Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze
I love cinnamon rolls but they’re a bit time consuming to make. This cake is not.
No actual cinnamon rolls are made for this coffee cake so for those of you who still have bread-with-yeast fears, you’re safe. Instead, this cake just tastes like a big warm buttery cinnamon roll, without any of the time or effort that goes into making them.
To make the cake, begin by beating together butter and sugar, and after it’s nice and fluffy, a solid amount of sour cream is added to the batter. The sour cream ensures this cake stays moist and tender. Too often coffee cakes are wickedly dry and crumbly and they could literally be called crumble cakes, and that wouldn’t be a compliment. I think they get their name because most of them are so dry that coffee is mandatory in order to wash down the dry crumbly mess.
In addition to the sour cream, I added a bit of canola oil because oil keeps cakes moist and soft. I wanted to ensure this cake was anything but dry and pulled out all the tricks.
Pour the cake batter in a nine-inch springform pan and make sure the pan you’re using is at least three inches high. If you don’t have a springform pan, the cake can be baked in a nine-inch square pan, but do not use a nine-inch round cake pan as round cake pans hold less overall volume than square pans. Plus, they’re typically only an inch or two tall and you’d have a cake-tastrophe.
All good cinnamon rolls have a scrumptious filling that’s buttery and cinnamon-sugary and after making the cake batter, I made a mixture that worked double-duty, both as the filling for the cinnamon rolls as well as a stresuel-like topping layer.
I have a fondness for streusel and crumble toppings and could make a meal with just those cinnamon and brown sugar buttery bits that always seem to be in far too short of supply. With this cake, there’s plentiful streusel, forming pits and valleys over the surface of the cake, as well as being woven throughout the interior.
To make the filling-topping mixture, combine a very soft, almost melted, stick of butter with one cup of brown sugar and hearty pinch of cinnamon. The butter needs to be very soft in order to be whipped together with the brown sugar and cinnamon but it shouldn’t be fully liquified. The butter can either be softened for an hour or more at room temperature on the counter, or you can achieve the same goal in about twelve seconds in the microwave. After beating it together, it will look like a ridiculously large amount of a gritty, granular substance and you’ll wonder if this could be right. It is.
Use the filling-topping mixture as if you were going to frost a cake, and ‘frost’ the cake batter by spreading the mixture over the top of it. After it’s all nice and smooth, you’re going to make a mess of it. Take a butter knife or table knife and marble the mixture throughout the cake batter, going up and back; repeat. Back and forth, back and forth. I got pretty aggressive with my up-and-backing in order to really drive the mixture into the interior cake so the ‘cinnamon rolls’ had plenty of filling.
And as a baking precaution, place the springform pan on a baking sheet in case your pan doesn’t have a perfectly tight seal. Nothing like the smell of cake batter as it drips onto the bottom of the oven and chars. Whenever I bake with a springform pan I always place it on top of a baking sheet as just-in-case insurance.
As the baking time draws near a close, be sure to keep an eye on the cake because the butter and brown sugar will be prone to burning. Caramelization and crisping up is one thing, burning is another. Because ovens vary and so do preferences, I recommend keeping a very watchful eye on the cake and hanging around the kitchen in the last ten to fifteen minutes of baking.
Cinnamon rolls are not complete with frosting or glaze, and I love cream cheese frosting on cinnamon rolls. While the cake baked, I made an easy cream cheese glaze to drizzle on top. Feel free to skip the drizzle and use more of a pouring technique, which is my preferred method. I like a little cake with my frosting and after the pictures were done, there was a frosting freeflow free-for-all.
The cake tastes like a cinnamon roll, but in a cinnamon-roll-meets-cake way. Minus the effort or extended waiting period that goes into making cinnamon rolls.
It has the perfect balance of density, not too dense like a pound cake, but not too airy or light like an angel food, and it was just how I like coffee cakes. And between the sour cream, oil, and butter this cake stayed plenty moist. The butter used in both the cake batter and in the filling-topping mixture also helped to emulate the buttery, smooth, rich qualities of cinnamon rolls.
I used cinnamon twice, both in the batter as well as in the filling-topping mixture. I wanted to know I was eating a cinnamon roll or cinnamon roll-cake, operative word being cinnamon. I am a big cinnamon fan and find most recipes to be lackluster in cinnamon oomph and and intensity. That’s not the case here and if you’re a person who blindly doubles the cinnamon in most recipes like I tend to do, taste the batter before doing so because it’s balanced, but quite well-spiced.
The sweet, creamy, and slightly tangy cream cheese glaze gives this version of a cinnamon roll extra authenticity. It was especially satisfying watching the glaze sink into the nooks and crannies of the slightly crunchy and irregular surface layer, knowing that some of it would penetrate into the body of the cake. Those are my favorite bites.
