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Buttermilk Coffee Cake

This soft and tender buttermilk coffee cake is a delicious brunch, snacking, and teatime treat. Buttermilk ensures a moist, light breakfast cake with a thick layer of cinnamon sugar inside and on top. This easy recipe is a crowd favorite!

buttermilk crumb cake

The best coffee cake with buttermilk

This tasty buttermilk coffee cake is one of my favorite treats to make for a breakfast or brunch get-together. It’s so buttery and loaded with brown sugar and cinnamon that everyone just loves it. And I know you will too!

The coffee cake is warm, soft, moist, and full of delicious goodness. Each slice boats a fluffy, vanilla-infused texture and cinnamon ribbon running through the middle. It’s absolutely delicious with a steaming cup of coffee.

The recipe is really simple (hint: you don’t even have to fuss with making a streusel topping) and has become a staple for many birthday mornings and holiday brunch celebrations, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Along with our buttermilk crepes and buttermilk French toast, this easy coffee cake is a staple on a brunch table. Be sure to try our buttermilk bread pudding too! Can you tell we love cooking with buttermilk?

buttermilk coffee cake ingredients

Ingredients

The ingredients are probably all ones you have on hand in your fridge and pantry. So why not try this delicious cinnamon buttermilk coffee cake today? Please check out the recipe card below for exact measurements.

  • All-purpose flour is sturdy enough to support the cinnamon swirl + topping and gives this breakfast cake the best texture.
  • Granulated sugar is needed to sweeten the base of the cake.
  • Baking powder is the leavener to help the cake rise.
  • Buttermilk is my secret weapon. It adds a ton of flavor and moisture to the batter. The crumb is super soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender thanks to buttermilk.
  • Butter: Melted butter is the magic moist maker. You need it for the topping and the cake batter. I like using salted batter to enhance the other flavors, but unsalted butter + 1/2 teaspoon salt is also great.
  • Eggs bind the ingredients together and make the cake tender and rich.
  • Vanilla extract: Use a good quality, pure vanilla extract.
  • Brown sugar is the key to a crumb topping that is soft and moist, not too crunchy.
  • Cinnamon: You can’t have homemade coffee cake without ground cinnamon.

Make your own buttermilk

No need to run to the store if you don’t have buttermilk on hand. You can easily make a buttermilk substitute using whole milk and lemon juice or white distilled vinegar.

  1. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup.
  2. Add 1 1/4 cups of milk.
  3. Stir to combine and let sit for 15 minutes. The milk will thicken slightly and may appear curdled.

Pan sizes

I recommend a 9×13 inch / 23×33 cm cake pan for this recipe. Lightly grease your pan and line it with parchment paper to easily remove the cake from the pan.

Aside from that, you can use other pan types and sizes as well:

  • Loaf pan: The recipe makes enough to fill two 9×5-inch / 23×12 cm loaf pans.
  • Round cake pan: You could also divide the batter between two 8-inch / 20 cm or 9-inch / 23 cm round cake pans. Same instructions and baking time.
  • 8-inch pan: If you have just one 8-inch / 20 cm square cake pan, divide the ingredient amounts in half.
buttermilk cinnamon streusel cake

How to make buttermilk coffee cake

Not only does this buttermilk coffee cake recipe use simple pantry ingredients, but it’s super easy to make too. Easy and delicious make this recipe a win-win. Here’s the step-by-step:

#1: Prepare for baking

  • Preheat oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4.
  • Prep pan. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch / 23×33 cm baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or melted butter and line with a piece of parchment paper, creating an overhang on 2 sides. Set aside.
step 2 mix batter

#2: Mix batter

  • Combine wet ingredients. Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, 1 cup melted butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix dry ingredients. Mix the flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Create batter. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until everything is just combined and you no longer see streaks of flour. Be careful not to over-mix. Pour half of the batter into the greased baking dish.
step 3 assemble coffee cake

#3: Assemble the cake

  • Make cinnamon layer. Whisk together the light brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well combined.
  • Assemble coffee cake. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the batter in the baking pan. Pour the remaining batter carefully over the cinnamon sugar layer. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over the top.
  • Drizzle with melted butter. Drizzle the 1/3 cup melted butter over the top.
step 4 bake coffee cake

#4: Bake

  • Bake. Bake the buttermilk coffee cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is baked through. To test doneness, insert a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. The cake is done when it comes out clean.
  • Cool and cut. Remove the baking pan from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper overhang around the sides. Slice into squares.
buttermilk cake recipe

Baker’s tips

This buttermilk coffee cake recipe is amazing. And I have a few simple tips that will make the cake even better!

  • Ingredient temperature: The cold ingredients like eggs and buttermilk should be at room temperature so they incorporate properly into the batter.
  • Measuring flour: You want the correct amount of flour to get the perfect texture. Adding too much flour can weigh the cake down, making it dry and dense. To accurately measure your flour, use the spoon and level method: Fluff the flour in the bag and gently spoon it into your measuring cup. Then level off the excess with the flat back of a knife.
  • Don’t overmix the batter: Overmixing causes more gluten bonds to form, which unfortunately leads to a tougher cake – not what we want. To ensure you get that tender, melt-in-your-mouth crumb, fold the wet and dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Batter texture: Don’t be alarmed when the batter seems quite thick – it is meant to be this way. If you are worried, feel free to add a little more milk or an extra egg to thin it out.
buttermilk coffee cake

Variations

While I love this buttermilk cinnamon streusel cake exactly as it is, you can tweak the recipe to your liking if you want to shake things up a bit. Try these ideas:

  • Vanilla glaze: Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk and drizzle over the warm cake.
  • Pumpkin pie spice: Swap out the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice to give your cake a more complex flavor.
  • Almond extract: Increase the depth of aroma by including 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract in the buttermilk cake.
  • Chocolate chips: Adding 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips to the cake batter is always a good idea.
  • Nuts: Sprinkle a handful of chopped pecans, walnuts, or sliced almonds on top of the cake before baking to give a lovely crunch.
  • Fruit & berries: Try adding 1 to 2 cups of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb chunks, pitted cherries, sliced peaches, or chopped apples. The liquid from the fruit may lead to a longer baking time.
buttermilk cake

Serving suggestions

Buttermilk coffee cake is delightful alongside a cup of coffee or tea. Make it for breakfast, a weekend brunch, a morning meeting, or a coffee catch-up with a friend – really whenever you want to make a special morning treat.

