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Coffee Cake Muffins

These coffee cake muffins made with yogurt are a fast and easy take on traditional coffee cake . Ready in a fraction of the time, they are a sweet treat paired with coffee or tea for breakfast, brunch, or snack.

What makes coffee cake a coffee cake?

Coffee cake gets its name, not from having coffee in the cake, but because it is traditionally served with coffee either with breakfast or as a snack or break food.  It’s different from regular cake in that it isn’t frosted and usually has some form of a streusel topping.  Sometimes you will see them drizzled with a glaze but that depends on the variety.

Historically, many different countries helped to influence the modern day coffee cake.  Coffee became popular in Europe sometime in the 1600s and many of the countries throughout developed a bread or pastry to pair with it. The sweet pastry served as a contrast to the bitter coffee.

Coffee cake arrived in America in the late 1800s most likely with German immigrants. Gugelhopf is a popular German cake that looks like a tall bundt cake. Although it originated amongst the poor community, being a simple, relatively inexpensive cake that is easy to make, it became popular with all demographics.  

After making its way to America, German immigrants began adding sour cream or yogurt which adds additional moisture and helps to activate the baking soda which is often used as leavening. Dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate chunks have all been popular additions to coffee cake.

What is the difference between crumble and streusel?

Usually, a crumble topping is made with butter, flour, and sugar.  These three ingredients are mixed together to make a sand like mixture that when baked leaves crispy little pieces on top of a baked good.

A streusel topping typically is made with butter, flour, sugar, and oats which results in a chunkier crunchy topping that always reminds me of a slightly chewy granola. 

Both are delightful although I have found that crumble toppings pair better with simple baked goods liked muffins and cakes while streusel toppings do well with baked goods like pies and cheesecakes.  Mainly it is a matter of personal preference.

Ingredients

Pantry staples

  • Brown sugar
  • All purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil

Shopping list

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla Greek yogurt

Substitutions

You can swap the Greek yogurt for sour cream for sour cream coffee cake muffins.

For swaps for the buttermilk, see the top tips section below.

Top Tips

Why use buttermilk?

The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and acts as a raising agent. You cannot directly swap milk for buttermilk because the cornbread will not rise properly without the chemical reaction that occurs between the baking soda and the buttermilk.

If you don’t have buttermilk you can do a couple different things:

  • You can swap out buttermilk for regular milk or any lactose-free options by adding 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to the white vinegar to make 1 cup. Stir and let sit for a couple minutes to let the vinegar react with the milk.
  • If you have no vinegar, then use regular milk and increase the baking powder to 1 Tablespoon.
  • Another option is to use sour cream or yogurt and a little bit of milk. For each cup of milk, use 3/4 cup sour cream/yogurt and 1/4 cup milk. Whisk to combine before using.

How do you avoid tough muffins?

The biggest key to avoiding a tough muffin is to avoid over mixing the dough.  Over mixing the dough starts the gluten creation process. Gluten development is key in giving doughs, such as yeasted doughs, the structure to rise.  However, in a quick dough, gluten development results in a tough and dense cake. 

So, mix just until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together. If you see little pieces of dry mix that have not fully incorporated, that is okay.

How do you get the best rise from your muffins?

There are several tricks to getting a good rise from your muffins.  One of the easiest factors to control is the temperature of your ingredients.  Room temperature ingredients will result in the best rise. 

Take out any refrigerated ingredients like eggs, buttermilk, and yogurt out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you are ready to begin making the muffins.  Measure out your ingredients and leave them out in small bowls or measuring cups. 

A good rise also comes from mixing the dough and baking it right away as the buttermilk and baking soda begin to react as soon as they are mixed. Make sure that you have preheated your oven and prepped your muffin pan before making the batter.

Other variations you can make

For a blueberry coffee cake variation, add 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the flour mixture and toss to coat.  Then add the milk mixture. You can also use other fresh berries like raspberries or blackberries.

Another variation to try is chocolate chunk coffee cake muffins.  To make these add about 3/4 cup of chocolate chunks or semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. Butterscotch or peanut butter chips would also be delicious.

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Recipe

baked coffee cake muffins in paper liners in a muffin tin

Coffee Cake Muffins

These coffee cake muffins are the perfect pairing to a cup of coffee or tea. They also make a delicious on the go breakfast option.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 muffins
Author: Jade Jones

Ingredients

For the Crumb Layer

  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons butter softened

For the Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Instructions

For the Crumb Layer

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl using a pastry blender or your fingertips until they have the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until ready to use.

For the Muffins

  • Preheat the oven to 375F and line or grease 10 cups in a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Briefly stir together to combine the dry ingredients.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, egg, vanilla, vegetable oil, and buttermilk. Whisk until combined.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix until the ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix!
  • Pour the batter into the muffin tins until they are ¼ full- this should use about half of the batter.
  • Divide half of the crumb layer between the 10 muffin cups. Divide the remaining half of the batter between the muffin cups and top with the remaining crumb topping.
  • Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Notes

Other variations:
You can swap the Greek yogurt for sour cream for sour cream coffee cake muffins.
For a blueberry coffee cake variation, add 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Then add the milk mixture. You can also use other fresh berries like raspberries or blackberries.
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