Monday, May 6, 2013

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cakes

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

When I was a freshman in college, I had an awesome roommate (I actually had two, but the other one was MIA most of the time). Among the many things that made our room awesome was the near-constant supply of Drake's Coffee Cakes, that her mom used to send us in bulk. It started as a four-pack in one of her care packages, but as soon as I tried them, I was hooked. And I think I dragged my roommate down with me. Soon enough, her mom was sending us entire shipments of Costco-sized boxes. We were like Drake's junkies. 

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

It has been a long, long time since I had those cakes. Let's not admit just how long, because it makes me feel really old, but suffice it to say I haven't had a Drake's in forever.  I don't even think they sell them west of Pennsylvania.

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

I was reminded of Drake's when I saw this Super Crumb Coffee Cake the other day. You see, Drake's had major crumb. It was soft and buttery and I'd be lying if I said I didn't throw away the cake part after scraping it clean of crumb topping a few times.

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

So I set out to recreate these ridiculously addictive little cakes, complete with the soft and moist cake and the big clumps of buttery crumb. It's been a very long time since I have had the real thing, but I would not hesitate to declare that the homemade ones are much better. 

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

There are three things you should never skimp on: sunscreen, sprinkles and the crumbly topping on top of coffee cake (Seriously, guys, priorities).  There is a nearly equal cake-to-crumbly-topping ratio in this recipe, so we are set. The cake is almost unbearably tender and silky and the crumb topping is hearty and substantial, and just a little bit sweet. 

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

This recipe is a little fussier than the ones I usually make, but I assure you that the extra effort is well worth it. The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, which means it is not only excellent, but perfect; they obsessively stress test every recipe before they publish it, and it pays off. These little coffee cakes won rave reviews from my official test subject, and - to reiterate - I'm pretty sure they leave the Drake's version in the dust. 

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cakes
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

For the crumb topping:
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch table salt, or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups cake flour*

For the cake:
1 1/4 cups cake flour*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
1 large egg at room temperature**
2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk***

Nonstick Spray
Confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)

*Note #1: Yes, you really do need cake flour for these to turn out properly. Using all-purpose will produce dry and brittle cakes.

**Note #2: If you forget to set the egg out in advance to warm up to room temperature, try submerging it in very warm water before you begin making the crumb. That way, by the time you need it for the cake, it will be ready.

***Note #3: If you don't have buttermilk on hand, add a generous splash of lemon juice to the bottom of a 1/3 cup measuring cup and fill the rest with milk. Stir gently and set aside to curdle slightly.

Make the crumb:
Cut the stick of butter into 8 pieces and, in a microwave-safe bowl, heat on high for 1 minute. Stir briefly to finish melting any small chunk that remain, and set aside to cool slightly while you mix the dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon, salt and and flour and make sure the brown sugar is broken up and no large clumps remain. Slowly drizzle in the slightly-cooled butter while mixing with a fork. The batter will form many large clumps, some small clumps,  and some dry mixture will remain at the bottom of the bowl (that's ok). Don't overmix; you want to retail those large clumps.

Set aside the crumb for now.

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Thoroughly coat a 12-muffin tin with nonstick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt on low speed to combine. If the butter is straight out of the fridge, cut it into 6 pieces, lay them out on a plate, and microwave on high for 15 seconds. If the butter is at room temperature, just cut it into pieces (do not microwave). Leaving the mixer running, add butter one piece at a time and beat for a minute or so until the butter is incorporated and no chunks remain.

Combine egg, yogurt, vanilla extract and buttermilk in a tupperware container and shake vigorously for a few seconds until completely smooth. Add to the mixer bowl and mix on medium high speed for about a minute just until it becomes light and fluffy. A few very small chunks of butter may remain, which is fine. Be careful not to overmix.

Fill each cupcake cup about halfway with cake batter (I used a heaping 2-inch cookie scoop-ful for each, but you can also just eyeball it). Tap slightly to even out the batter. Spoon the topping over the batter to fill the fill the remaining half of the cups.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan around on the rack, and back for another 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before eating.

Note: If you want to make one large coffee cake instead of individual servings, one reader recommends using a 9"x9" pan, and baking at 325 for approximately 30 minutes, until the tester comes out clean. Thank you to Donna for sharing this info!

Makes 12 cakes. Keeps for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Homemade Drake's Coffee Cake


  1. I just made the cooks illustrated coffee cake. It looks just like these! I love all of the streusel crumbs. They are my favorite part!

  2. Oh, so glad you had a chance to try out the Cooks Illustrated recipe! I'm sure your version is just as good. It's on my list of recipes to try :)

  3. I AM making this! Drakes... yes!!!!

  4. Woohoo! I think Drake's must be a New York/New England thing exclusively. I'm so glad you know what they are!

    I'm so excited that you're going to try them. Let me know how they turn out!

  5. Yum! Definitely making these! The crumb is my absolute favorite part of anything that has crumb topping for sure.

  6. Awesome! The crumb on these is especially good, so you'll love these. Let me know how they turn out!

  7. Any idea how long I would bake these if I did a 9x13 instead of individuals? I'm making these this weekend!!

  8. Good question, Sarah! Off the top of my head, I'd estimate 45 minutes to an hour. However, I admit I've never tried making a full pan of them but my advice would be to start it at 45 minutes, and if the cake tester doesn't come out clean at that point, continue to bake in 5-minute increments until it does. Can you let me know how long you end up baking it for in total? I hope you like these!

  9. Donna Collins-DavisNovember 27, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    These have become a family favorite. We are transplanted New Yorkes who grew-up with Drakes cake. Now if only I could make a Ring Ding!!

  10. I made this recipe as a whole cake instead of individual servings last night, I used a 9x9 pan lined with parchment paper, bake at 325, I started checking at 25 minutes, it took about 30 minutes for a tester to come out clean. Texture and taste where great.

  11. Donna, that's the most wonderful compliment to me to know that your family enjoys these, and that they remind you of home! They do the same for me. The minute I come across a good homemade Ring Ding recipe, I promise to post it immediately!!

  12. Thanks for this great info, Donna! I am going to put a note in the recipe to let readers know.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  13. Hi Nora your photo's are beautiful I have made these little gems and we all loved them. They are showing today on my blog "thewednesdaybaker thanks

  14. Thank you so much, Andi, for bringing these into your kitchen! I am so glad you liked them. Heading over to read your post right now :)

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  20. Yum! Definitely making these! The crumb is my absolute favorite part of anything that has crumb topping for sure.
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