Put the coffee on!
Every home cook needs a reliable, go-to coffee cake recipe in their arsenal. Unlike pancakes or scrambled eggs, coffee cake is make-ahead friendly and endlessly customizable. Hosting friends with nut allergies? Skip the walnuts or pecans. Feeding more guests than anticipated? Slice the cake into smaller squares. Trust me when I say you’ll be turning to it often. Which is why I set out to find the all-time best coffee cake out of Allrecipes’ most popular recipes. Here’s what I learned.
What Makes a Perfect Coffee Cake?
First and foremost, the perfect coffee cake is moist and tender–never dry. A crunchy streusel topping is also a must, and I’ll never say no to a cinnamon swirl inside, either. It should be suitable for any season, come together with pantry staples, and taste great for days after it’s baked. Of course, it also needs to pair perfectly with a steaming hot mug of coffee.
Which Coffee Cake Recipes Did I Test?
I tested Allrecipes.com’s five most popular coffee cake recipes. There was one that was refreshingly simple, one that was ready for Instagram, one that started with cake mix, one that baked in 15 minutes, and one that I loved the most. To keep things fair, I tested each recipe with the same brands of flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, milk, and eggs. Here are the sweet results of my coffee cake test.
This simple, no-frills cake proves that sometimes, less is more. Though I thought I would miss the presence of a filling, the combination of soft, vanilla-scented cake and crackly cinnamon topping won me over with its simplicity and snickerdoodle flavor. There’s no need to wait for butter to soften; you don’t have to break out the stand mixer; and the thin layer of batter means it takes just 25 minutes to bake. It also stayed moist for days.
With that said, it is a pretty thin cake. If you prefer thicker slices, consider baking the batter in a smaller pan or making coffee cake muffins.
Get the recipe: Aunt Anne’s Coffee Cake
This recipe produced the largest, thickest slices of the bunch, complete with a ripple of cinnamon sugar and a buttery crumb topping. With its bakery-worthy looks, dense but moist texture, and classic streusel on top, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Unfortunately, with more components comes more dirty dishes—four mixing bowls, to be exact. The larger volume of batter also takes longer to bake, and makes for a very heavy cake. Before pulling it out of the oven, check it in several spots with a toothpick, as mine was still slightly raw when I sliced into it.
Get the recipe: Old Fashioned Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Streusel Topping
Yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, and butterscotch pudding mix combine to create a tender, extremely moist cake with very little effort from you. A mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts acts as both the filling and the topping, adding a toasty crunch throughout.
Though I personally found this coffee cake a little too sweet, I can guarantee it will be a hit with kids, and the pudding mix gave it a unique caramelized flavor. It’s also easy to adapt to your needs. Can’t find butterscotch pudding mix? Add another box of vanilla. Want to bake it in a Bundt pan? That works, too—just be sure to add the topping layer first.
Oh, and a note about the cake mix: Though the recipe calls for an 18.25-ounce box, the standard size is now 15.25 ounces. The latter will work just fine.
Get the recipe: Cinnamon Coffee Cake II
If you need a brunch dish in a pinch, this coffee cake won’t disappoint: You’ll be serving up warm slices in just 30 minutes. It’s baked in a 9-inch square pan, making it ideal for smaller crowds, and it isn’t overly sweet. My one piece of advice? Mix the butter directly into the topping instead of drizzling it over the top of the batter. This will ensure there aren’t any dry spots, and help create those crave-worthy crumbs.
Get the recipe: Quick Coffee Cake
I know, I know—this recipe doesn’t have a streusel topping. But the fact that it doesn’t need one is a testament to its perfection. A full cup of sour cream keeps the cake incredibly moist, while the mixture of cinnamon sugar creates the prettiest, tastiest swirl. Looks-wise, it was also my favorite: There’s something so fun and whimsical about a Bundt cake. Plus, slicing into it is incredibly rewarding. (Just be sure to generously grease the pan!)
The only thing I’d add is a simple powdered sugar glaze, which is pictured in the photo but not mentioned in the recipe. I’d also advise checking on it before the 40-minute mark, as mine was done several minutes sooner.
Now, who’s brewing the coffee?
Get the recipe: Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Coffee Cake