It would be a perfect cake to serve at a brunch, holiday party, baby or bridal shower, or any time you need a solid cake, without any solid work. The cake, from start to finish, is a one hour project, including baking time. Not too shabby.
I really enjoyed this cake, but I had no idea that Scott was going to love it as much as he did and he was genuinely disappointed when it was gone. Everyone here clearly loves their cinnamon rolls.
- For the Cake
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened (half of one stick)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup sour cream (Greek yogurt may be substituted)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
- For the Filling-Topping
- ½ cup unsalted butter, extremely soft and almost melted
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- For the Glaze
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened (whipped or light are okay)
- 2 tablespoons cream or milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup+ confectioners' sugar, sifted is ideal
- For the Cake - Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9-inch springform pan (at least 3 inches high; a 9-inch square baking pan may be substituted if it's at least 3 inches in height; don't use a 9-inch round cake pan because it's too shallow) by spraying well with floured cooking spray (I use Pam for Baking) or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, granulated sugar, and cream together until pale, light, and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high to high speed. Add the sour cream, eggs, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and beat until smooth and incorporated, about 3 minutes on medium-high to high speed. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and beat until just incorporated and batter is smooth, about 1 minute on medium speed. Spread batter into prepared pan; set aside.
- For the Filling-Topping - In a medium-microwave safe bowl, add the butter and heat on high power until it just begins to melt, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and beat with a spoon or whisk until combined. Spread filling over the top of the cake batter in an even, smooth, flat layer, as if you're frosting a cake. Then, using a table knife, swirl back and forth to marble the filling into the cake batter, going over the cake and going up and back a few times. I swirled fairly aggressively for about 1 minute, in order to try to drive the filling deeper into the cake batter. Place pan on a baking sheet (as insurance in case your springform pan doesn't have a perfect seal) and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until topping has set and a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. Note that in the final minutes of baking, topping may have a tendency to burn near the edges as the butter browns and the brown sugar caramelizes; watch cake closely. Allow cake to cool in pan and rest on baking sheet for at least 30 minutes before glazing it, or before removing it from the pan and serving.
- For the Glaze - In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, cream, vanilla and whisk until combined and smooth. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar, whisking to incorporate and until smooth. Based on desired glaze consistency, playing with the sugar and cream ratios may be necessary. Evenly drizzle the glaze over cake and serve. Note - If you prefer to refrigerate cream-cheese based glaze, you may wish to only glaze individual pieces of cake immediately prior to serving them and store the glaze in small container in the refrigerator, as opposed to refrigerating the entire glazed cake, which will cause it to dry out. Or, you can glaze the cake and store it at room temperature anyway, as everyone has different food storage comfort levels. Cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Cinnamon Swirl Bread – As close to a cinnamon roll as a bread can get and still be called bread rather than dessert. Rich, sweet, and light. This bread is for the cinnamon lover’s and is abundantly flavored with cinnamon, which is used twice in the bread recipe, and again in the cinnamon-sugar butter I serve it with
Cinnamon Bun Pie – These rolls use a shortcut and they’re ready from start to finish in less than 30 minutes and they give Cinnabons a run for their money. I’m working on yeast-based cinnamon rolls next
Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread with Cinnamon Sugar Butter – If you’ve never made bread before, this is a goofproof, foolprood, no-knead bread recipe. You’ll never have a need for storebought English muffins again, especially because this bread is spiked with cinnamon-sugar and raisins
Baked Cinnamon Bun Donuts with Vanilla Cream Cheese Glaze – A cross between a Krispy Kreme donut and a Cinnabon cinnamon roll. Yeast-free, easy, and although I haven’t tried making them in a muffin pan, if you don’t have a donut pan, try them as muffins
Cinnamon Sugar Crust Cream Cheese and Jelly Danish Squares – Tastes like an Entenmann’s danish, with a crispy and crunchy cinnamon-sugar coating, and is filled with smooth cream cheese and jelly. The squares use a shortcut and are a snap to make
Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Chunks (no-bake, vegan, gluten-free) – The two types of chocolate used on top is optional, and if removed the bars are a very healthy vegan and gluten-free portable granola bar that tastes like a bowl of cinnamon-flavored oatmeal
Cinnamon Raisin Bread Smoothie (vegan, GF) – Tastes like drinking a glass of cinnamon-raisin bread, although no actual bread was used. Close, but not quite
Tell me about your favorite cinnamon rolls or cinnamon roll-inspired recipes.
I have been researching cinnamon roll recipes to make actual cinnamon rolls like it’s my job. Like chocolate chip cookies, everyone seems to have a favorite recipe, way of making them, using varying techniques and ingredients. Between the dough itself, the filling, kneading techniques, and batch sizes, I am in ‘options’ and choices overload. But it’s been a fun research project.
Do you have a favorite coffee cake?
If you have a great recipe, tell me about it.
Thanks for the Tiny Food Party Cookbook Giveaway entries for three winners – winners announced next post