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It can be hard to define exactly what coffeecake even is.

Is it anything served with coffee? If it’s not served with coffee, is it still a coffeecake? Is there a reason that there is never actually coffee in it?

No matter what we place in the general category of coffeecake, I believe it should have a few defining characteristics: a tender yellow butter cake base; a crunchy, buttery streusel on top; and ribbons of something delicious throughout.

These three components create a springboard for endless flavor combinations that can range from whatever is in season to whatever is in your cupboard.

The filling of a classic coffeecake is typically a combination of sugar and cinnamon that melts into a sweet, spiced layer throughout the base of the cake. Cinnamon Swirl Coffeecake with Espresso Glaze uses a combination of white and brown sugars with a healthy dose of cinnamon. If you prefer swirls of cinnamon, rather than a layer running through the center, use a knife to swirl the batter after sprinkling the filling for marbling effect.

Coffeecake fillings can also include fresh fruit, cream cheese, chocolate or jam. Fold fresh fruit into the batter for pockets of juicy berries throughout or scatter it in a layer in the center for a more traditional look. If you don’t have good seasonal fruit on hand, a layer of jam is an excellent year-round substitute. Raspberry Chocolate Coffeecake with Vanilla Glaze uses a layer of tart raspberry jam scattered with chunks of melty dark chocolate.  

If that crunchy, buttery, sugary streusel is the reason you keep coming back for more coffeecake, the filling can be replaced by an extra layer of streusel for double the crunch. Cookie Butter Coffeecake uses crushed Biscoff cookies and brown sugar in a streusel that is sprinkled in the middle and packed on top.

The center also gets a drizzle of cookie butter, an addictive spread made from ground-up Biscoff cookies, plus a few tablespoons in the batter. This method can be used with peanut butter, Nutella, almond butter or any other spread.

A traditional streusel is a combination of flour, sugar and melted butter. You can use granulated white sugar or brown sugar depending on the flavor in your cake, and the flour can be decreased for a more buttery streusel or increased or a drier, crunchier topping.

Streusel is a hard one to mess up, which means you can add pretty much anything to it and it will produce a delicious topping for your cake. Cocoa powder, espresso powder and spices all add wonderful flavor.

Crushed-up cookies, such as Biscoff or gingersnaps, are worth mentioning again. And of course, nuts add a wonderful flavor and crunch. Banana Coffeecake with Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel uses brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans for a crunchy, addictive topping.

Once you mix up the basic batter, there’s no limit to what you can mix in, swirl and sprinkle throughout. Whether you have it with coffee, as breakfast, dessert or a snack, coffeecake is a go-to recipe that will have you coming back to it time and time again.

Classic Coffeecake Base

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

¼ c. sour cream

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Filling of your choice (streusel, jam, cookie or nut spread, chocolate, fruit, etc.)

Streusel:

1 ½ c. flour

¾ c. sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan, a 10-inch springform, a bundt pan or anything of similar size.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and sour cream until combined. Whisk in melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined.

Make streusel: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened and clumps together.

Spread half the batter in bottom of prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with ½ to 1 cup of your filling of choice. Top with the remaining batter, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Top with a layer of streusel. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean.

Cinnamon Swirl Coffeecake with Espresso Glaze

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c. granulated sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

¼ c. sour cream

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

½ c. granulated sugar

2 T. packed brown sugar

2 T. ground cinnamon

For the streusel:

1 ½ c. flour

¾ c. sugar

¼ t. salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the glaze:

1 ½ c. powdered sugar

2 T. espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1 T. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and sour cream until combined. Whisk in melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined. Batter will be very thick.

Make filling: Combine all ingredients.

Make streusel: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture is moistened and clumps together.

Spread half the batter in bottom of prepared baking pan. Sprinkle filling over batter. Add remaining batter, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Top with streusel. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove pan to a rack to cool.

Make glaze: Sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Add espresso and milk and whisk until smooth. Add more milk, a few splashes at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency.

Raspberry Chocolate Coffeecake with Vanilla Glaze

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c. granulated sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

¼ c. sour cream

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the streusel:

1 ½ c. flour

¾ c. granulated sugar

¼ t. salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 c. raspberry jam

¾ c. chopped dark chocolate

For the glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar

2 T. milk

1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and sour cream until combined. Whisk in melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined. Batter will be very thick.

Make streusel: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture is moistened and clumps together.

Spread half the batter in bottom of prepared baking pan.

For filling: Warm 1 c. jam in microwave and spread over batter. Sprinkle chopped chocolate over jam.

Add remaining batter, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Top with streusel. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove pan to a rack to cool.

Make glaze: Sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Add milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add more milk, a few splashes at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency.

Cookie Butter Coffeecake

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c. granulated sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

¼ c. sour cream

2 T. Biscoff creamy cookie butter (or another brand)

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the streusel:

1 ¼ c. Biscoff cookie crumbs (or crumbs from gingersnap cookies)

¼ c. flour

¾ c. packed brown sugar

¼ t. salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and sour cream until combined. Whisk in cookie butter and melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined. Batter will be very thick.

Make streusel: Combine cookie crumbs, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture is moistened and clumps together.

Spread half the batter in bottom of prepared baking pan. Warm ½ c. Biscoff spread in microwave and drizzle over batter. Sprinkle on one-fourth of the streusel in an even layer. Add remaining batter, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Top with remaining streusel. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean.

Banana Coffeecake with Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c. granulated sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

¼ c. sour cream

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 c. mashed ripe banana

For the filling:

1 c. packed brown sugar

2 T. ground cinnamon

For the streusel:

1 c. chopped pecans

½ c. flour

¾ c. packed brown sugar

½ t. ground cinnamon

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk and sour cream until combined. Whisk in melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined. Add mashed banana and stir to combine.

Make filling: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Make streusel: Combine pecans, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture is moistened and clumps together.

Spread half the batter in bottom of prepared baking pan. Sprinkle filling evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Top with a layer of streusel. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean.

All recipes were tested by Chelsea Zwieg and make 10 to 12 servings each.

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