Coffee cake
Coffee cake
TypeCake, sweet bread

Coffee cake or coffeecake is a sweet bread common in the United States, so called because it is typically served with coffee.[1][2] Leavenings can include yeast, baking soda, or baking powder.


American Coffee cake—also referred to as gugelhupf or Austrian German: kaffekuchen—evolved from other sweet dishes from Vienna.[3] In the 17th century, Northern/Central Europeans are thought to have come up with the idea of eating sweet cakes while drinking coffee.[4][5] As the region's countries were already known for their sweet yeast breads, the introduction of coffee in Europe led to the understanding that cakes were a great complement to the beverage. Immigrants from countries such as Germany and Scandinavia adjusted their recipes to their own liking and brought them to America. Though the cakes varied, they all contained ingredients such as yeast, flour, dried fruit, and sweet spices. However, over time, the coffee cake recipes have changed as cheese, sugared fruit, yogurt, soured cream, have been used, leading to a denser, more cake-like structure. In the 19th century, American cooks also used coffee as an ingredient to thriftily use up leftovers, reducing waste, and flavor the cake.[6] The invention of pasteurization in America following World War I[7] also led to the creation of a new kind of coffee cake, called sour cream coffee cake.[8] Coffee cake is referenced in literary material as early as 1850[9] with references to gugelhupf going back to 1763.[10]

The dish became common in areas with high rates of immigration from Germany. Cincinnati, Ohio, has been called the 'coffeecake capital of the world' by multiple food writers.[11][12][13]


American coffee cakes are typically presented in a single layer, flavoured with either fruit or cinnamon, and leavened with either baking soda or baking powder, which results in a more cake-like texture, or with yeast, for a more bread-like texture. They may be loaf-shaped or baked in a Bundt or tube pan. They may also feature a streusel or simple glaze topping, if any.[14] Streusel is German for "sprinkle" or "strew" and refers to the popular crumbly topping of butter, flour, sugar.[14] Sour cream is also sometimes used in traditional American coffee cakes to both add a tart flavor and activate baking soda used as a leavening agent.[8]

American coffee cakes may have originated from the concept of kaffeeklatsch[15] brought by German immigrants. Indeed, a variety of crumb cake containing flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and sometimes oats or nuts sprinkled over the coffee cake batter before it is baked,[14][16] is sometimes eaten with coffee and bears resemblance to the German Streuselkuchen.

Variations and similar dishes

See also


  1. ^ Brennan, G. (2015). Brunch: Recipes for Cozy Weekend Mornings. Weldon Owen. p. PT 83. ISBN 978-1-61628-987-4.
  2. ^ Fields, D. (2000). Debbi Fields' Great American Desserts: 100 Mouthwatering Easytoprepare Recipes. Simon & Schuster. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-7432-0205-3.
  3. ^ "The Gugelhupf. A Bite of Delight". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  4. ^ "History - National Coffee Cake Day, April 7". American Civil War Forums. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  5. ^ Olver, Lynne. "The Food Timeline: cake history notes". The Food Timeline. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  6. ^ "The Food Timeline: cake history notes". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  7. ^ "American Cakes Throughout History | The History Kitchen". PBS Food. Public Broadcasting System. 2015-07-08. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  8. ^ a b Marks, Gil (18 May 2018). "American Cakes - Sour Cream Coffeecake History & Recipe". Tori Avey. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  9. ^ The Gift. Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. 1850.
  10. ^ Die dramatische Unterhaltung unter guten Freunden. Ein Lustspiel von 1 Aufz (in German). Kurtzböck. 1763.
  11. ^ Campbell, Polly (7 April 2017). "How Cincinnati became the capital of coffeecake". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2023-11-24.
  12. ^ Fehribach, Paul (2023). Midwestern Food. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226819495.
  13. ^ Pandolfi, Keith (23 November 2023). "8 reasons why Cincinnati is the coffeecake capital of the world". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2023-11-24.
  14. ^ a b c "Coffee Questions". HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  15. ^ Jones, Evan (1993). American Food: The Gastronomic Story. Random House Value Publishing. ISBN 978-0517092651.
  16. ^ Maxespresso (April 30, 2016). "The story of coffee cake". Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  17. ^ Clarkson, Potter; Martha Stewart's Cakes' (September 24, 2013). "Recipe: Applesauce Coffee Cake". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  18. ^ Brownetone, Cecily (October 10, 1969). "Cooking Is Fun". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  19. ^ "Applesauce Coffee Cake Recipes | Food Network Canada". Food Network (Canadian TV channel). Retrieved 2019-12-02.

Further reading