If you’re a fan of apple cider, you’re going to love this coffee cake!
Do you have a favorite fall ingredient? Mine has got to be apple cider. I love cider for its tart, refreshing, and crisp flavor. Plus, it’s super versatile. You can drink it cold, or simmer it with spices for a warm mulled cider!
I’m also a really big fan of coffee cake. The classic coffee cake features a vanilla-scented cake paired with a crunchy streusel topping — such a great textural combination. So, as a fan of both apple cider and coffee cake, I thought…why not combine the two?
What’s different about this coffee cake recipe?
I am super, super excited to share this apple cider coffee cake recipe with you all! Let me walk through all the lovely textures and flavors here:
- A fluffy, moist cake layer similar to a traditional coffee cake forms the base of this dessert. To really bring out the fall flavors, the batter includes apple cider, cinnamon, and plenty of vanilla.
- Tart granny smith apples are folded into the cake batter (or layered on top) for even more apple flavor.
- A layer of crunchy streusel topping full of cinnamon and brown sugar gives you that quintessential coffee cake texture.
- A drizzle of tart apple cider glaze (more on that later!) yields a sticky, jam-like topping and balances out the sweetness of the cake.
The apple cider glaze is a fun and unique addition to the coffee cake. The cake itself is sweet, but not overly sugary so it serves as a great breakfast or snack during the day. For dessert, it pairs really well with salted caramel ice cream or vanilla ice cream.
Does coffee cake actually have coffee in it?
Though there are many variations across the globe, coffee cake in the United States does not contain coffee. I know. The name is super confusing! Instead, coffee cake is a sweet cake often consumed with tea or coffee. The bitterness of coffee balances the sweet, fluffy cake, hence the favored combination.
Where did American coffee cake originate?
It’s not 100% clear where American coffee cake originated, but one theory is that it came from Northern and Central Europeans who popularized the concept of pairing cake with coffee. Later, German and Scandinavian immigrants who came to the US introduced various sweet cakes to other Americans. Over time, the cakes morphed into what we know today as coffee cake.
Though many different variations of this dessert exist, there are some common ingredients. Sour cream is often used in the batter, which adds a moist texture, balances the sweetness of the cake, and activates baking soda. Additionally, coffee cakes usually have a crunchy streusel topping made from butter, flour, and sugar. Some even include an additional powdered sugar glaze on top.
What role does apple cider play in this dessert?
Apple cider is used in a few different ways in this recipe to really bring out a tart apple flavor.
- First, I reduce apple cider on the stove.
- Once the apple cider has been reduced, I remove some of it to cool and add it to the cake batter. When researching other apple cider cakes, I noticed this was a widespread technique. The reduced cider tastes much more concentrated and flavorful.
- Next, we continue reducing the remaining cider until it is thickened and syrupy (props to King Arthur Flour for the boiled cider syrup idea). Once cooled, the syrupy liquid solidifies into the texture of thick honey.
- I then coat the apples with some of the cider syrup before baking.
- Finally, I re-warm the thickened cider in the microwave until it’s glossy and syrupy, similar to a glaze, and drizzle that on top of the baked cake.
Trust me, this cider glaze is totally worth it! It’s also a great way to use up leftover apple cider. If you have the time, you can even make a double batch of it for drizzling on ice cream, waffles, or pancakes.
How do I remove any burnt, stuck-on sugar from reducing the apple cider?
As with cooking caramel, reducing apple cider can sometimes cause sugary residue to stick to your pot. To prevent this from happening, stir frequently and scrape the sides down.
There are a couple of ways to clean the pot for any remaining residue. The easiest way is to fill the emptied pot with water, then bring it to a boil. The heat should melt the sugar, after which you can use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits from the sides and bottom of the pot. Once you’ve scraped off everything possible, you can pour out the water and sugary bits and use a sponge to scrub any remaining bits off.
If you’re still having issues, this next solution has yet to fail for me. Fill your pot with water (ensure enough water to submerge any caked-on bits). Add 1/2 inch hydrogen peroxide and a couple of tablespoons of baking soda. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle, then scrub the pot with a sponge.
Honestly, I am getting hungry just thinking about this cake, so let’s get to the key ingredients.
For the cake:
- Apple cider: We talked pretty extensively about how the apple cider will be used already. But I do want to make sure we address any questions on what apple cider is and how to purchase it. Apple cider is an unfiltered, non-alcoholic (we don’t want hard cider!), and unsweetened juice extracted from apples. In New England, you can find it at most supermarkets and specialty grocery stores in the fall starting in September.
