear the Greek yogurt worked and that u liked the recipe!! Makes my day. XO
bookjunky February 11, 2021
Made half a recipe in an 8” pan. (Half a recipe in a 9”pan will be too thin, do the math) It was really good. I thought the streusel topping had too much flour, though. It was a bit dry. I added more butter but next time I will just use my regular streusel proportions.
Jessie S. February 11, 2021
Glad you made the cake and sorry you found the topping dry. what is your streusal recipe, if you don't mind sharing?
Judy C. January 26, 2021
Followed the directions exactly and the cake came out so good and moist! Next time I would double the streusel (bc I love extra crumble). Can’t wait for another slice.
Jessie S. February 11, 2021
yay! so happy to read this and apologies for my delayed response!