I am writing this while I look out my window onto a snowy landscape. Finally! Long Island has seen flurries for the first real time this season. Substantial, all-day stuff that blankets the ground. I stood with my coffee and stared for a good ten minutes when it began. Even now, I get distracted often—I just can’t help it! The novelty never quite wears off.
Before you start pitying me for my lack of snow, I should disclose that I was fortunate enough to head home to MN for the Christmas weekend this year. I did get to stomp my boots around in the snow and ice. But there’s something about winter that’s missing until you get a snow storm.
On that note, I had a completely different recipe planned to feature this week, but the weather had me feeling all cozy…so instead I decided to make my favorite coffee cake. If you can’t tell, I’m one of those kids that changed every single plan once the snow started. Chocolate chips were promptly taken out of the cupboard for cookies, movies to-watch were prioritized, and fuzzy socks were donned. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed.
Why coffee cake you ask? Well I love the idea of coffee cake. The perfect excuse to dig into a cinnamon-sugar treat alongside a big cup of coffee. And it counts as breakfast? It’s fluffy but dense at the same time, buttery yet light, and topped with some crunchy delicious flavors. Perfect snowy weather baking if you ask me. Permission to be decadent.
The topping on this coffee cake isn’t so much of a crumbly, streusel like some are used to buying in the store. This one is more of a crunchy sheet of cinnamon sugar. It’s like an exclamation point on top. The secret? Butter!
Butter gets cut into cinnamon and sugar but left in big enough chunks so that once it bakes, it spreads throughout the topping and the soaks into the top of the cake. The fat prevents the topping from simply dissipating into the water-based batter by creating a barrier. The butter also creates that gorgeous sheet of cinnamon and sugar on top of the cake as the water evaporates and the fat crisps everything all up. Finally, the fat keeps the cake moist as it slowly soaks into the baking cake.
The result? Delicious, cozy feelings for all those winter mornings to come. Or anytime really. The past few posts have been pretty science-heavy, so I decided to keep this one short and sweet. Happy flurry season!
Makes 1-9×9 cake
1 ⅓ cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
A generous pinch cardamom
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup milk (see instructions)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter, cold and cut into ½-inch pieces
- Preheat the oven to 375⁰F. Butter and flour a 9×9 inch pan. Set aside.
- Make the topping to start. Whisk together the ¼ cup flour, ⅔ cup sugar, and cinnamon with a fork. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Use a pastry cutter (or your fingers) to cut the butter into the sugar/flour mixture. Stop once they are in the range of peas-chickpeas size. Set aside.
- Make the cake batter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Use a pastry cutter (or your fingers) to cut the butter into the mixture. Stop once you get coarse crumbs.
- Crack the egg into a liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup to the 3/4 -cup mark with the milk. It should be around ½ cup of milk. Add the vanilla and whisk together until combined.
- Pour the contents of the measuring cup into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with the topping.
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick comes out clean—about 22-25 minutes.
Looking for more breakfast snack things? You might enjoy this blueberry cake and coffee syrup post.