- Brown sugar: I use both white sugar and brown sugar in the cake, but I wanted to specifically call out brown sugar because its molasses-like flavor and moist texture adds so much more flavor to the cake than granulated white sugar alone.
- Cinnamon: A healthy dose of cinnamon in both the cake (and the streusel) pairs really well with the apple flavors and adds a nice warmth and coziness here. I call for 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, but if you’d like, you could definitely sub in other spices. I recommend adding 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of a mix of other spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, and ground cardamom (do not use more than 1/8 teaspoon of cloves or nutmeg, as they are quite potent).
- Unsalted butter: Unsalted butter needs to be at room temperature to cream properly. To quickly bring butter to room temperature, I recommend taking the butter out first before starting any of the other components of the recipe. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces, then spread out evenly on a plate. If the butter is still not soft once you’re ready to start the cake batter, you can microwave it in 5-second increments until softened.
- Sour cream: A classic in coffee cake, sour cream helps bring a nice tang and moisture to this dessert. I recommend using full-fat here.
- Apples: I call for 1 cup of sliced Granny Smith apples (which is generally equivalent to 1 medium-sized apple).
For the streusel topping:
- Melted butter: I tested this recipe with both cold butter and melted butter in the streusel topping and I found the melted butter had a better crumb texture.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar adds a nice depth of flavor to the streusel.
- Flour: Flour is necessary for that classic streusel texture. I call for all-purpose flour, though I have heard that wheat flour can add a delicious nuttiness.
How to prevent dry coffee cake
I’ve tested this recipe several times to make sure it comes out moist and remains moist, even after a couple of days. That being said, dry coffee cake can still happen for a few reasons:
- You baked it too long. If a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs), it’s done.
- You over-mixed it. Turn the mixer off once the flour is just barely incorporated into the batter and use a spatula to fold any remaining bits of flour by hand.
How to make this apple cider coffee cake
I’ve created a video below to walk through the recipe process.
Here’s how to make this coffee cake.
- Reduce the cider
Place 4 cups apple cider in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and reduce until you have 2 cups left. Remove 1/2 cup of the reduced cider and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, continue reducing the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cider until the mixture is thickened, syrupy, and coats the back of a spoon, similar to the texture of warm honey. You should have about 1/4 cup syrup. Keep in mind it will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove from the pot and set aside to cool.
- Mix the dry ingredients
Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Make the streusel
Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and kosher salt in a bowl until combined. Pour in melted butter then mix together with your hands until the dry ingredients are fully moistened and broken into small clumps.
- Cream the butter and sugar
Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
- Finish the cake batter
Add in the rest of the dry and wet ingredients into the cake. When adding the flour, make sure not to over-mix.
- Layer the cake
There are two potential variations (both delicious!) that you can choose from with this cake. These variations do not change any of the method steps except for the end layering process.
Defined layers: I recommend this first option if you want defined layers of cake, apple, and streusel. Here, you layer the cake batter, smoothing it out with an offset spatula. Then, evenly layer the apples all over the top. Finally, top the cake with the streusel in an even layer. With this method, the only potential downside is that the streusel layer becomes slightly soggy/less crunchy after the first day. The benefit is that you can taste slightly more apple flavor.
Apples folded into batter: With the second option, instead of having a separate layer for the apples, you simply fold them into the batter. Here, there’s really only two layers: the batter with the apples and the crumble on top.
- Bake, cool, and glaze
Bake the coffee cake until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes back clean (or has just a few crumbs) and the streusel topping no longer feels wet, about 30 to 35 minutes. The streusel topping will continue to firm up and harder after removed from the oven, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look super crunchy yet.
Drizzle the warm cake with remaining apple cider glaze, then cool completely before slicing and serving.
- For a more apple-forward cake, increase the amount of sliced apples to 1 1/2 cups.
- For a nuttier flavor, brown the butter in both the batter and the streusel topping. For the batter, make sure to cool the butter until it is room temperature with a softened texture (like normal room temperature butter) before using.
Leftover coffee cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days or up to 5 days in the fridge.
If you’re making the coffee cake ahead of time, I recommend drizzling the apple cider glaze right before serving to prevent it from getting soggy.
Mutsu are a great substitute for granny smith, as they’re also quite tangy in flavor. You can also use golden delicious.
Yep! Greek yogurt or skyr is a great substitute here. Feel free to substitute 1:1.
Actually, the two cakes are very similar. The main difference is that crumb cake has significantly more, well, crumb (usually double the amount). The resulting crumb layer is larger and sometimes crunchier, too. If you wanted to, you could turn this into a crumb cake by doubling the streusel topping.
