Take a look at the cream cheese coffee cake above and you’ll notice that it isn’t perfect.
Here’s a closer look so you can see what I’m talking about…
I sprayed my pan well, waited for the cake to cool, and used an offset spatula to loosen the edges. Even though I did everything right, the cake still stuck in a few places and it created some bare spots.
When I took this cake out of the pan and saw where it stuck, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t put it on my blog because it wasn’t perfect. Knowing I was running short on time (and not wanting to bake another cake), I considered just editing the photos and using some tricks to make the bare spots disappear.
Then I remembered the lecture I give the students in my baking classes…
I always talk about how I hate perfect baked goods.
Well, that’s not exactly true so let me explain…
I love and appreciate the museum-worthy pastries sold at bakeries and high-end pastry shops. I think there is a time and place for everything and if you’re serving something at a special event or selling it for a profit, then yes, it should be perfect (or close to it). I’ve made my share of intricate, beautifully plated desserts with many components and days of labor involved and I have the utmost respect for the pastry chefs that have to meet these standards on a daily basis.
But if you’re baking at home, then there’s no need to aim for perfection. Yes, we should absolutely try to use the finest ingredients available and the best techniques we know, but we don’t need our baked goods to look flawless.
I appreciate the flaws because they add character. If you see a perfect pie crust, chances are it was made by a machine in a factory and not by hand. Sure, you can go buy a pre-shaped pie crust at the grocery store and it will be perfectly crimped. But, I can guarantee you I would rather eat the pie that was made by hand but doesn’t look perfect.
I’m here to tell you that it is ok if the edge of your pie crust slumps down and it’s ok if your layer cake is taller on one side than on the other after you frost it.
I love when I see imperfect baked goods because it means they were baked at home and not mass produced. To me, the flaws show that someone put effort and care into their baking and I’d much rather eat that than something made by a machine or purchased at the grocery store
The secret is that this coffee cake tastes exactly the same whether or not some of the sides stuck to the pan. And once you cut it, no one knows the difference.
So please, don’t let the fear of errors and the quest for perfection get in the way of baking at home. And if all goes wrong, a heavy dusting of powdered sugar can hide the even the worst flaws.
This is my favorite coffee cake. It’s great for breakfast, as a snack, as dessert, and it’s served as my dinner on many occasions. Cream cheese coffee cake is a great hostess gift or Christmas present and it is perfect for a holiday brunch or breakfast.
Tips and Tricks
Spray the pan with cooking spray really well. Even if you do, some of the cake might stick. It’s ok.
You don’t need to wash the mixer bowl after mixing the batter. Just scoop the batter into a clean bowl and then use the mixer bowl to make the cream cheese swirl.
You can even omit the cream cheese swirl and simply make the cake with the batter and pecan topping. I love the cream cheese swirl but I originally had this coffee cake without it and it is still wonderful.
This is the bundt pan that I use and recommend.
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Recipe
- 3 tablespoons (39 grams) brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups (213 grams) toasted pecans, chopped (see note)
- 2 1/4 cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 (150 grams) large eggs
- 1 cup (227 grams) sour cream
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) vanilla extract
- Cream Cheese Swirl
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups batter
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pecans. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute.
- Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix for 30 more seconds. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of batter to be mixed into the cream cheese swirl. Transfer the remaining batter to a clean bowl and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can use the same mixer bowl from the batter without washing it), beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer on low, mix in the reserved batter until smooth and incorporated. Transfer into a clean bowl and set aside.
- Sprinkle half of the pecan topping mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared bundt pan.
- Scoop about 2/3 of the batter (around 600 grams) into the prepared pan and smooth it with a spatula.
- Scrape the cream cheese filling into the bundt pan and smooth it over the batter. Sprinkle the remaining pecan mixture on top. Add the remaining batter on top and smooth with a spatula.
- Use a paring knife to gently swirl the cream cheese and pecan mixture throughout the batter. Smooth the top of the batter and tap the pan a few times to release any air bubbles.
- Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake pool in the pan for 10 minutes and then flip it out of the bundt pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
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