Literal Coffee Cake




Introduction: Literal Coffee Cake

About: I make things in my free time!

I remember when I was younger, when I heard that someone bought coffee cake I would rush to the kitchen only to find a sugar bomb on the counter. Growing up with the illusion that coffee cake was literally a coffee flavored cake, this recipe was finally the way I was able to achieve that falsified cake dream. This cake is super easy to make (I can usually just make it on a whim when I have a craving), doesn't need any fancy ingredients, and also looks super cute if you bake it in cups!

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Step 1: What You Will Need


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 cups sugar
    • When I first made this cake, I used two cups. Although this amount of sugar works, I prefer less sweetness and have been cutting the sugar. The recipe still works with varied amounts, but if you're not sure how sweet you want the cake go for 1 1/2 cups.
  • 3/4 cups natural cocoa powder (more on this later)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    • If you don't have any and don't feel like buying any, you can make if yourself with:
    • 1 cup milk
    • 4 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coffee (can be made however you want-- drip, instant, etc)
  • Whipped cream (optional)
    • If you want to make the whipped cream yourself (highly recommended), these amounts are approximate as the sugar and vanilla ratios aren't really crucial and are more of a "to taste" amount.
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or confectioner's, if you prefer)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • Baking pan (I used an 8 inch square pan), or 8 oven safe cups
    • You can also use cupcake tins if you want some conventional cupcakes instead :)
  • 2 Mixing bowls
  • Rubber spatula and Whisk
  • Measuring cups
  • Parchment Paper (and/or nonstick method of your choice, ie butter, spray, etc)
  • Electric Mixer (For whipped cream only, although can be used on cake if you want)

Step 2: Making the Buttermilk

If you don't have any buttermilk, never fear! You can easily make it at home. I would suggest making the buttermilk before mixing the dry ingredients, so it has time to curdle. This is also a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Squeeze the lemon, adding 4 teaspoons of the lemon juice (or the vinegar) to one cup milk. Although the recipe calls for 1 cup buttermilk, you're actually making 1 cup and 4 teaspoons homemade buttermilk... this works out fine for me, but if you're someone who is very particular with measurements in baking, add the 4 teaspoons to the measuring cup first, then add the milk until it reaches one cup.

Mix and allow to curdle.

Step 3: Mix Dry Ingredients

Using the sifter or sieve, sift the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt) together in one of the mixing bowls. If your mixing bowls are two different sizes, use the larger one for this. Whisk all the dry ingredients together to get a nice uniform mixture.

A Note About the Cocoa Powder:

In this recipe natural cocoa powder is used. I've tried using dutch processed cocoa in this recipe before, however it didn't rise very much and had a sad, bitter taste :( This is likely due to the different acidity dutch processed has and how it affects the pH with the other leavening ingredients. Although I don't really like it, if a bitter and really dense cake is your cup of coffee (haha) then go ahead and try using dutch processed cocoa (though it should probably be after making one with the natural cocoa and seeing how that one tastes). If you're unsure what kind of cocoa you have, if it doesn't straight up say "dutch processed" then it's likely natural cocoa, as it is the more common of the two.

On a side note, for this step I recommend measuring and adding the cocoa last, as it sticks all over your measuring cups. If you're like me and measure things out by scooping, you wouldn't really want a bunch of cocoa powder chilling in the flour bag.

Step 4: Wet Ingredients

Add the wet ingredients (now curdled buttermilk, veggie oil, eggs, vanilla) but not the coffee to the other bowl, whisking together.

Step 5: Mix It Up

Taking your wet ingredients, slowly pour into the dry ingredients bowl while whisking. Since the coffee hasn't been added yet, the mixture will be pretty thick. I like to use some elbow grease and continue with my whisk by hand, but if you ever so wish you could also use an electric mixer. Use the rubber spatula to scrape the bottoms until everything is fully incorporated.

Step 6: Shot of Caffeine

Now's the time to add the coffee! Continue to whisk while gradually pouring the coffee in. It'll look kind of gross at first, since you're adding a liquid directly to an already mixed batter, but eventually you'll end up with a nice glossy batter. It helps to use the rubber spatula to fold in the coffee into the batter.

Step 7: Preparing the Pan

For the pan, I prefer to line it with parchment paper rather than using any grease or nonstick sprays. I find that the cake is a lot easier to pull out this way, and I can just trim the paper when placing the cake on a plate. If you use parchment paper, cut the corners so they don't leave wrinkles on the cake's sides or fold in a way the paper lies flat against the sides of the pan. I like to leave a little bit of paper sticking above the pan's edges so the cake can be pulled out of the pan. Crease the edges of the parchment paper along the edges of the pan. It's fine it the paper sticks up since the batter will weigh it down.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tapping it on the table a few times to remove air bubbles

Step 8: Bake!

Place the pan into the preheated oven (refer to step 2 if you forgot to! 350 degrees), on the middle or upper rack. Bake for 35-40 minutes, checking with a toothpick. It should come out with a couple crumbs. When you first check your cake, try shaking it a little first. If you see the top of the cake jiggle like jello, it needs at least ten more minutes before going about the toothpick test.

Step 9: Cupcake Variation: Preparing the Cups

If you want to make your cake look like a real cup of joe, try baking them in some ceramic cups! Make sure that the cups you are using are oven safe by checking the bottoms. If there is no indication of "bake safe", you may not want to risk it. Although I already had bake safe cups at my house, try to look for some in a thrift shop-- cups usually cost less than a dollar there and there's no emotional attachment. Just remember to use safety precautions if you're not sure the cups you're baking are actually bake safe-- at most they'll likely just crack, but still protect your eyes and body when opening the oven door.

For the cups, I oiled down the sides using paper towel. It's not as crucial to prevent the cake from sticking to the cup here, as they're eaten from the cup anyway.

Fill the cup until it's about an inch or two away from the top.

Step 10: Cupcake Variation: Bake

Place the cupcakes on a baking tray and place in the oven on the top rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes, testing with a toothpick.

If you place the cupcakes like I did in the picture, two sad things may occur. The first is that the cupcakes will be very difficult to pull out of the oven as they are currently all separately balanced on the oven rack precariously... Also, if you notice the cupcake pictured it's actually on the second shelf. Although this is fine for the baking of the cake itself, since the cups are rather tall the cake will get smushed on the rack above it! I noticed this before it happened and moved the cupcake to the top rack.

Step 11: Preparing the Whipped Cream

While the (cup)cake is baking, now is a good time to prepare your whipped cream. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together until you get firm peaks.

I like to use granulated sugar because I like the flavor better (it's more subtle) than using confectioner's sugar. Keep in mind with the amount of sugar that you can use more or less depending on your cake. If you cut a lot of the sugar from the cake, you can add more to the whipped cream to act as a complement, and vise versa if you want a more subtle cream to go with a sweeter cake.

Step 12: Preparing the Cake

After pulling out the cake and letting it cool, it's time to put it all together! When you want to eat the cake, spoon some whipped cream onto the cup/slice or on the side of the plate. I like to sprinkle some cocoa powder on the top as well, for a garnish.

Step 13: Enjoy!

Enjoy your literal coffee cake! No sugary-pound-cake-esque "coffee cake" here!

I found that the cupcake version is a little denser and kind of feels like a cakey brownie, while the standard cake is more of a spongy texture. Make which one your heart desires, and enjoy!

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    3 years ago

    That was an excellent description of what sounds to be an amazing recipe! Thanks for sharing.