Is it necessary for a coffee cake to have some kind of streusel or crumb topping to be called coffee cake? I tend to think not, but with the exception of coffee cakes that are baked in bundt pans (and often have a layer of streusel running through them), it generally seems to be true. Untopped cakes can easily fall out of the coffee cake category and into some other class of cake. But regardless of whether crumb toppings are necessary, they are certainly delicious and it never hurts to have a generous amount of top of a coffee cake.
In this recipe, the cake itself has a tender, moist crumb thanks to the presence of sour cream in the batter. It features the well-balanced flavors of vanilla and butter, both of which complement coffee excellently. I topped it off with a large portion of crumb topping, which I clumped together as I sprinkled it onto the cake batter in an effort to ensure that every piece of cake had an equal – and large – amount of the topping. If the cake were baked with just these two elements, it would be a fairly standard, classic crumb cake. But I wanted to take it a step further and add an additional flavor: strawberry jam.
I chose a jam (from Trader Joe’s, if you’re curious) with large chunks of strawberries and spooned it onto the unbaked sour cream cake batter once I had spread it into the baking pan. I gently swirled some of it into the batter, being careful not to over mix and turn my swirl into strawberry cake batter. The crumbs went on top of the jam. I recommend lining the cake pan with aluminum foil to ensure that you can lift out the cake without too much of the crumb topping falling off when you go to serve it.
Once baked, the result was amazing. The cake was even moister and sweeter with the presence of the jam, and the chunks of fruit in the preserves lent a fantastic, colorful look to the cake. While it is on the sweet side, when served with a strong coffee the flavors balance out perfectly. Heck – even if you serve it with rich hot chocolate, I suspect people will be going back for seconds.
Strawberry Jam Crumb Coffee Cake
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, melted
In a medium bowl, stir together dry topping ingredients until combined, then stir in melted butter until damp crumbs are formed and the mixture sticks together into chunks when you squeeze it between your fingers. Set aside.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
1/2 cup strawberry jam (not jelly, preferably with fruit chunks)
Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9-in square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Lightly grease and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, followed by the eggs, adding them one at a time until mixture is smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture, alternating with sour cream in two or three additions, until well blended. Batter will be quite thick. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Stir jam in a small bowl until smooth and drop by spoonfuls onto the cake batter. Gently swirl through with a knife. Top with crumb mixture, clumping it by squeezing it between your fingers while you work and spreading it into as even a layer as possible.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.