Monday, December 30, 2013

Cinnamon Coffee Cake [Mystery Dish Challenge]

This is the second time I wrote this post. 

The first time, I wrote a long, heartfelt account of meeting the woman who wrote the cookbook that contains this recipe, and then I scheduled it, and then I went back to change 2 words and all of a's gone. Blogger deleted it. <<insert angry/frustrated face here>>

So, last night, I had to hastily recreate my work. And I had no idea where to start, so let me just get straight to the important parts. 

Here is what you need to know: This cake is spectacular. Unlike the Better-than-Drake's version that I posted earlier this year, this coffee cake replaces the fat, buttery crumble topping with a crisp sheet of cinnamon sugar that crackles when you cut into it. The cake itself is denser than the first one, and threaded with a vein of spicy-sweet cinnamon sugar and tender, chewy walnuts. 

You need to know that I finished it with a thick drizzle of warm, slightly melted chocolate hazelnut spread straight from the jar. No doctoring whatsoever. This particular spread didn't need it. 

Awhile back, some representatives from Nocciolata reached out to me and asked if I would like to try a sample of their product. They must have heard that I'm sort of a Nutellaholic. It is, at least on paper, a competitor of Nutella and Trader Joe's Cocoa Hazelnut spread (do they even still make that anymore? I haven't seen anything but the cocoa almond stuff in a long time), but in reality it is honestly far, far better.  


To be clear, I accepted the sample with the commitment that I would try it, but nothing more. I didn't promise to write about this product, because I didn't expect to like it this much. But it is seriously good: creamy, smooth, not too fatty (doesn't leave that gross coating in your mouth, you know what I mean?), and it tastes....real. You don't realize how fake and tampered-with some of the other products taste, until you taste this spread, which, if you didn't just remove it from the jar yourself, you'd swear just came out of a food processor filled with nothing but good quality hazelnuts and great quality cocoa. It's just darn good stuff, and just on its own, makes the perfect accent to the flavors in this coffee cake. 

The last thing that you need to know is that, quite frankly, this recipe is pretty special. It tastes like it comes from your Jewish grandmother's kitchen because, well, it kind of does.  It turns out that, for many years, the City of Chicago had its very own Jewish grandmother, serving up delicious breakfasts in her incredible restaurant that she called, simply, Ina's. Her name, of course... is Ina

Ina recently closed the doors of her well-known restaurant to embark on a greatly-deserved and hopefully fantastically fun and relaxing retirement, but not before I was able to try her food. It was exceptional. Luckily, not only did I get in just before the doors closed, but I also managed to get my hands on a copy of her newly released cookbook, thanks to my brother, who bought it for me on the condition that I would make this cake for him. (Um...Deal!!!) 

When we went to pay at the front counter, we were directed to the back of the restaurant where the Breakfast Queen herself sat selling and autographing books. As much as I wanted to sit down with her for a few hours, we only got a few minutes to chat with her (she's a very popular lady, you know!). She asked me if I liked to cook, to which I replied "I cook out of necessity, but I really love to bake. It relaxes me, and I love feeding people." She said she agreed completely, and signed my book. Here is her inscription: "For Nora - Those of us who bake for those we love are joined at the heart!...Ina". Don't you just adore her?

I sincerely hope I did her recipe justice. I did have to change a few things based on what I had on hand, and also, of course, based on the Mystery Dish ingredients which, this month, were eerily perfect for this recipe that I was dying to try. Sherri put together an amazing list of versatile ingredients this month, resulting in an incredible variety of recipes, no two alike - scroll down past the recipe to see what else my fellow Mystery Dish'ers created this month. You had to use three of the ingredients on the list, and I chose Greek yogurt, walnuts, and dark chocolate (ok, I fudged this a little bit; let's just say the chocolate hazelnut spread counts). 

The original recipe calls for sour cream instead of yogurt, pecans instead of walnuts, and of course no frosting or topping instead of the chocolate hazelnut spread. I doubt either of these replacements compromised the flavor of the cake, because it turned out spectacularly well. I used fat free plain Greek yogurt, but I would highly recommend using the full fat version instead, since fat equals moisture, and you can never have too much moisture in a coffee cake. But the fat-free yogurt will work too. 

No matter what you use, make this cake. Make it for yourself, and for your family, and your friends. You will love it, and your friends and family will too. Go ahead, make Ina proud.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

For the cake:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (preferably full fat; you may substitute sour cream)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
Scant (just underfilled) 2 cups all purpose flour

For the cinnamon filling/topping:
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

For garnish:
Approximately 1/3 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, warmed in the microwave for 10 seconds

Preheat the oven to 350F. Liberally coat a 9" springform pan with cooking spray.

