Classic Coffee Cake

classic coffee cakeRemember when people actually visited one another, instead of just interacting online? When they put on nice clothes and went to the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor with the sole purpose of simply spending time with them, catching up, maybe playing a card game or just enjoying a cup of coffee together? This practice may be long gone, but I surely hope it makes a comeback someday.

Whenever I think of such visits, I think of coffee cake, the go-to treat that a savvy hostess would have either already have on hand in case someone stopped by or could whip up at a moment’s notice. I imagine that my grandmothers would have had recipes for coffee cake, though I honestly can’t recall either of them actually baking one.

This coffee cake is a slight adaptation from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook buttermilk coffee cake recipe; I adjusted the spices and added some drizzle icing for a sincerely delicious treat. This coffee cake went into the office with me earlier in the week and was devoured within about 24 hours. It has a wonderful texture, just crumbly enough but not too crumbly; you could use walnuts instead of pecans if you like, but being a pecan fan, they’re my preferred baked-good nut and are a great match for the cinnamon and nutmeg in this cake.


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 2/3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or sour milk, see note below)
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoons water

Note: if you don’t have buttermilk, you can make sour milk and substitute it for the same amount of buttermilk that you need. For each cup of sour milk needed, place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 cup total of liquid. Stir together and then let stand for 5 minutes before using.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 13 x 9 pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt; add butter and rub in with your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup of crumb mixture and combine it with chopped pecans for topping.

Stir in baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine buttermilk and beaten eggs, then add to the dry mixture all at once and stir until well-combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with crumb/pecan mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before drizzling, or simply serve warm, right out of the oven, without drizzle.

To make drizzle, place powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl and stir together. Add water, a small amount at a time, to make a drizzly consistency; you may need to add more water, then a bit more powdered sugar, to get the consistency you’d like.

Drizzle over cooled cake and allow to set for about 15 minutes before serving.


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