I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– I’m not a breakfast food person. But when I saw this recipe, it went to the top of my “to cook” list. (I also really needed cake that day.) I knew that I would end up eating this as dessert and not as breakfast, but it didn’t matter. Plus, it was more appropriate than chocolate cake as a breakfast dessert after my obligatory fruit and cereal.
However, I decided I’d still sell it how it was meant to be sold: breakfast food. So the next time you are expecting overnight guests or this weekend when you want something special to go with the magical coffee brewing in the fridge, whip up this cream cheese coffee cake. It is great, and it can easily be used again for dessert later in the day if you don’t have time to make any other baked goods for your guests or to satisfy your own sweet craving.
This coffee cake is good, really, really good. Everything goes together perfectly– the crunchy and lemony sweet almond topping creates a nice contrast to the delicious tangy cream cheese filling, which compliments the light vanilla cake surrounding it. It’s also huge, baked in a tube pan, so it’s great for a crowd.
I had only one qualm–my cake had some air pockets in the cream cheese layer, but I think it was mainly due to my hesitance to batter-filled drop the pan on the counter. To avoid air pockets, you need to tap the pan against the countertop. America’s Test Kitchen says to tap the pan a couple of times, but I think that you actually may need to plunk it down several times. This is really only an appearance thing, though, and doesn’t affect the taste of the coffee cake at all. So even if you end up with some air pockets like I did, I guarantee that you will still love the cake.
Cream cheese coffee cake
makes one 10-inch cake, about 12 servings
Notes: I do not have a ⅛ teaspoon measure. I estimate using ¼ teaspoon, and it has always worked out for me.
Just to clarify, you need a total of 3 lemons for this recipe.
This cake needs to be refrigerated. Remove it from the fridge 30 minutes prior to serving for optimal taste.
Lemon sugar almond topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon
½ cup sliced almonds
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ⅛ teaspoons baking powder
1 ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cold (not softened in microwave)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
zest from two lemons
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups sour cream
Cream cheese filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
1. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and lemon zest until combined and the sugar is moistened. Add almonds and stir. Set aside for later.
2. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat (3) together butter 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 20 seconds, and scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add 4 tablespoons vanilla and mix into the batter.
5. Changing your mixing speed to low (1). Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with sour cream and ending with the flour mixture (so add the flour in three batches and the sour cream in two batches), mixing after each addition to until thoroughly combined. Remove bowl from the mixture and fold in any remaining flour.
6. Reserve 2 cups batter and set aside. Transfer remaining batter to the tube pan, and gently shake the pan from side to side, while still on the countertop, to even out. Smooth top with a spatula.
7. Return the now-empty mixing bowl to the mixer. Mix (2) together cream cheese, 5 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla and lemon juice until smooth and lightened, about one minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved batter to the cream cheese mixture, and mix for another minute, until the batter is incorporated.
8. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the batter in the tube pan, careful to keep the filling one inch from the edge of the pan. Smooth the top, and spoon the remaining cake batter over cream cheese filling. Smooth the top again.
9. Firmly (and pretty strongly) tap the pan on a countertop to remove any air pockets, tapping the pan about 5 times.
10. Sprinkle lemon-almond topping evenly over the cake, and press down gently to make it stick.
11. Bake cake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until light golden and a tester comes up clean (there will some dampness from the cream cheese filling). Cool cake on a wire rack for one hour, and then gently invert the cake to remove it from the tube pan. Turn the cake sugar side up, and continue to cool on the rack. Cool to room temperature, and then serve.