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Best Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

This brown sugar coffee cake has a pie crust like bottom, a tender cakey interior filled with fruit or chocolate, and a crumbly, nutty streusel topping.


This is my best coffee cake recipe. That might be debatable, however it is certainly one I’ve been baking for a number of years.

I didn’t quite expect to be baking this easy coffee cake recipe for Alex and Zoe’s birthday, but heck-why not?

August 24th is a big day for me.

It is the time for two birthday cakes and the time to remember that this day-this normal day, wasn’t so normal 27 years ago.

With the birth of twins my life was forever changed and though everyone says that upon the birth of children, my life became doubly blessed with double smiles, double jokes, and laughter that will forever make fond memories.

Of course life is not always full of perfect moments, but even in spite of the not so perfect moments, I know without a doubt that my children are perfect.

They have both been blessed with empathy and goodness, a sense of humor… usually, tenacity, courage, strong convictions, good values and a sense of joy.

They truly enjoy learning, not necessarily in the booksmart way; they aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, and they aren’t afraid to fail.

Each day they make me proud for they have weathered a lot, my children, in ways many never knew, and still they held their heads high.

As well they should. Though life may not be perfect or fair, I repeat to myself over and over that they, of course, are.

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Just last week Alex requested a recipe for coffee cake.

Actually I was quite surprised with this request because I don’t remember either Alex or Zoe ever really liking coffee cake.

To me it is pure comfort food and since there are such a slew of recipes out there, I just sent him my one bowl favorite.

I took a photo of it and We Chatted it over.

He sent me a photo back and the result looks like the coffee cake I always made.  

Most Chinese kitchens do not contain ovens, so baking is something he has never done.

Finally he broke down and bought a countertop convection oven and I must say he did me proud!

Brown sugar coffee cake

In honor of Alex and Zoe’s birthday I decided to make another coffeecake.

This one and the one I sent him, which I guess I should post also, appeared at their baby naming and bris.

That means I’ve been baking these for at least 27 years so I guess that makes this cake an heirloom recipe!

brown sugar coffee cake

How To Make This Brown Sugar Coffee Cake:

I love this recipe because it is so easy and requires no mixer.

Cut the butter into the flour and brown sugar.

Pat half of it into a pan which make a crispy, pie crust like crust.

Top with the other half of the flour/sugar mixture after it has been combined with sour cream and an egg.

The batter forms a tender crumbed cake.

Add your choice of fruit, jam or chocolate chips.

Finish with more batter to create a tender cake layer.

Top that off with a nutty cinnamon sugar streusel.

Yeah, kind of a five layer coffee cake made in one bowl. Can’t beat that!

Brown sugar Coffee Cake

Check out this brown sugar coffee cake recipe with sour cream -yes, it makes the cake so moist- and then skip down if you want to hear more about our trip to China.

Preferably you will read about it while eating this coffee cake!

Want King Arthur’s recipe of the year? Yes, it’s coffee cake!

Need a great sour cream coffee cake?

And this cream cheese and jam coffee cake is a winner, too!

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brown sugar coffee cake

Best Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

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  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 Minutes
  • Total Time: 80 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 9" cake 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


This brown sugar coffee cake has a pie crust like bottom, a tender cakey interior filled with fruit or chocolate, and a crumbly, nutty streusel topping.


Units Scale
  • 2 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 c softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 11 1/2 c berries or chocolate chips
  • Melted Blueberry Jam for drizzling (optional)

Streusel Topping

  • 1 c flour
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 c chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 3/4 t ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9″ pan.

Mix brown sugar, flour and softened butter together in a medium bowl. I use a fork to cut the butter into the flour and sugar. Pat 2 cups of this mixture into the pan.

To the remaining two cups of flour mixture in the bowl, add 1 egg and mix well.

Stir 1 t baking soda into the 1 c of sour cream. Mix that into the bowl with the flour-egg mixture. Stir well to incorporate. Spread half of this over the “crust”.

Now add your choice of berries or chocolate. Top that with the rest of the batter.

Streusel Topping:

Make streusel by combining all ingredients in a bowl. Spoon over batter and press it in a bit. Bake 50-60 minutes or until it doesn’t jiggle and a skewer comes out clean.

Drizzle with melted jam or sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.


