Simple and classic, this buttery cinnamon crumb coffee cake is anything but plain! Sour cream ensures a moist, light (not overly dense) breakfast cake, and there’s double the brown sugar cinnamon crumb streusel. Enjoy a thick ribbon of streusel inside and plenty of crumbs on top, both made from the same mixture.
Cake for breakfast… well, don’t mind if I do! I’ve published quite a few coffee cake recipes over the years, and this is my go-to, absolute favorite sour cream version.
I originally published today’s recipe in 2015 and have made so many variations over the years, including doubling the crumb so there’s more swirl INSIDE and ON TOP of the cake. That’s the version you’ll find in the printable recipe below. (Because what’s the point of crumb cake if it’s all cake and no crumb?! Double the crumb = double the fun!)
You Will Love This Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
Compared to my New York-style crumb cake recipe, it’s smaller and softer—with a lighter, more cake-like crumb. It also has a delicious cinnamon swirl inside and vanilla icing on top, similar to cinnamon swirl quick bread and cinnamon swirl banana bread. The best part? Make just 1 cinnamon crumb mixture and use that for the filling AND topping.
- Texture: Tender, fluffy cake paired with a soft crumb topping. Each slice boasts a cinnamon-y ribbon running through the middle.
- Flavor: Classic coffee cake flavors of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
- Ease: Prepare 1 mixture for both the cinnamon swirl and the crumb topping.
This coffee cake is delightful alongside a cup of coffee or tea (or a mimosa!). Make it for a birthday breakfast, a coffee catch-up with a friend, or a morning meeting—really any time you want to make the morning a little special.
Key Ingredients (Especially Sour Cream!)
- Brown Sugar: Moist brown sugar is the key to a crumb topping that’s soft, not crunchy.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is sturdy enough to support the heavy crumb layer. I was tempted to use cake flour in the recipe to achieve an ultra-soft crumb, but found that all-purpose gave a more ideal texture for a breakfast cake.
- Cinnamon: We can’t have cinnamon crumb cake without it!
- Butter: You need cold butter for the streusel and room temperature butter for the cake. Cream the softened butter with sugar, which produces a wonderfully cakey texture.
- Baking Powder + Baking Soda: These leaveners help the cake rise.
- Salt: Flavor enhancer.
- Granulated Sugar: We’ll cream the butter + sugar together for the base of the cake batter.
- Eggs: Bind ingredients together, and make the cake tender and rich.
- Vanilla Extract: If you have homemade vanilla extract, use it!
- Sour Cream: The magic moist maker! Just like in this white cake, sour cream makes the cake incredibly moist and lush.
- Milk: Just a little to thin out the batter so you can spread it in the pan.
Make the Cinnamon Crumb Mixture First
To keep things simple, there’s only 1 cinnamon crumb mixture. Layer 1 cup (practically half) in the center of the coffee cake and sprinkle the rest on top. You need brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cold, cubed butter. The butter must be chilled. Why the emphasis on cold? The streusel mixture needs to maintain some of its structure in the oven or else both layers will sink to the bottom.
Use a pastry cutter to cut the cold butter into the other ingredients. You could also use 2 forks, or a food processor. Look how crumbly it gets:
Expect a Thick Coffee Cake Batter
Refrigerate the crumb mixture as you make the cake batter. The batter is rich and thick, and you need to divide it in half so you can layer in some of the cinnamon crumbs. The old version of the recipe created such a thick, heavy batter that it was difficult to divide and spread into the pan. By adding a little milk (just 2 Tablespoons!), the batter is much easier to divide and spread.
You need an 8-inch square pan for this recipe. See below for other size variations. Line it with lightly greased parchment paper so you can easily remove the cake from the pan as a whole, or just directly grease the pan. (Either way works.) Eyeball half of the cake batter and smooth it into the bottom of the greased pan. It does NOT have to be exact, nor perfect. Layer 1 cup (about half) of the cinnamon crumbs on top:
Now spread the remaining batter on top. This can be tricky since you’re spreading thick batter on an unstable crumb foundation. Just do your best. Top with remaining crumbs:
Bake, and then top with vanilla icing. The icing is optional, but always a fabulous (and pretty) finishing touch. You could even turn it into a delicious orange icing by replacing the milk with orange juice.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Success Tips
- Pay attention to ingredient temperature. The butter in the crumb mixture should be cold, and the butter, eggs, and sour cream in the cake batter should be room temperature.
- Do your best to spread the thick batter. The top layer can be hard to spread on top of the cinnamon crumb layer, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t overthink it.
