Best Coffee Cake

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.”

Best coffee cake with brown sugar

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.

Ed, Abbe and Zoe

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!

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. This makes a crispy crust which is topped with the other half of the flour mixture after it has been combined with sour cream and an egg.

The batter forms a tender crumbed cake studded with a moist layer of fruit and then more tender cake. 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 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!

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Best Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

  • 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.



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 used 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.

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.

Keywords: coffee cake recipe, coffee cake recipe with sour cream, best coffee cake recipe, easy coffee cake recip


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.


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.

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!


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!


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

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




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



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.


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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"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." #coffeecake #desserts #sweetbreakfast #brunch


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  • Paula | Vintage Kitchen
    September 3, 2017 at 11:53 am

    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
    August 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    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
      August 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

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

  • Karen Turnbull
    August 26, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    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
      August 26, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      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
    August 26, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    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
      August 26, 2017 at 5:42 pm

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

  • Chris Scheuer
    August 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm

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

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:41 pm

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

  • mimi rippee
    August 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    This is a great post. Boy, they do love their selfie sticks, right?!! And what was that breakfast? Beautiful children, so nice that you ended up with a boy and girl twins. Love your coffee cake.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks Mimi! Pretty special having a boy and a girl-even if they aren't twins. We were surprised and happy how it ended up given that we tried for so long! Selfie sticks are dangerous!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Breakfast was a hard boiled egg, steamed rolls that looked good but didn't have much flavor, wild rice congee, and pickles. Pretty traditional!

  • Liz Berg
    August 26, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Belated birthday wishes to Alex and Zoe! I know they're wonderful kids as they have a wonderful mom!!! I'm saving your tried and true coffee cake for the next occasion when I need to bring breakfast or brunch food to share—don't you love when your children ask for a recipe???!!! Thanks for sharing more of your China trip—such a fabulous, once in a lifetime experience!!!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      So sweet Liz! It was a once in a lifetime experience that I hope happens a second time! This is a great coffee cake and next time I'll post an even simple one that I sent Alex.

  • Angie Schneider
    August 26, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Happy Birthday, Alex and Zoe! Hangzhou is so beautiful and the food looks fantastic.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks Angie. The food in China was awesome!

  • Tricia Buice
    August 26, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Oh what a fun post! Happy birthday to both your perfect children. I never knew they don't have ovens – that must be why they're all so thin. Sheesh – I should get rid of mine! Wonderful shots from your big adventure. I love seeing them. The selfie sticks are everywhere – I've never seen so many snap happy folks! Have a lovely weekend.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks Tricia~ Nope, not many ovens, but lots of bakeries!I think the fact that they do a lot of walking plays a part, too! But yes, my oven gets more of a workout than me!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    August 25, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Happy Birthday to Alex and Zoe! 27 years? I'll bet that time went by, not quite in a flash, but almost. I've never actually made a coffee cake before, although I've consumed many, This looks good! Maybe I should make it? 🙂 And love the pictures of Hangzhou. So much going on in this post! Great read — thanks.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      August 26, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks John, because this post took forever to write. Wish I could figure out a way to shorten the process! The coffee cake was quick!