What do you think of when you hear the words “comforting dessert?” For me, that dessert is an apple coffee cake full of cinnamon streusel, studded with tart apples, and topped with rich caramel. This simple recipe is simply irresistible, especially in the fall season when apples are in season.
Despite its reputation as an Old-Fashioned dessert, Coffee Cake still holds a prominent place in many family recipe books, particularly in the Midwest where a large population of German immigrants settled in the late 19th century. Growing up, the best coffee cake was always associated with senior-citizen events, Bible Studies, and the comfort of my Grandma’s house.
My love for these things was likely a result of being the center of attention at these events, as I was the oldest of 10 children, and getting attention to myself was rare. This coffee cake recipe floods me with happy memories of warm Sunday afternoons, special breakfasts, and comforting evenings.
Even from a young age, I knew that not all coffee cake was created equal. The best ones always had a beautiful cinnamon swirl mixed perfectly into the buttery cake, with a light and crisp layer of streusel on top. Just like you would expect from a kid, the more sugar, the better!
Even today, my preferred coffee cake has a thick swirl of cinnamon through the cake, though I now understand why coffee cake is so deeply associated with “old people”. Coffee cake is the perfect pairing with coffee; it’s sweet, buttery, and well spiced flavors balance beautifully with the acidic bitterness in the coffee. Coffee cake is the “pasta salad” of that beautiful category of foods that aren’t quite breakfast, but aren’t quite dessert either.
coffee cake Ingredients
- Granny Smith Apples: The Granny Smith is the perfect apple for this decadent coffee cake. The comparatively low sweetness and high acidity perfectly contrasts the sweet, rich flavor of the cake itself.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is one of the predominant flavors in this coffee cake, and it is important to make sure your Cinnamon has plenty of flavor left. An easy way to check this is just to make sure that it is still strongly scented.
- Flour: I successfully use 1 for 1 Gluten-Free Baking flour as a sub for All Purpose flour.
- Butter: Using a cup butter gives the cake a rich, moist texture that is the signature of coffee cake.
- Buttermilk: Using buttermilk gives the coffee cake a rich, buttery, and tender cake. You can make your own version of buttermilk by mixing vinegar with milk and letting it sit and curdle for a few minutes.
- Jarred caramel: I’m keeping this fast and easy by using jarred caramel but go ahead and use your favorite homemade version (or try my BEST homemade caramel sauce).
When you don’t have buttermilk:
Stir together 1 cup of milk (as high of fat content milk as you have) with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes to curdle & thicken. Use it as buttermilk in most baking recipes.
To Make Apple Coffee Cake:
- Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter to create a crumbly texture. A pastry blender keeps this easy but use two knives, if needed.
- Whisk separately the buttermilk, eggs, almond and vanilla in a large bowl.
- Mix the wet ingredients and flour mixture with an electric mixer on medium speed or paddle attachment on your stand mixer until all combined.
- Pour half the mixture into a prepared pan. I use a 13 by 9 cake pan. There is more batter than a square pan can hold.
- Top with warmed caramel and chopped apples.
- Layer with the remainder cake batter.
- Combine all the ingredients for the crumb topping. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on the cake batter.
- Bake the coffee cake and serve warm for the best and tastiest cake.
Freeze/Store Apple Coffee Cake
Storing: Store coffee cake on the counter for up to 3 days, tightly wrapped.
Freezing: This coffee cake makes for a perfect treat to pull out of the freezer on a fall day. To freeze it, allow it to cool to room temperature before wrapping tightly with plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil before tossing in your freezer. When ready to enjoy, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw completely. You can even toss it in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes to warm it up!
This coffee cake elevates the traditional version by incorporating fresh apples to really bring out those wonderful fall flavors.
For the ultimate indulgent coffee cake, top it off with a jar of caramel sauce (or make your own with this Classic 5–Ingredient Caramel Sauce recipe or this Sweetened Condensed Milk Caramel Sauce recipe). Even if you choose not to smother it in caramel sauce, this coffee cake studded with fresh apples is guaranteed to please even your pickiest family member!
There is nothing quite like the smell of a baking coffee cake, or the decadent cake itself. The best way to serve this coffee cake is with a hot cup of coffee and a warm smile.
Apple Coffee Cake
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 cup Butter cut into cubes
- 1 ½ cup Buttermilk
- 2 Eggs
- 1 tsp Almond Extract
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2-3 Granny Smith Apples cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 14 oz Jar Caramel topping
- ¾ cup Brown Sugar
- ¾ tsp Cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- ½ cup Butter melted
- 1 cup Flour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.
- Cut in butter until mixture looks like crumbs.
- Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, almond and vanilla.
- Pour into the crumb mixture you just made.
- Mix until all combined.
- Pour half the mixture into a 13×9 Cake pan.
- Heat Carmel sauce so it is easy to spread. Pour ¾ of it on top of the batter in the pan (Save the rest for the top when its cooked).
- Place chopped apples on top of Carmel. Then top with the remainder cake mix.
- Combine all the ingredients for the crumb topping. Sprinkle on top of the cake mix.
- Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes.
- Let cool and then top with the remaining caramel sauce, cut, and serve.