Make the cake: 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine. Mix in Greek yogurt. Leave the mixer running while you add baking soda, baking powder and salt and, when they are mixed in, reduce the speed to low and add flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until just combined and set batter aside. 

Make the cinnamon mixture:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a fork or whisk until evenly mixed.

Assemble the cake:
Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture and spread in an even layer, leaving approximately 1/2" border around the layer, so none of the mixture touches the pan (this will avoid excessive sticking when you're trying to get it out of the pan). Add the rest of the batter in an even layer, covering the cinnamon-sugar mixture completely, and then add the rest of the cinnamon sugar in a final even layer. 

Bake for 40-45 minutes until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before drizzling with warmed chocolate-hazelnut spread. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes one 9" cake.


Looking for more delicious sweet or savory recipes?
Check out what all of the other Mystery Dish participants made this month!

1. Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Buttercream Fanatic
3. Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart from The Dessert Chronicles
4. Berry Chocolate Streusel Bars from Baking a Moment
5. Green Berry Smoothie from I Want Crazy
6. Baked Fish Tacos with Cranberry Salsa from The Pajama Chef
7. Dark Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Brownies from Joyful Healthy Eats
8. Healthy Homemade Granola Parfait from Yummy Healthy Easy
9. Pear Cranberry Crockpot Oatmeal from See Hubby Cook
10. Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Culinary Couture
11. Raspberry Chocolate Crumb Bars from I Dig Pinterest
12. Dark Chocolate Walnut Coconut Macaroon Fingers from The Well Floured Kitchen


If you like this recipe, 
follow Buttercream Fanatic for more


  1. Despite the post deletion I think this post did justice to the word heartfelt. What a special and precious cookbook you now have! Ina sounds like my kinda lady! Lucky you for getting in the doors right on time. I can't wait to make this cake for hubby's coworkers (and for myself. Tastetesting you know) and see what they think!

  2. What a beautiful coffee cake!! I'm so sorry your first post was deleted but I know Ina would be proud! Great recipe, Nora!

  3. So sorry that happened to you Nora! Once I somehow managed to delete the entire text of the post by pressing the backspace button. YEAH, that never happened again. I'm now extra super careful about all the buttons I press. Anyways, your cake is beautiful and you're so lucky you got to meet Ina!

  4. Sorry to hear about your first post, Nora! But you know your coffee cake looks absolutely divine! Like really, SO good. My mouth is watering just looking at it!

    Hope you have a wonderful New Year's!

  5. Zainab @ Blahnik BakerDecember 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Oh what a wonderful story behind the recipe despite blogger's attempt to prevent it's telling. Thank you for sharing. And I can't wait to try this coffee cake. It looks absolutely perfect!!

  6. This looks fantastic! So sorry your post got deleted, but I can't wait to try this!

  7. Cate @ Chez CateyLouDecember 30, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    Oooh Nora, this coffee cake looks amazing! I love baking with Greek yogurt! I feel your frustration about the blog post - I hate when things like that happen. It is so saddening / maddening! But the post looks great, and so does the cake! You certainly did Ina proud :)

  8. this looks great, nora! sorry about your post issues. this is one awesome looking cake!

  9. Wow! This looks phenomenal! I have fond memories from growing up with Coffee Cake. Can't wait to try this!

  10. Wow! This sounds like an amazing recipe, and I'm just itching to try it out. The ingredients totally sing my name (Nutellaaaa/chocolate hazelnut, hello!!), and the crispy cinnamon topping is so tempting. Also, it must've been so cool to not only meet Ina in person but also have a personalized signing on your cookbook! Happy New Year, Nora!

  11. Thank you, Dani! I am debating whether to email it to her, to see what she thinks. Yes, her email address is included in the cookbook. Isn't that the cutest? I would absolutely love to know what you, your hubs and his coworkers think if/when you get the chance to try this!

  12. Thank you! Maybe the post deletion didn't turn out to be such a disaster after all :)

  13. I feel your pain, Mimi! This is one of those things that you only mess up ONCE. Like you, I'll be super duper careful from now on....

  14. Thanks, Graham! Wish I could send you a piece!

    Happy New Year!

  15. Thanks! You'd better believe that I won't be accidentally deleting anything ever again!

  16. Thank you so much, Cate! Greek yogurt in baked good is absolutely the best. It really does wonders in this cake!

  17. I'll bet you'd love this cake, Christine. It's a classic recipe, probably just like the one we are all familiar with (only, dare I say, better!?)!

  18. I knew you'd love the Nutella on top, Monica! I think you'd love this other brand of chocolate hazelnut spread (Nocciolata) if you can find it in stores. It's sooo good! I hope Ina wouldn't mind that I added it ;) I hope you had a wonderful new year, Monica!!


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