I last left you in Moganshan and from there we drove to Hangzhou. Manservant had fond memories of Hangzhou so we decided to do a drive by!

Alex did the driving and was quite good using his new China driver’s license. He maneuvered down tiny, people filled streets that I know would have spooked me.

We were in Hangzhou for about 24 hours.

It is a popular spot for Chinese to visit and was one of the 7 ancient capitals of China.

It was also one of the first cities to open to tourism, beginning in 1949.

It is home to West Lake, a very large manmade lake that is filled with numerous islands and pagodas and has influenced poets and artists since 900 AD.

Hangzhou is  also home to Alibaba and was the site of the 2016 G20 summit.

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We stayed a short way from the city center in an area known as Lingyin.

Home to a Buddhist Temple considered one of the wealthiest in the country, we stayed right down the street in a small Asian inspired bed and breakfast.

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Surrounded by the Longjing tea fields, we drank tea near the bamboo forests, ate goose and sweated.

As we drank and bought fresh green tea we watched monks in orange robes parade past and almost always with followers.

It is said they don’t like their picture being taken and since none of mine turned out, I must say that maybe they know something I don’t!

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Later that night after stopping at the 7 story Liuhe pagoda to see the view of the surrounding mountains, we ventured into the city of Hangzhou and went to a night market where every kind of novelty you’d ever want is sold.

From there we went to eat what Alex called stick food.

Yes, it was a fast food restaurant where one chose from over a hundred different offerings of meat, fish, chicken tofu, fruits and vegetables; all of it on sticks.

It was then grilled and brought to your table as it was ready.

Some people left with just a few empty sticks on their plate.

Others left more than I could count. The fresh mushrooms were heavenly!

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The next morning after a beautiful, but not so tasty breakfast

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we wandered down to the Temple and saw ancient grottoes and carvings and lots and LOTS of people.

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It was exhausting dodging selfie sticks and finally I just started taking photos of folks taking selfies.

It was quite comical and I’m not sure how they managed to avoid falling off cliffs or into lakes or beaning someone in the head.

Selfie sticks are dangerous! After a relaxing lunch of stir fried goose and awesome veggies

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We headed over to West Lake, the main reason Chinese visit Hangzhou.

It was beautiful, but so crowded.

We bravely wiped the sweat off our foreheads and plowed ahead, avoiding selfie sticks to make sure we got our pictures of the lotus blossoms too.

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From there it was on to the airport, driving in the wrong way to return the rental car and then catching our flight to Guilin in Southern China. Stay tuned…

More About China:

China Highlights and Eggplant with Garlic

Chinese Eggplant with pork and Garlic

Beijing, Chengdu and Leshan and Bacon Crisps

Caramel Bacon Crisps

Pandas, Chengdu and Hot Pots and Apple Cake

Apple Cake with Streusel

Shanghai and Moganshan and Fudge Pie

Fudge Pie

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Paula | Vintage Kitchen

Sunday 3rd of September 2017

Happy belated birthday to the twins! I love cakes with a streusel that double as cake and topping. Coffeecakes are by far one of my favorites types of cake!

Cheri Savory Spoon

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Wow! love hearing about your travels, always so interesting, you should be a travel writer. Anyway Happy Birthday to your twins! Love the coffee cake, they are hands down my favorite type of cake.

Abbe Odenwalder

Saturday 26th of August 2017

I would love to be a travel writer Cheri! And this cake is a winner!

Karen Turnbull

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Abbe, I always love your recipes, but I really think my favorite part of your posts are your stories. Always filled with such such love, life and a little bit of humor. What a treasure you are, and I'm so thankful for your little slice of joy you add to my life every week ❤️

Abbe Odenwalder

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Karen, that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me! We must get together soon so I can hear more!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Happy birthday to your twins, Abbe! What a loving mother you are ♥ I loved your China photos and had to laugh at the selfie stick shots. Now I'm craving coffee cake! It looks delicious.

Abbe Odenwalder

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Susan, I'll bet you make a mean coffee cake! I truly loved being a mother, I must say! Thanks!

Chris Scheuer

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Happy birthday to your twins! Wonderful post with so many fun pics! Love the evening shots!

Abbe Odenwalder

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Thanks Chris. The Chinese seem to love colored lights which make the nights so pretty!