Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cinnamon Coffee Cake


All these come to mind with a whiff of cinnamon.

For many years, I have sprinkled a little cinnamon on my coffee grounds to flavor my morning cup. Even in the summer, I will make cinnamon coffee to wrap myself in this aroma that inspires images of crisp autumn air, brilliant blue sky, colorful leaves, pumpkin pie, and Christmas cheer. As the seasons change, the more cinnamon coffee starts my day.

Ever since The Picky Eater passed away last year, I drink cinnamon coffee almost every day.

I often wondered why I find this spice so comforting. Then I read The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. The main character, pastry chef Claire “Neely” O’Neil, can read people’s feelings through flavors. Then she customizes a delicious confection in the flavor to fit the person. In the book, her character explained:

 “When I lived in New York and went to Chinatown, I learned that these flavors and their meanings were actually a foundation of ancient Chinese medicine.
Salty translated to fear and the frantic energy that tries to compensate for it or hide it.
Sweet was the first flavor we recognized from our mother’s milk, and to which we turned when we were worried and unsure or depressed.
Sour usually meant anger and frustration.
Bitter signified matters of the heart, from simply feeling unloved to the most overwhelming loss of a great love. Most spices, along with coffee and chocolate, had some bitterness in their flavor profile. Even sugar, when it cooked too long, turned bitter. But to me, spice was for grief, because it lingered longest.”

In the book, Neely associates cinnamon with remembering.

Perhaps my longing for cinnamon makes sense.

During one scene in the book, the characters enjoyed a sour cream coffee cake full of cinnamon, and I knew I had to make one myself. This recipe is inspired by one I found from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I like how she baked it in a tube pan instead of a bundt or cake pan. However, I wanted more cinnamon flavor than I found in her recipe. And I didn’t have sour cream on hand, but yogurt worked just as well.

This coffee cake is moist, flavorful, and delicious. I shared it with some of my neighbors, and they

I see myself making it often in the future.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Serves 8 to 10

For streusel:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups plan whole-milk yogurt

For glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Set aside.

To make the streusel: Place all of the ingredients except the pecans into a bowl. Using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or two knives, break up the butter bits into the rest of the ingredients until crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Set in the refrigerator until needed.

To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt and cinnamon until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until blended. Mix in the vanilla and the yogurt. Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, and blend until just combined. Scrape the side and bottom with a spatula to make sure all of the ingredients are blended.

Remove the streusel from the refrigerator. Spoon half of the cake batter into the prepared tube pan and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle in half of the streusel mixture, and then spoon the remaining cake batter into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining streusel mixture over the top. Place in the oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes. To make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. The mixture should be slightly runny.

Remove the cake from the plan onto a serving dish or cake stand. Drizzle the glaze over the top.   


  1. I bought the book, Linda. It sounds delightful just like your cake. I buy cinnamon n bulk and use it in a lot of desserts and tea. (not a coffee drinker) Thanks for sharing.

    Wishes for tasty dishes,

  2. Lita, I love that you buy cinnamon in bulk. I think I'll start doing that considering how much I use!

  3. There's nothing better than a good Cinnamon Coffee Cake - well, maybe a burger off the grill. :) I like your idea of cinnamon on coffee grounds.

  4. Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices too, Linda. It reminds me of home and baking cookies or having French toast breakfasts with my Dad. Love the cake recipe and the book is intriguing too!

  5. Cinnamon can create so many memories.