Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: A Completely Un-Photogenic but Unbelievably Delicious Coffee Cake

Do you guys remember that coffee cake that your mom used to make for you for breakfast or for lunch box snacks?  The one that was tender and wonderful and had little pockets of cinnamon-y brown sugar dotting the top and buried down inside of it?  Well, that's the one I decided to make a couple of weeks ago.  As the saga of Finding Things To Do With Self-Rising Flour continued, I thought that coffee cake would be a perfect way to use up a bunch of it.

I searched for the recipe just as "sour cream coffee cake."  I knew that I'd recognize that Mom Kind when I saw it.  And don't ask me why I didn't just call my mom.  I just wasn't thinking about it, okay?  Anyway, it's listed under all sorts of Aliases, usually with the words sour cream and brown sugar worked in.  But the one I settled on, from our friends at (whose recipes run the gamut from incredible to terrifying, so please tread carefully there, people) was a little number called Amazing Pecan Coffee Cake.  The ingredient list seemed about right, and the picture reminded me of childhood.
coffee cake
I messed around with the recipe a bit, subbed 2 cups of my bottomless-bag-o'self-rising flour for the flour/salt/leavening and added a couple of Items that The Beloved had bought for me as Christmas Treats.  He got them from the King Arthur people, who sometimes I love and other times Annoy Me.  But right now, I'm digging them, because they make orange oil (which is lovely), lemon oil (which is okay but a little furniture polish-y) and espresso powder (which is amazing even though it is ridiculously expensive at $7 for 2 ounces). And those are the items that he bought me.  Thank you, Beloved, for buying ridiculously expensive espresso powder so I didn't have to feel guilty about it. Yay.

I chose not to use the furniture polish, but decided that putting espresso powder in a coffee cake just made sense.  And then, I also decided that orange and coffee is a Tasty Combination, so I went with just a bit of the oil and some orange zest.  And that is how I took my childhood lunch box favorite and gussied it up.  And, I must say, it is probably the best coffee cake I've ever had.  It is extremely moist, extremely tender, not too sweet and just perfect.  If you like coffee and orange, that is.  Which I do.  Yay, me.  and yay, you, too.  You know, because you can make some too.
coffee cake
The one down side of this Baked Delight is that it is slightly un-photogenic.  Bless its heart, it's hard to look pretty when you've got espresso powder mixed into you.  But please don't let his humble, rustic looks fool you.  He is sophisticated and quite wonderful.

Orange-Espresso Coffee Cake
For the cake part

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temp
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • three or four drops orange oil (not extract)
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 cups self-rising flour

For the topping part

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3-4 drops orange oil
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • You can put nuts in yours.  I didn't.  Your choice.

Combine all topping ingredients until crumbly.

Cream the butter until nice and smooth.  Add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Scrape bowl as necessary.

Beat in the orange oil, zest, vanilla and espresso powder.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the sour cream.

Fold in the self-rising flour.

Spread in a greased or parchment-lined 9x13" pan, sprinkle on the topping, and bake at 350F until done.  I think it took my oven about 45 minutes, which is longer than I thought it should take, but subbing the self-rising flour probably changes the pH and makes it take longer to set up.

I just left it in the pan and served it from there, but you can turn yours out, if you want.

Please try this.  If you are a coffee/orange/cinnamon person, you will be in Heaven.  Enjoy!


  1. says

    Coffee cakes are some of the most fun recipes to play around with. We used to make a fantastic lemon-poppyseed one at one of the bakeries where I worked back in the states. One time I doctored it up to make an orange-hazelnut coffee cake. And I was not wrong. Which is to say, I love orange coffee cake, too!

  2. says

    Sounds scrumptious….But what I’m really here to tell you is that I finally made your Breakfast to Dinner bread——Oh my! Deelicious! Having a slice toasted right now as a late night snack. Hmmmm!


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