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What is Coffee Cake and Who Makes it Best?


Eli Zabar Russian Coffee Cake Tray
Eli Zabar | Russian Coffee Cake Tray

Coffee plus cake? Yes, please! When it comes to getting a kick-start to our morning, we can’t think of a better combination than a piping hot mug of freshly roasted coffee and a thick slice of moist and flavorful coffee cake.

If you haven’t tried coffee cake with a cup of Joe, one bite and you’ll wonder where this coffee combo has bean all your life.

Does Coffee Cake Actually Have Coffee in it?

No, coffee cake does not actually have coffee in it. This is a sweet cake typically made with a ribbon of cinnamon and topped with nuts, glaze, or streusel. Early versions of this cake and many coffee cakes made outside the U.S. are coffee-flavored sponge cake. 

This cake is, oftentimes, a ring cake but it can also be square or rectangular. Cinnamon is the most traditional cake flavor, but coffee cake comes in many flavors like:

  • Apple
  • Blueberry
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate chip
  • Cinnamon
  • Cinnamon walnut
  • Cranberry
  • Pecan
  • Sour cream
Bread and Roses Bakery Maine Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Bread and Roses Bakery | Maine Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Red Truck Bakery Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Red Truck Bakery | Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Does Coffee Cake Taste Like Coffee?

No, coffee cake does not taste like coffee. There is no coffee or caffeine in this cake despite its name. This streusel cake tastes like a lightly sweetened cake and oftentimes has spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It is not a rich or overly sweet cake.

What Makes Coffee Cake Different From Cake?

The difference between coffee cake and regular cake is the topping. Coffee cake and regular cake are made with the same ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and a leavening agent like baking powder. 

The difference is that instead of frosting on top, coffee cakes have crumble or streusel. Just like a cake, it can also have glaze or icing. Another difference is coffee cake typically has a thin layer of cinnamon in the middle. Regular cakes have no filling or inner layers of frosting, ganache, custard, or jam.

Crumb cake is similar to coffee cake, but crumb cake has a thicker layer of streusel.

Read More: Different Types of Cakes Explained

Why is it Called Coffee Cake?

Coffee Cake is a staple in coffee shops and delis because it pairs well with coffee. It’s called coffee cake because it goes well with coffee. This delightful cake is delicious on its own but even better when it’s paired with a coffee drink like coffee, espresso, and lattes, or tea.

Throughout Europe and Scandinavia, it’s common to take a coffee break and socialize with friends over coffee and cake. The Danish were the first to pair coffee and sweet breads together. Germans also have the tradition of enjoying kaffee und kuchen and the Swedish have fika, a coffee and cake break.

Many attribute the German kaffekuchen as the inspiration for today’s coffee cake. European and Scandinavian immigrants coming to America in the 19th century brought their sweet breads. It wasn’t long before these transitioned to sweet cakes and the contemporary cake with a ring in it was born.

Often eaten at breakfast or during coffee breaks, this cake became extremely popular initially in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. Nowadays, it’s easy to find this tasty cake everywhere, from coffee shops to delis to grocery stores.

Most Famous Coffee Cakes

America’s best bakeries, coffee shops, and delis are making the most flavorful, moist, and delicious cakes to help you have the best coffee break ever.

My Grandma's of New England Coffee Cakes Grandma's Famous Coffee Cake

My Grandma of New England Coffee Cakes

Since 1990, My Grandma of New England Coffee Cakes has been baking its famous ringed cakes with golden crusts and crumbled topping. The Boston bakery started with its 8-inch Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake and expanded to include nearly one dozen flavors. 

This signature cake features farm fresh eggs, pure Bourbon vanilla, sour cream, and a thick ribbon of cinnamon walnut streusel. Their other crave-worthy cake flavors include Cape Cod Cranberry, Granny Smith Apple, New England Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice.

Eli Zabar Russian Coffee Cake Tray

Eli Zabar’s Russian Coffee Cake Tray

The famed New York City food store and delicatessen makes many famous baked goods. Coffee cake is one of them. 
Eli Zabar’s Russian Coffee Cake Tray is a classic Zabar treat. Each 4 lb. tray of cake is made with sour cream dough, thick swirls of sweet filling, raisins, and nuts.

Strawberry Hill Baking Co. Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

Strawberry Hill Baking Co.’s Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

While Strawberry Hill Baking Co. is famous for its povitica. Slovenia swirled pastries, the Kansas City, Kansas, bakery makes a crave worthy Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake too. The Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake is made with cinnamon, sugar, sour cream, streusel, and walnuts. Each certified kosher cake is hand layered and weighs more than 2 lbs.

Make the coffee + cake combo of your dreams crumb true. The best coffee cakes from America’s top bakers are shipping nationwide on Goldbelly!