I love a good cinnamon roll, whether for my 4 o’clock afternoon coffee or simply any time of the day. However, the elaborate work that goes into those fluffy rolls has me skipping out on them most of the time. This cinnamon swirl cake is the answer to my dilemma. The taste instantly reminds you of cinnamon rolls and definitely satisfies those cinnamon cravings. Plus it’s an easy cake that you can whip up for those spontaneous guest visits that will have any dessert lover going back for seconds!
Don’t let the humble exterior of this cake fool you. It’s packed with cinnamon, vanilla and crunchy pecan flavour. The crispy cinnamon sugar topping is a delightful contrast to the soft and moist inside of this cake. In addition, the cinnamon sugar swirl creates a pretty presentation when sliced into pieces.
What makes a cake a coffee cake?
The term coffee cake is used quite loosely to describe a variety of cakes, usually containing cinnamon or fruit. Coffee cakes have been around since the 17th century, when Europeans enjoyed sweet cakes alongside their coffee. Traditionally, coffee cakes contained yeast, dried fruit and sweet spices. While today’s coffee cakes are quite different from their origins, each country also has their own version of a coffee cake. British varieties are filled with a flavoured buttercream while American coffee cakes often come in the form of a sheet cake or contain a streusel topping. Austrians like to bake their coffee cakes in the shape of a bundt cake, calling them Gugelhupf. To keep it short, coffee cakes or whatever you want them to be (as long as you enjoy them with your coffee that is).
Our cinnamon swirl cake contains simple ingredients you probably have sitting in your pantry right now. If you do not have any pecans on hand, feel free to substitute them for walnuts or even almonds. Be sure to use room temperature ingredients so the batter creams together nicely, resulting in a fluffy and moist cake. Because we are using a lot of moist-makers (butter, yoghurt and milk) in our batter, the cake stays soft for up to 4 days (be sure to store it in the fridge after 2 days). It’s an ideal cake for making ahead if you know you have guests coming over or need a dessert for a potluck dinner.
Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
- 360 g all-purpose flour 3 cups
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 230 g butter 1 cup, room temperature
- 200 g white granulated sugar 1 cup
- 180 g light brown sugar 1 cup
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 500 ml plain yoghurt room temperature
- 50 ml whole milk room temperature
- 150 g white granulated sugar 3/4 cups
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 150 g pecans chopped (1 cup)
- cinnamon sticks for garnish optional
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and coat a 25cm (10-inch) cake pan with non-stick spray and flour lightly.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk until well combined.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter together with the white and brown sugar until light and fluffy, for about 2 minutes. Then mix in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time.
Alternatingly add in parts of the flour mixture and the yoghurt and milk, with the mixer running on low speed, until you have a smooth dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
For the cinnamon swirl, combine the white sugar, ground cinnamon and half of the chopped pecans.
Fill 1/3 of the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture onto the batter and repeat 2 more times.
Bake for 1h to 1h 5min, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool entirely in the pan before removing it. Garnish with the rest of the chopped pecans, and cinnamon sticks if using.
The cinnamon swirl coffee cake can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container to keep it fresh. It keeps for up to 4 days and freezes well up to 4 months. If making it ahead, add the garnishes shortly before serving to keep the pecans crunchy.
Let’s get started!
Step 1 – Coat cake pan
Lightly grease and flour a 25cm (10-inch) cake pan and preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Step 2 – Dry ingredients
Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until well combined.
Step 3 – Creaming butter
Step 4 – Combining batter
With the mixer running on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the yoghurt and milk and repeat in the same pattern two more times.
Step 5 – Cinnamon mixture
To make the cinnamon mixture, combine the sugar, cinnamon and half of the chopped pecans in a bowl.
Step 6 – Cinnamon swirl
Fill 1/3 of the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat two more times.
Step 7 – Bake and cool
Bake the cake for 1h – 1h 5 min, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely. Garnish the cooled cake as desired with the rest of the chopped pecans and/or cinnamon sticks.
The best way to enjoy this cinnamon swirl coffee cake? You guessed it, alongside your coffee (or tea)! If you want to go all out you can even add a dollop of whipped cream. But honestly, this cake is already so good, it doesn’t need any additions. Try it and see for yourself. Happy baking!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.