Meet the actual coffee coffee cake - featuring all the famous layers and textures of a delicious sour cream coffee cake, but with a flavor twist. This cake has espresso IN the batter for an added kick of caffeine and beautifully rich flavor, AND an additional kick of caffeine in the easy powdered sugar icing!
what is coffee cake?
For the name of this recipe to make any sense, you should know that coffee cake, despite its name, traditionally doesn't actually have coffee in it! It gets it's name from the fact that it's meant to be served with a side of coffee.
After sharing my coffee cake cheesecake recipe, I had some readers ask me why I called it a "coffee" cake cheesecake if it didn't have any caffeine in it. I know it's really confusing and it was definitely shocking to me when I first found out that coffee cake doesn't have caffeine in the batter.
Soooooo that got me thinking "Hey, why not make a coffee cake with actual espresso in the batter??" And boy OH BOY do I wish I had tried this sooner!! Think all the delicious flavor, spice, sweetness, and textures of traditional coffee cake, but with a generous serving of espresso in the batter! The espresso really sets it apart from traditional coffee cake.
how to make actual coffee coffee cake
1. Make the streusel and swirl. The same base mixture is used for the center swirl in the cake and the crispy streusel topping - for an extra easy cake! Mix together streusel ingredients in a bowl until well moistened and crumbly.
2. Divide streusel mixture in half and add cocoa powder. Because the cake is a rich brown color (thanks to the espresso) the cinnamon swirl is very prone to disappearing into the batter. The solution is to add a hint of cocoa to half the streusel for the center swirl, and this will darken it and make it POP!
3. Set streusel mixtures aside while you prep the cake batter.
4. Dissolve coffee in boiling water. Set aside to cool to room temperature before using.
5. Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
6.. Whisk together wet ingredients, including coffee, to combine.
7. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix to combine.
8. Layer components! Spread about half of the cake batter into your baking pan. Sprinkle over the crumbly streusel mixture that contains cocoa powder on top.
Spread the remaining half of batter over the filling. I find it's easiest to drop tiny spoonfuls of batter and carefully spread it around to avoid overly disturbing the filling. It doesn't have to be perfectly covered - just try to get most of the filling covered with batter! Sprinkle over the other half of streusel on top.
9. Bake until a deep golden brown color on top. Cool completely in the pan before icing.
10. Whisk together powdered sugar and coffee to make the icing. Drizzle over your cooled cake before slicing and serving!
- spoon and level or weigh your flour! This is so important any time you're baking. Scooping the flour straight from the bag can pack in extra weight worth of flour and make your cake dry!
- use good quality coffee. If you wouldn't drink it, avoid baking with it! If you have a preferred coffee you make in a machine or buy from a café, you can swap out the boiling water and instant espresso for just ⅓ cup of your choice of brewed coffee. The stronger, the better!
- add cocoa to half the streusel for your filling. It helps darken the color of your center swirl and makes it POP! It's helpful in any batter to keep the swirl from disappearing, but it's especially helpful here because the cake will be darker.
- don't overmix the cake batter. It'll deflate the air and overwork the gluten - both of which will lead to a dense and dry cake!
Keep covered and this cake will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature or around 5 days in the fridge. Generally, coffee cake is best served within 1 to 2 days for the best texture and freshness, but this cake kept surprisingly well even past that point!
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Actual Coffee Coffee Cake Recipe
for the streusel topping and swirl filling:
- 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- ¾ cup (150g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional) *see notes
for the coffee cake batter:
- ⅓ cup (80mL) boiling water
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder **see notes
- 1 & ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- ¾ cup (150g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ½ cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the coffee icing:
- ½ cup (70g) powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee, at room temperature or cold
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter an 8x8 inch pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Set aside.
make the streusel topping and filling mixture:
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together roughly to combine.1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour,, ¾ cup (150g) packed brown sugar,, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Add melted butter and mix together until you have a crumbly mixture.6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter,
- Portion out about half of the mixture into another bowl and add cocoa powder. Mix until it's a very fine crumb mixture.1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- You should have 2 separate mixtures: a coarser crumb for the topping and a finer cocoa powder crumb for the filling. Set both halves aside to prep the cake batter.
make the coffee cake batter:
- In a small cup or bowl, dissolve instant espresso powder in boiling water. Set aside to cool to room temperature before using.⅓ cup (80mL) boiling water, 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Set aside.1 & ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour,, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, combine your cooled coffee, butter, brown sugar, egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.½ cup (1 stick / 115g) unsalted butter,, ¾ cup (150g) packed brown sugar,, 1 large egg,, ½ cup (120g) full-fat sour cream,, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together until just combined. Take care not to overmix!
- Pour about half of the cake batter into your prepared 8x8 inch pan, and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle over the cocoa powder crumb mixture on top. Dollop the remaining cake batter on top and carefully spread it out to cover the filling as best you can (it doesn't have to be perfect!) Sprinkle the remaining streusel on top.
- Bake the coffee coffee cake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter). If you find the top is browning too quickly, loosely tent the cake with aluminum foil to finish baking through.
- Cool the cake completely in the pan before icing.
make the coffee icing:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of coffee until smooth and pourable. If needed, whisk in more coffee until it reaches your desired consistency.½ cup (70g) powdered sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee,
- Drizzle the coffee icing over the cooled cake before slicing and serving!