Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Streusel Topping


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photo by @rachelgurjar

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Have you ever had a job interview where the potential employer asks what your greatest strengths and weaknesses are? My answer to both is streusel. Particularly this brown butter rendition. It’s a strength because, frankly, it’s fliipin’ tasty and makes pretty much everything you add it to delicious. It’s a weakness because I JUST CAN”T STOP EATING IT.  I’m 100% guilty of picking the plumpest bits of streusel off the top of the cake before slicing it, and nibbling on the crumbs as they “fall” (i.e. I shake them loose…) off the top. So, am I hired?!

My grandmother made one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had. It was comprised of approximately 80% streusel, which is a pretty boss move. She was a woman ahead of her time BUT if I’m being honest, the cake itself was always a little dry once you got through the top 3 inches of streusel. I refreshed her classic recipe by adding a little sour cream to the batter; my favorite way to ensure a springy crumb. I cut back on the streusel just a touch but made sure to make it a little *extra* by browning the butter that serves as the base first. The end result? Buttery, nutty, brown-sugary and irresistible. 

Make this cake for breakfast, brunch or dessert and everything in between. Have apples on your hands? Dice a few up and toss them in.  Want to add blueberries? Go for it! Got some fresh tart cranberries laying around? Go nuts! This cake is a blank buttery canvas, Carpe Diem!


Recipe and Headnote Molly Adams

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  • Recipe Card
Prep time 20mins
Cook time 45mins
Serves or Makes: 16

Recipe Card

For the Topping and Filling


For the Cake



  • Step 1

    To make the topping, brown one stick of butter by placing it in a small saucepan and heating it over medium heat until melted. Once butter has melted, it will begin to foam. Move the pan around a bit to keep it from burning, and allow it to cook until foaming stops and brown bits form on the bottom of the pan and it smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a metal bowl and let cool for about 30 minutes, or until room temperature.

  • Step 2

    Once cool, add the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract and stir until well combined. The mixture should look like clump wet sand. Set aside while you make the cake.

  • Step 3

    Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9 by 9 inch pan with parchment paper, then brush with butter. Set aside.

  • Step 4

    In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda together. Set aside.

  • Step 5

    To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the remaining room temperature butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Cream together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

  • Step 6

    Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture, then add sour cream and vanilla extract. Beat until just combined, then add remaining flour and fold in by hand, stopping as soon as steaks of flour have dissolved. Do not overmix.

  • Step 7

    Add half of the cake batter to the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Top with half of the brown butter streusel. Dollop the remaining cake batter on top of the filling, and smooth into an even layer. Finish with remaining streusel.

  • Step 8

    Place in the oven to bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

  • Step 9

    Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.