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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Courtesy Melissa Knific
Cook Time:
50 mins
Prep Time:
30 mins

Chef notes

I’m pretty sure the reason coffee cake is a fan favorite is because of the crunchy cinnamon topping (otherwise known as streusel). And, in my opinion, the more substantial the streusel, the better the coffee cake.

With that in mind, I made it my mission to perfect the streusel. I found that using melted butter was better than using cold, cubed butter. Once cooled, it gets gently folded into a mixture of flour and sugar, creating large clumps that stay intact during baking. For extra crunch, I highly recommend adding chopped nuts such as pecans or walnuts. And don’t forget the cinnamon — there’s an entire tablespoon in just the topping to really make the warm spice sing.

Of course, it’s important to not overlook coffee cake’s other two big components: the filling and the cake itself. I didn’t skimp on the filling but instead created a thick cinnamon-sugar layer that runs right through the middle. As for the cake, a combination of sour cream, butter, eggs, baking powder and baking soda create a moist and fluffy crumb.

While other recipes use a square cake or tube pan, I prefer a round springform pan. Not only does it help make it easier to separate the cake from the pan, but it also allows you to cut triangular slices, which may be unexpected compared to the usual square cuts. This coffee cake needs an hour to cool before slicing. It’ll still be warm at this point (and I imagine you’ll want to dive in as soon as you can), but it’s also fantastic at room temperature if you can’t get to it at that moment. And, as its name implies, the cake is perfect alongside a cup of coffee. Generously dust with powdered sugar and you’re ready to crumble!



  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • powdered sugar, for dusting
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Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter. (Tip: Use the softened butter wrapper.)


In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.


In a medium bowl, whisk r flour, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and salt until combined. Pour in cooled, melted butter and gently fold with a fork until clumps form and butter is fully incorporated. (Don’t use hot butter and don’t overmix. Doing either of these things will create a pasty topping; you want clumps.) Set filling and streusel aside.


In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined.


In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in sour cream, milk and vanilla until blended. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until just combined. (Don’t overmix; the batter will be thick.) Scoop half the batter into the pan, using an offset spatula to smooth out the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar filling, then with ⅔ cup nuts, if using. Dollop remaining batter on top and gently smooth with the offset spatula. Scatter streusel evenly on top.


Bake until the cake is golden-brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then gently run an offset spatula around the circumference of the cake. Release pan from ring form but keep on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack for 1 hour, then remove bottom if displaying the cake on a platter. (Tip: Use an offset spatula or a knife to loosen the cake.) Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.