- Use a metal pan or a glass pan. If using ceramic, the coffee cake may take longer to bake. If using extra dark metal, the cake may take less time.
FAQ: Why Is This Called Coffee Cake?
I get this question a lot. 🙂 There is no coffee IN this cake! “Coffee cake” gets its name not because of the ingredients in the cake, but because it’s a breakfast cake to be enjoyed WITH coffee.
Variations & Different Pan Sizes
- Add some extras! Try it as cranberry Christmas cake (with pecans) or raspberry almond crumb cake; or mix and match your favorite add-ins and flavors. Chocolate chips are always a good idea. (Fold 1 cup/180g into the cake batter.)
- Add a cream cheese layer, like in this blackberry cream cheese version.
- Bake in a 9×5-inch loaf pan—no changes to the ingredients; bake time is about 40 minutes.
- Bake it in a 9-inch round cake pan—no changes to the ingredients and bake time.
- Bake in a 9×13-inch pan—see recipe Notes for exact instructions/ingredient amounts. My team and I tested a few versions of this larger size, so use the precise amounts in the Notes below. This is a wonderful size if you’re feeding a crowd:
Every baker should have a classic, old-fashioned and buttery coffee cake recipe in their back pocket and this one is my gold standard, baseline recipe. You’re welcome to borrow it! An 8-inch square pan is required, but see the recipe Notes for other sizes.
Cinnamon Crumb Mixture
- 2/3 cup (135g) packed dark or light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 and 1/3 cups (166g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature*
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk (any kind, dairy or nondairy, is fine)
Vanilla Icing (Optional)
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) heavy cream or milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8-inch square pan (9-inch square is too big, see Notes for other pan sizes) with lightly greased parchment paper or directly grease the pan. I usually use this square pan or this square pan.
- Make the cinnamon crumb mixture: Combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry cutter or two forks (or use a food processor or your hands) until the mixture is in pea-sized crumbs. Some larger crumbs are OK. You’ll have a little over 2 cups of crumb. Refrigerate until step 5.
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until combined. Beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat again as needed to combine. Mixture will be lumpy.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and beat on low speed until just combined. Finally, beat in the milk. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be thick. You’ll have about 2 and 1/2 cups of batter.
- Carefully spread about half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle 1 cup (about half) of the crumb mixture evenly on top. Carefully spread the remaining batter on top (every last drop of it!). This can be a little tricky since you’re spreading thick batter on top of crumbs, but do your best. I usually use a spoon or small offset spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly on top.
- Bake for around 32–38 minutes or until the cake is baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cake to cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
- Make the icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together. Drizzle over warm cake.
- Lift the cake from the pan using the overhang parchment paper around the sides and slice into squares. Or, if you didn’t use parchment, slice directly in the pan. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake can be baked and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Make the glaze the next morning and drizzle over cake before serving. Cake, with or without icing, can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Sour Cream: Sour cream creates a bakery-style tender and thick crumb. Do not skip it. If needed, you can substitute full-fat or low-fat (not nonfat) Greek yogurt.
- Loaf Pan: If you’d like to bake this coffee cake in a 9×5-inch loaf pan, adjust the bake time to about 40 minutes.
- 9-inch Round Pan: This recipe is too small for a 9-inch square pan; however, it fits wonderfully in a 9-inch round cake pan. Same instructions and bake time.
- 9×13-inch Pan: If you want to make this cake in a 9×13-inch pan, you need to just about 1.5x the recipe. My team and I tested the exact amounts and here is what you’ll need. The instructions are exactly the same, just use the following amounts. Crumb: 1 cup (200g) packed dark or light brown sugar, 1 and 1/4 cups (156g) all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 10 Tablespoons (1 stick + 2 Tbsp or 145g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed. Cake: 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 3 large eggs, 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 cup (240g) sour cream, 1/4 cup (60ml) milk. The icing recipe makes a lot, so it’s plenty for the larger cake. Bake time is closer to 45 minutes. Makes 24 servings.
- Update in 2022: After making this recipe for 7 years straight, I’ve made 2 small updates to produce an even better sour cream coffee cake. The recipe above has more crumb filling/topping than the 2015 version and it also includes a touch of milk to smooth out the batter. If you wish to make the old version, skip the milk and halve the amounts for the crumb filling/topping.
- Why is this called coffee cake and there is no coffee in the cake? “Coffee cake” gets its name not because of the ingredients in the cake, but because it’s a breakfast cake to be enjoyed WITH coffee.
Keywords: coffee cake, crumb coffee cake, sour cream coffee cake