Carrot cakes are almost always served with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting. There is no denying that the frosting is delicious, but I’ve had cakes where there is so much frosting that it starts to take away from the cake – and carrot cake is delicious even without frosting. To turn a classic carrot cake into a delicious and frosting-free brunch option, I topped it with a cinnamon streusel. The resulting Carrot Cake Coffee Cake is impossibly delicious – and just might make you rethink the cream cheese frosting next time.
The cake is so soft and tender, with a great flavor from a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and dark brown sugar. The spices don’t overwhelm the natural sweetness of the shredded carrots, so you definitely know you’re eating a carrot cake and not a random spice cake! I opted to use vegetable oil in this cake, rather than butter, for a couple of reasons. First, you actually get more carrot flavor when a neutral vegetable oil is used than you do with butter and second, vegetable oil keeps the cake more moist for a longer period of time. That means that this cake will still be delicious several days after baking – if it takes you that long to eat it all up.
The streusel topping is easy to make using a combination of sugars, flour, butter and cinnamon. I was generous with the cinnamon in the streusel and really ties the streusel in with the cinnamon in the cake. As far as flavor goes, the secret to the streusel is to add a big pinch of salt to the mix to cut the sweetness of all that sugar a bit. Not only does the topping bake up to be crisp and buttery, but the salt adds the perfect contrast to all that sugar. I highly recommend using a slightly coarser salt, such as kosher salt, in the streusel for a mouthwatering effect.
The cake is fairly tall and it is best to bake it in a springform pan so that it is easy to remove before serving. I recommend letting the cake cool completely in the pan before trying to slice it. Store the leftover cake in an airtight container for best results.
Carrot Cake Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups packed, shredded carrots
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, eggs, sugars and vanilla extract. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, folding the carrots in just before all the streaks of flour have been incorporated. Pour into prepared pan.
Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and flour. Add softened butter and cut in using a pastry blender or a fork. Mixture should resemble wet sand when all the butter has been incorporated.
Grab handfuls of streusel mixture and squeeze it together in your fist, forming larger clumps of streusel. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter, repeating with all remaining streusel.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
Makes 1 cake; Serves 10-12