Coffee Cake

When I grew up this was a pretty regular thing, but it was definitely a Christmas morning tradition. First stockings, then coffee cake, then presents…

I have long lost my mother’s recipe, it was the one from the Fannie Farmer cookbook that I grew up with, but have since lost. Possibly my brother or sister has it. But it’s a fairly generic white/yellow cake. what I have now is the result of finding every similar cake recipe, averaging out the ingredients, then adjusting a bit. This makes a pleasantly light cake, that should be eaten relatively quickly.

The part of this cake that might be considered odd is that the ‘streusel’ is applied as a molten stream rather than packed on top. The trick is getting it to end up right in the middle of the cake and not float on top or sink to the bottom.


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

“Gunk” (the filling)

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (optional)


  1. Butter a 9”x9” pan
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F
  3. As with most cakes I know, you start mixing the butter and sugar. The objective is to break the butter down without melting it. An electric mixer helps a lot here.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and beat just until incorporated
  5. In a prep bowl, mix the dry ingredients, the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Mix the milk and vanilla (or whichever flavoring you might prefer
  7. Alternate adding about a third of the dry mix and a half of the liquid. Beating until just incorporated.
  8. With the last addition of the flour mixture, add the nuts (if desired) and stir in with a rubber spatula.
  9. Pour batter into pan
  10. In a small saucepan, mix the ‘gunk’ ingredients over a low flame/heat.
  11. When full incorporated, drizzle ‘gunk’ over the batter, trying for a grid that covers the cake. it should just rest on the top of the batter. If it’s too thick, just spoon it out over the cake
  12. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  13. Cool (slightly) and serve, I find it best when it’s still warm, but too soon and the hot brown sugar will be lava.

What should happen, is that the cake will double in height, but the ‘gunk’ shouldn’t move. The cake will rise around it and envelope it. As you can see in the picture above, there is no visible trace of it on the top of the cake. If the gunk is too oily, it will sink to the bottom. Too dry and it will remain on top like a streusel. The latter is not an inherently bad thing, but not what I’m going for here.

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