Coffee Cake Muffins

coffee cake

My grandmother’s coffee cake was iconic, a symbol of her vigilant hospitality. Nannie never failed to have a sweet treat available, fresh from the oven, any time of day. She would bake, not just because she loved to bake, but just in case a friend, a grandchild, or one of her sisters just happened to stop by. Like a boy scout, she was always prepared! And more often than not, it was her famed sour cream coffee cake that sat, cooling, on her kitchen counter.

I loved sitting at Nannie’s sunny kitchen table, my legs sticking to her white vinyl chairs as I sipped instant French vanilla cafe coffee and munched on cake.   Nannie usually served coffee cake as an afternoon treat; a little something to nibble while socializing with the ladies, an afterschool snack or a bribe for a juicy tidbit of good gossip.

sour cream coffee cake

But I haven’t made coffee cake in years.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that I don’t actually own a bunt pan, how often am I free midafternoon for a coffee and cake break anyway?  When was the last time I sat down at 4:00 p.m. to enjoy a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and a bit of gossip?  I just put “invite girlfriends over for coffee and cake” on my to-do list, but the reality is that most of my mid-afternoon snacks are a granola bars scarfed down at my desk in between conference calls. 

And while coffee cake makes a lovely breakfast, the guilt associated with eating “cake” for breakfast is usually more than I can handle.  A big old slice of cake with my morning coffee doesn’t actually make for a greater sugar high than that muffin I bought yesterday morning, but it’s a mental block. So I stuck Nannie’s sour cream coffee cake batter in some muffin tins and the guilt disappeared! 

You could certainly add a cup of blueberries or a few chocolate chips to this batter.  But I like the pure, sweet simplicity of the naked cake and the texture of the nutty topping.

coffee cake muffin with nuts

Nannie’s Coffee Cake Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

21/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 cup sour cream

1 cup chopped walnuts


1 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut in cubes

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (don’t skip the sifting step, Nannie was big on sifting for a nice light crumb!) Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, add in the sour cream, and then the rest of the dry mixture.  Combine well. 

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients with your fingers, rubbing the butter until it comes together and becomes crumbly. 

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Fill each muffin cup to almost half way, then  add about a tablespoon of the topping mixture, and then add more batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Top the muffins with the remaining topping mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The nutty crumb topping looks extremely tempting!

  2. sounds great—do you think i could substitute xylitol and/or agave for cane sugar? have you tried it with any other flours??

    • I have used honey in the topping mixture and it works great – so I think agave would work well there too. A while back I tried using half whole wheat and half white flour, and that came out fantastic – a bit more hearty (although slightly less pretty). But as for agave or xylitol in the actual batter, I have never tried anything but cane sugar. It is certainly worth a shot! It will change the texture of the crumb no matter what you do. I haven’t cooked much with xylitol, but if using agave I’d use less than the sugar in the recipe, maybe start with half and see what happens? If you try it let me know!

  3. Yum, yum, yum! I love coffee cake SO much – and making them in muffin form is perfect. I’d love these warm, slathered with butter. 🙂

  4. I haven’t made coffee cake in a long time, too. Due to, you know, ass expansion. But these are mighty tempting, I must admit.

  5. Great looking muffins. I love how moist they look. The texture is wonderful.

  6. Coffee cake anything has my mouth watering. Looks so good.

  7. yummmmmmmmmmm

  8. Great idea to make muffins from the recipe. I haven’t made coffee cake in ages either. Gotta love recipes from grandmothers!

  9. Mmmm, this reminds me of my mom’s coffee cake. She, too, always had baked goods on hand. I love the thought of afternoon coffee and cake with a friend…will have to work on that!

  10. This is fantastic – nothing like the flavor of these muffins. Yum yum with a cup of coffee.

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  11. This looks absolutely delectable. Thanks for sharing!

  12. What a sweet blog post. Such lovely memories, and delicious muffins!

  13. You have many great recipes on your blog. Very well setup and a great presentation.

  14. […] for breakfast. It’s my dream. Which is why I adore my grandmother’s sour cream coffee cake in muffin form – anything in a muffin tin qualifies as breakfast, […]

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