Friday, August 26, 2011

Mendocino Coffee Cake

If you love a piping hot cup of good coffee, somewhere along the way you’ve undoubtedly had the pleasure of enjoying a nibble or two of coffee cake, the centerpiece of cafes, coffee shops and home brunch tables in little towns and great cities throughout the world.

Part of the fun of coffee cake is due in part to its evolution, which has brought us many different versions from many different regions, ranging from the great yeasted cakes of Eastern Europe to the various joys of streusels and crumbs and bundts baked in America. Some are quite plain and others are bundled with fruit or nuts and spices. This version is based on a recipe from Margaret Fox, whose work was legend at Café Beaujolais in the stunning California coastal village of Mendocino. I’ve pared down the ingredients just a bit for simplicity. It’s an easy preparation and is especially fit for a special brunch or an afternoon coffee gathering.

For me, this is the quintessential coffee cake. Tender and moist with a flavorful and purely delicious streusel, it’s very satisfying without being overly rich. I think you’ll have a hard time resisting a second cup, if you know what I mean.

Bench notes:

- Instant espresso powder is essential to the deliciousness of the streusel, which has a haunting blend of just the right amounts of cinnamon, cocoa and espresso powder. You can find it at Italian delicatessens, gourmet food shops and some grocery stores. Medaglia D’Oro is the best. I’ve also used Ferrara. It stores indefinitely and is used in many other pastry recipes.
- When mixing cake batter, I thoroughly cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, but I don’t thoroughly mix the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients, instead stopping just short of completely mixed because as I continue to add the alternating ingredients, the batter comes together sufficiently. I also take it off the mixer just before it’s done to do the final blending of ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. This helps to avoid overmixing and preserves the tenderness of the cake.
- If you like walnuts, add a few more to finish the top layer.
- Café Beaujolais has another very famous Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake with a crumb topping that I’ll be testing soon.

Mendocino Coffee Cake

Based on the “Chocolate Coffee Cake” recipe from Morning Food: Breakfasts, Brunches and More for Savoring the Best Part of the Day by Margaret S. Fox and John B. Bear
Serves 8 to 10


1/4 C + 2 T dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 T fine instant espresso powder
1 1/2 T cocoa powder
1/2 C chopped walnuts


1 1/4 C + 2 T flour
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3 oz butter @ room temperature
1 1/4 t vanilla extract
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
8 oz plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9” springform pan.

For the streusel, combine all the ingredients and set aside.

For the cake, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add vanilla and mix. Scrape down the bowl. Add egg and yolk one at a time and continue to beat until mixture is light and creamy. Lower the speed and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Spread half the cake batter evenly in the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of streusel mixture, leaving a clean 1/2” border of cake batter around the edges. Top with remaining batter, smoothing it out to the edges. Finish with the remaining streusel, pressing gently into the surface.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 34 – 38 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from pan and serve with a piping hot cup of strong coffee.


ButterYum said...

This looks and sounds amazing. I'll be making it for Sunday morning. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


Kate said...

The espresso, cocoa and cinnamon streusel topping sounds like the perfect backdrop to the black coffee bitterness I love.
As always, I appreciate your bench notes, but was wondering about your plain yogurt recommendation.... regular preferred over greek for the moisture content?
Thanks for another great visual post and recipe. And, congrats on the Top 50 blogs you should read via Saveur!

pastry studio said...


Hope you enjoy, ButterYum. It's the perfect kind of thing for a lazy Sunday morning.

Kate, I used regular yogurt but Greek should work just fine. I've also had it with sour cream substituted. Thanks for the congrats. I was a bit shocked myself!

Audrey said...

Oh! I have her other book, and it's made me want to visit Mendocino (that, and the Kate and Anna McGarrigle song). I've tried some other streusel coffee cakes with chocolate flavors in the streusel, and wasn't enamored of any of them. But I'll try this one on your recommendation! (And congrats from me, too! Well deserved!)

pastry studio said...

Hi Audrey and thank you!

Actually, one of the things I deleted from her original recipe was chocolate chips in the streusel. Not a fan of that for coffee cake. So the only trace of chocolate comes from the 1 1/2 T cocoa powder, which I think is nicely balanced with the cinnamon and espresso powder.

Mendocino is breathtakingly gorgeous. I hope you're able to visit one day.

The Procrastobaker said...

Oh my goodness, this looks like a simply gorgeouuus cake. Ive tried many new cake recipes this year but i have to say a suprise favourite was pioneer womans coffee cake (no coffee in it), so this cake is totalllyyy calling my name! It looks simply fabbbulous :)

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, and espresso powder seems like a brilliant addition to coffee cake streusel. (It amused me to learn that streusel is the German word for "to sprinkle")

I recently started a blog. If you'd like to take a look, it's at .

Melanie, aka The Fearless Baker

Deb said...

Delightful coffee cake! Adding espresso power to the streusel is inspired. Adore how it not only adds flavor to the coffee cake, but richness to the color.

Luv'n Spoonfuls said...

Looks absolutely gorgeous and sounds just as delicious. I really want to try this out soon...sounds so much better than what you can get out at the coffee shops. We just might have a reason (the hubs and I) to stay on in Saturday mornings rather than going out for that coffee and treat! Lovely post, as usual!

myfudo said...

Great! such a nice and indulging cake.

pastry studio said...

Howdy everyone and thanks very much for your comments. It's fun to see some fellow coffee cake fans!

Melanie, great start on your new blog. It's both a lot of work and a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy yourself. Be fearless!

cheryl said...

This recipe "looks" great and sounds like it would be delicious. I'll be trying it tomorrow though I think I will substitute cocoa nibs for the walnuts.
If you were to add a dried fruit to this, which one do you think would be a good compliment to these ingredients? My fave is always the raisin but don't think, in this instance, would be a good choice. Would love your input.

pastry studio said...

Hi, Cheryl! I'm not sure cocoa nibs would work in this application because it's a dry streusel, but if you try, let me know how it works. I've left the recipe simple for my purpose but have also only tested with golden raisins in the streusel, which was also very good. I think the cake is best as is. Hope you enjoy it!

Heather@Curly Girl Kitchen said...

What a beautiful cake! I just love streusel topping. Wish I had a piece of this with my coffee right now. :)

Nancy said...

I've tried this yesterday. The recipe was forgiving too. I changed the amount of butter, eggs and used low fat yogurt and it still turned out great and tasted very yummy.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the recipe is really forgiving - I didn't have Cinnamon or walnuts so I used nutmeg and a mixture of poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts. Yummy yummy yummy! I would eat it warm, though. And love the streusel without butter!

saturday mike said...

I just made this for brunch this morning, and it was DELICIOUS!
I only had an 8" and 10" springform, so used the 8" and got a very tall, very dramatic coffee cake! But it really was lovely - not too sweet, and perfect with strong coffee.

There was one issue with the recipe, though (sorry! Got my editing glasses on!). The recipe calls for 1 egg and 1 yolk, but in the instructions, you say, "Add eggs and yolk one at a time..." which implies that there are 2 eggs and 1 yolk. I tried to find other copies of this recipe to cross-reference, but couldn't find another. I think 1 egg and 1 yolk is right, but when I initially read the instructions, I wondered...

Thanks again for posting this one!

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, what would I do without you?! Yes, you're absolutely right. It's 1 egg and 1 yolk. I'll fix the instructions. By the way, if you have any leftovers, this cake keeps nicely if stored in an airtight container.

Thanks for posting!