Cold Comfort Coffee Cake

My go-to cold weather coffee cake is sweet, moist, rich and has maple syrup overtones, although there is none in it. It pairs beautifully with coffee or tea.

My grandmother was the queen of coffee cakes, as I wrote about in my post for my summertime Hybrid Coffee Cake with Plums (or any stone fruit). However, this recipe comes from a former colleague, Katie K. She brought it in to work one day and I begged her for the recipe. The original title was named after someone else’s grandmother, “Grandma Z’s Coffee Cake,” although I have no idea who Grandma Z is or which cookbook it came from. I searched for it online to give proper credit, but alas, it was no where to be found.

Over the years I’ve made subtle tweaks to the original by adding nuts to cut the sweetness and to give a textural contrast to the soft cake and by adding ground cardamom or cinnamon to give it extra warmth for cold mornings. Feel free to omit both if you don’t care for them. A great thing about this coffee cake is that it can be made all with your hands, per the original recipe, or all in a food processor if you have one.

Arliano Update (Aggiornamento Arliano):

Even after three days of nearly non-stop thunderstorms and pouring rain, we still have four watermelons on the vines. The nights are now cold, but in the day, we’re still getting temperatures in the 70’s(F). The seemingly ever-present butternut squash, and the maturing cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are doing well.

The potatoes and onions that I harvested over a month ago and put in our coolest, darkest space are starting to grow eyes and sprouts, so I need eat them quickly or get them back in the ground. My research on planting sprouted potatoes vs. potato “seeds” is mixed. Some experts say you can plant potatoes which have developed eyes and other sources say no. What’s the harm in trying? If any of you have such experience, please let me know.


Did you enjoy reading or making the recipe from this post? If so, please consider giving it a “like” or a comment. It would be nice to know you are out there and that my posts connect with you.

Cold Comfort Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup regular granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted COLD butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can make your own by combining 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and letting it sit for 10 minutes)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (100 g) finely chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375F (190C)
  2. Butter and flour a 9 X 13 (23 cm X 33 cm) baking pan
  3. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a food processor, if you have one), mix the flour, white and brown sugars and cardamom or cinnamon, if using. Mix thoroughly
  4. With your hands (or several pulses of a food processor) mix in the butter until it becomes slightly smaller than pea-size. Reserve 1 cup, packed, of this flour-sugar-butter mixture and set it aside. This will be your coffee cake topping
  5. With the remaining flour-sugar-butter that is in the bowl (or food processor), mix in the baking soda, baking powder and salt
  6. Combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl and mix with a fork until the eggs are well beaten. Add the egg-milk mixture to the bowl (or bowl of food processor) with the flour mixture and gently stir (or pulse in the food processor) until it is just mixed. Stir (or pulse) in the nuts, if using
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and then evenly distribute the reserved cup of the flour-sugar-butter on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

3 thoughts

  1. For my daughter’s birthday, we waited until my son was home from his school spring break to celebrate with a cake. He suggested something different such as a coffee cake and she agreed. I made the coffee cake and added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom. Did not add nuts at her request. It was a good, simple, no frills, easy to prepare cake that was nice and moist and not too sweet. It did take longer to bake, around 30 minutes or so.


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