Unfortunately, you will need a hand mixer or stand mixer for this cake. Otherwise, it will be quite difficult to cream the butter and sugar.
A metal 8-inch by 8-inch square baking pan works best here. I swear by this USA Pan (not sponsored, just love it!). I haven’t tried this recipe with a glass baking pan, but I would recommend lowering the temperature to 325°F / 163°C and checking the cake after 20 minutes.
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Apple Cider Coffee Cake Recipe
- 1 8-inch x 8-inch square baking pan (a metal baking pan works best here)
- 1 Stand Mixer (an electric hand mixer works, too)
- 32 fluid ounces apple cider, 1 quart (4 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon diamond-crystal kosher salt (plus more for seasoning), use 1/4 teaspoon if using any other brand of salt
- 188 grams all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 170 grams unsalted butter, approximately 3/4 cup, room temperature
- 50 grams granulated white sugar, 1/4 cup
- 53 grams dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup
- 1 large egg, 57g, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 60 grams full-fat sour cream, 1/4 cup, chilled or at room temperature
- 62 grams all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup
- 106 grams dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon diamond-crystal kosher salt, use 1/8 teaspoon if using any other brand of salt
- 57 grams unsalted butter, 1/4 cup, melted and then cooled slightly
- 1 cup peeled and sliced apples, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces with 1/8-inch thickness
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- Set a rack in the bottom-third of the oven and preheat to 350 °FSpray an 8-inch by 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (or grease with butter), then line with parchment paper so that at least two of the sides leave an overhang (this will make the cake easier to remove). Set aside.
Reduce the apple cider
- Add the apple cider to a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to 2 cups. Use a flexible heat-proof spatula to occasionally stir and scrape any residue from the sides. Note: Be careful when pouring the hot liquid into a measuring cup to check if it's reduced enough. I usually remove the pot from the stove and wait until it cools down slightly (about 30 seconds to a minute, or until the mixture is no longer spurting out bubbles) before carefully pouring it into the measuring cup.32 fluid ounces apple cider
- Once the liquid has reduced, remove 1/2 cup from the pot. Cool until lukewarm, but not hot. Whisk in the sour cream and set aside.60 grams full-fat sour cream
- Make the apple cider glaze: Meanwhile, continue simmering the rest of the apple cider until it reduces to about 1/4 cup and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
- Make the streusel: Mix all streusel ingredients except butter. Pour in the melted butter and smush with your hands until the streusel feels moist throughout and small crumbs form. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.57 grams unsalted butter, 62 grams all-purpose flour, 106 grams dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon diamond-crystal kosher salt
Prep the apples
- Mix 1 teaspoon flour and 1 tablespoon of the apple cider glaze in a small bowl. Toss to coat with the apples. If the glaze feels very thick and difficult to work with, you can reheat it in the microwave for about 10 seconds to loosen it up.1 cup peeled and sliced apples, 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Make the cake
- Mix the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine salt, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.1/2 teaspoon diamond-crystal kosher salt (plus more for seasoning), 188 grams all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Cream the butter and sugars: In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, add butter and sugars. Mix on medium speed until light, fluffy, and doubled in size, about 4 to 5 minutes.170 grams unsalted butter, 50 grams granulated white sugar, 53 grams dark brown sugar
- Reduce speed to low, then add egg and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until whipped and fluffy. The mixture will appear to curdle, but just keep mixing it, it should smooth out.1 large egg, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- On low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the apple cider/sour cream mixture until everything is just barely combined. Turn the mixer off, then use a spatula to stir in any remaining dry bits.60 grams full-fat sour cream
Layer the cake
- There are two potential variations (both delicious!) that you can choose from with this cake. Defined layers: I recommend this first option if you want defined layers of cake, apple, and streusel. With this method, the only potential downside is that the streusel layer becomes slightly soggy/less crunchy after the first day. The benefit is that you can taste slightly more apple flavor.Method: Transfer the batter to the baking pan, and use an offset spatula to smooth the batter in an even layer. Evenly layer the apples all over the top. Finally, top the cake with the streusel in an even layer. Apples folded into batter: With the second option, instead of having a separate layer for the apples, you simply fold them into the batter. Method: Fold apples into the batter, then transfer batter to the baking pan. Use an offset spatula to smooth batter in an even layer. Finally, top the cake with the streusel in an even layer.
- Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs). Remove from the heat.
- Immediately drizzle 2 tablespoons of the glaze all over the top. Cool cake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the baking pan and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Note: If the glaze feels very thick and difficult to work with, you can reheat it in the microwave for about 10 seconds to loosen it up.