Cakes Desserts

cream cheese coffee cake

I love getting that phone call. ‘Could you bring something? Something sweet?’ I try not to sound too eager as I accept, excited to be baking with a purpose, for someone near and dear.
I brought this coffee cake to a baby shower; a room filled with good friends and joyful hearts. While there was food and gifts overflowing, there was also the expectation of someone so little and so new, waiting to experience this life. And while my heart was shaken this week with front page stories of horror and reminders of our fragile mortality, this little gathering encouraged me to hope. To not stop dreaming. To wrap  my life in as much beauty and wonder as I possible can. To not run from the hard things, but to walk through them. To bake a cake and give it away, piece by piece. To shine as bright as stars, and teach my children to do the same.
[By the by. I had several emails about my comments not working properly. I think I fixed it. If you are still having problems, please let me know!]

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Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen. Make sure to firmly tap the pan as called for to get rid of any air bubbles. This cake does have lemon in it, but the flavor is very light  – mostly adding brightness. It’s a good, subtle addition. The cake itself is very moist, and the layer of cream cheese adds more richness – it’s a perfect coffee cake.

lemon sugar-almond topping
1/4 cup [1 3/4 ounces sugar]
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 1/4 cups [11 1/2 ounces] unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons [1 stick plus 2 tablespoons] unsalted butter, soft but still cool
1 cup [7 ounces] plus 7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice
4 large eggs
5 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, soft


Stir the sugar and lemon zest until combined and the sugar is moistened. Stir in the almonds and set aside.


Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350. Spray a 10 inch tube pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and the lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 20 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 4 teaspoons vanilla and mix to combine. With the mixer on low, add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half the sour cream, mixing until incorporated after each addition, 5-10 seconds. Repeat, using half the remaining flour and the all the remaining sour cream. Scrape down bowl and add the remaining flour; mix on low speed until the batter is combined, about 10 seconds.

Reserve 1 1/4 cups batter and set aside. Spoon the remaining batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Return the now-empty bowl to the mixer and beat cream cheese, 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla on medium speed until smooth and slightly lightened, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved batter and mix until incorporated. Spoon the cream cheese filling mixture evenly over the batter, keeping the filling about 1 inch from the edges of the pan; smooth the top. Spread the remaining 1 cup reserved batter over the filling and smooth the top. With a butter knife or offset spatula, gently swirl the filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion, being careful to not drag the filling to the edges of the pan. Firmly tap the pan on the counter two or three times to dislodge any bubbles. Sprinkle the lemon sugar – almond topping evenly over the batter and gently press into the batter to adhere.
Bake until the top is golden and just firm and a long skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean [the skewer will be wet where it is inserted into the cream cheese filling], 45-50 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and firmly tap on the counter two or three times [the top of the cake may sink slightly]. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack 1 hour. Gently invert the cake onto a rimmed baking sheet; remove the tube pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake, and invert the cake sugar side up. Cool to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours, before serving.
  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 14, 2023 at 5:36 am

    Would a bundt cake pan be ok? Thanks

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 11:45 am

      I haven’t tried this in a Bundt pan, so I’m not sure, but I think it would turn out okay. Let me know if you try it!

  • Reply
    Friday, October 6, 2017 at 6:17 am

    I’m in France and sour cream is not readily available in local grocery stores. Would you suggest using creme fraiche as a substitute ?
    Thanks !!

  • Reply
    Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Have you ever frozen this coffee cake

    • Reply
      Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Christina – I haven’t. Cream cheese doesn’t always freeze well; when it thaws it gets a little gritty, so that could happen here. But if you try it, let me know! -Sarah

  • Reply
    Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Do you think this could be made in a springform pan instead?

    • Reply
      Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Betsy – I think that the coffeecake would have trouble in the springform, mostly because it would take the center a really long time to bake through, and so the cake would over bake a lot on the edges (it’s a pretty thick cake). You could certainly try it, but I think that is what would happen.

  • Reply
    Monday, May 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Wow, that was quick!!! Thank you X

  • Reply
    Wendy Bilton
    Monday, May 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Would it be possible for you to put the imperial measures on here as well as cups etc. Im in the UK and Ive come across some lovely recipes but it gets a bit confusing for me trying to recalculate (approx) the ingredients.

    I came across your site quite by accident. Im hooked on vanilla and use it as much as I can in my baking. I love all your recipes – but would really really like to try this one a s a p., so if you could help me, I would be very grateful.

    Thank you from across the pond. Wendy

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Monday, May 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      Wendy! I saw both your comments together – I didn’t change anything in the post, so I’m not sure what I did quick! 😉 This post did have the ounces already in it; I haven’t changed anything as of today. I do want to be better about including other measurements – I know it is hard to figure out sometimes, and I will try to start including them in future posts.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and your kind comment. Let me know how the coffee cake turns out!

  • Reply
    Ladies Holiday
    Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Yum, yum, yum. Haven’t had coffee cake in ages, time to dust off the ole pan.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 3:23 am

      I hadn’t made one for awhile, either. They also make a great afternoon snack! [just in case you need any more persuading. 🙂 ]

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Your blog is absolutely gorgeous. Love your photos, and can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 3:22 am

      Thank you! And let me know if you try anything! 🙂

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    This looks delicious! My mum does something similar with a chocolate and orange swirl cake and its so moist and moreish. I must try this one too. I haven’t blogged my mum’s recipe yet but I have done this great bring along Seedy Citrus Cake: x

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 3:22 am

      I love chocolate and orange together! And your Citrus Cake looks lovely – I am crazy about lime things. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I’m exactly the same, I love love LOVE baking for friends. It was my friend’s birthday last night and I brought a cake to the restaurant – she kept thanking me for making the effort but she knows that I love any excuse to get in the kitchen 🙂

    This cake looks gorgeous and can imagine the cream cheese keeps it super moist. That crunchy almond topping looks lovely too.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Thanks! And I know – any excuse! I love that you brought a cake to a restaurant. I would love to do that sometimes.

  • Reply
    kale @ tastes good to me!
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 7:22 am

    This sounds amazing. Love the almond lemon topping!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks so much! The topping is one of the best parts. 🙂

  • Reply
    my little celebration
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Oh dear, this looks WONDERFUL! And lovely writing, as always. I’m so excited for your guest post on Friday! I know my readers are going to LOVE you!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks so much Dana! I can’t wait to see it.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I’ve heard great things about this coffee cake. This looks lovely, and I think it’s perfect for a baby shower. I’m sure no one noticed that little missing piece 😉

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks Sacha! And, well, they did notice the missing piece. But my kids enjoyed eating it very much. 🙂

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