Aside from tea and coffee, the easy cinnamon coffee cake is also delicious with other drinks. Try it with:

cakes made with buttermilk

Storage instructions

Make buttermilk coffee cake ahead of time

You can bake the cake the day before and store it tightly covered at room temperature overnight. Mix the glaze the following day and drizzle it over the glaze before serving.

How to store buttermilk coffee cake

I love homemade coffee cake because it tastes so much better than storebought. Here are some tips to keep your cake fresh for as long as possible:

  • On the counter: Store your buttermilk crumb cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Let your cake cool completely before packaging it or it might sweat in the container.
  • Refrigerator: You can also keep the cake in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Freezer: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. It can be frozen with or without glaze.
  • Thaw: Defrost in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature before eating.

Reheat coffee cake

We love our coffee cake warm. To reheat, pop a slice in the microwave and warm it in 10-second increments until warm.

To warm in the oven, take off any plastic wrap, then wrap in tin foil. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4 and heat the cake for 6 to 8 minutes or until warmed through.

buttermilk coffee cake

Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe

Yield: 15 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This soft and tender buttermilk coffee cake is a delicious brunch, snacking, and teatime treat. Buttermilk ensures a moist, light breakfast cake with a thick layer of cinnamon sugar inside and on top. This easy recipe is a crowd favorite!

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup / 2 sticks / 230 g / 8 oz salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups / 300 ml / 10 fl oz buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups / 360 g / 12.6 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup / 200 g / 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups / 250 g / 8.8 oz light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup / 75 g / 2.6 oz salted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Prepare for baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch / 23x33 cm baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or melted butter and line with a piece of parchment paper, creating an overhang on 2 sides. Set aside.
  2. Combine wet ingredients. Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, 1 cup melted butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix dry ingredients. Mix the flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Create batter. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until everything is just combined and you no longer see streaks of flour. Be careful not to over-mix. Pour half of the batter into the greased baking dish.
  5. Make cinnamon layer. Whisk together the light brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well combined.
  6. Assemble coffee cake. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the batter in the baking pan. Pour the remaining batter carefully over the cinnamon sugar layer. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over the top.
  7. Drizzle with melted butter. Drizzle the 1/3 cup melted butter over the top.
    Bake. Bake the buttermilk coffee cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is baked through. To test doneness, insert a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. The cake is done when it comes out clean.
  8. Cool and cut. Remove the baking pan from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper overhang around the sides. Slice into squares.
  9. Serve. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature.
  10. Store. Cover leftovers tightly and keep them at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Notes

Vanilla Icing

Buttermilk coffee cake is absolutely delicious as is, but what’s to stop you from drizzling the cake with a sweet vanilla glaze? You’ll need the following:

  • 1 cup / 120 g / 4.2 oz powdered (confectioners’/icing) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream or milk

Whisk everything together and drizzle over the warm cake. Yum!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 367Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 280mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 1gSugar: 31gProtein: 4g

FAQ

Why is it called coffee cake when there is no coffee in the cake?

Coffee cake gets its name not because actual coffee is an ingredient in the cake, but because it’s a breakfast treat that you enjoy with a cup of coffee.

This type of cake has been around for a long time. The American versions have a delicious cinnamon streusel topping and originated from Germany.

What’s the difference between coffee cake and crumb cake?

Both cakes are pretty similar and are often eaten in the morning or as a snack alongside a cup of joe. The batter of both cakes is identical, the difference lies in the topping.

Coffee cake is topped with a thin cinnamon streusel layer. Crumb cake has a thicker, much chunkier streusel topping.

buttermilk coffee cake recipe

Reasons to love buttermilk coffee cake

  • Taste: It’s oh-so-delicious! You get the classic coffee cake flavors of cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar.
  • Texture: The cake layer is tender and moist, while the cinnamon streusel layer inside and on top offers the perfect amount of richness and a bit of crunch.
  • Ease: It’s pretty simple and easy! The cinnamon swirl and the crumb topping are the same mixture.
  • Big batch: The recipe bakes in a large pan, making it perfect for meal prep or feeding a crowd.

More easy cake recipes

Homemade cakes are nothing to be afraid of. Our cake recipes are actually really simple and will be a hit with your family and friends. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that you should definitely try.

Cynthia B

Saturday 1st of April 2023

I just made this and we are enjoying it. I did have to add extra buttermilk as the batter was extremely thick? Still way too thick even after adding 1/4 cup more buttermilk. Almost like play-dough? This made spreading it in the pan difficult especially when placing the second layer of batter over the first. Also, your instructions are missing the step where you add the melted 1 cup of butter to the batter! I made more cinnamon and sugar topping with extra butter added to the top. Aside from that…..my family is enjoying your recipe. Thank you!

Irena | Country Hill Cottage

Monday 3rd of April 2023

Thank you for sharing this in-depth review, Cynthia! So glad you enjoyed the coffee cake. I added the butter, thanks for catching that. The batter is supposed to be quite think - otherwise they sugar layer would simply dissapear into the dough.

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