This cake shines like a beacon through the cobwebs of memory, glinting its light anytime we have guests visiting from out of town. I grew up in Iowa but most of my mom’s family lived in Ohio. Once a year, a few of them would make the ten-hour drive to stay with us for a week or more and my mom would treat our guests like royalty. Although I don’t remember the details of most of her multi-course meals she made for our guests, I do remember this coffee cake.Jump to Recipe
Mom would often prepare this coffee cake on the first morning of the relatives’ visit. I would stumble downstairs with sleepy eyes to find my parents, aunts, and uncles sitting at the kitchen table enjoying this cake with a tall glass of orange juice or a steaming mug of black coffee, catching up on life and reminiscing on days past. With a fat slice of cake and a cup of chocolate milk, I would sit and listen while happily enjoying the only time of year when cake was allowed for breakfast.
True to memory, I still associate this coffee cake with overnight guests and morning meals. It uses a secret ingredient – vanilla pudding mix – to add both moisture and lift, making this cake much less “heavy” than stereotypical dessert cakes. The cinnamon-sugar filling brings to mind cinnamon toast, and the icing – with its trademark orange flavor – brings the idea of breakfast full circle.
This recipe starts with two truly basic ingredients: a box of yellow cake mix, and a small box (3.4 oz.) of instant vanilla pudding. In my experience, Jell-O brand pudding tends to work the best, but you can use whatever brand yellow cake mix is most convenient.
The rest of your ingredients – milk, butter, eggs, orange juice, vanilla, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and powdered sugar – might all be items you keep on hand in your kitchen.
How to make classic coffee cake
Before you do anything, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour your Bundt pan. Make sure you are thorough in this step! This cake likes to stick inside all of the little details of your Bundt pan, and since we decorate with a minimalist glaze – not a thick layer of frosting – any imperfections will be obvious to your guests. A thorough greasing of your Bundt will prevent your cake from sticking.
Next, combine the cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, vanilla, and milk. Stir (using either a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer) until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stir in eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
Once all ingredients have been added to the mix, beat the batter for an additional 7 minutes. I know, I know, this feels like a long time – but it’s worth the effort! The long beating time helps to whip the eggs and incorporate air into the batter (and the pudding mix), resulting in a moist, light, and fluffy cake.
In a separate bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon to make your cake filling. Set aside.
It’s time for assembly! Pour half of your cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Cover your batter with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, making sure it spreads out in an even layer. Cover the filling with your remaining cake batter and smooth the top using a spatula or spoon.
Bake your cake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees F. Yes, I realize that’s a wide time window, but both the size of your Bundt pan and the relative temperature of your oven will impact how long this cake will take to bake. You know the cake is done when a skewer or knife inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. My oven runs cool and my Bundt pan produces a fairly thick cake, and it took about 55 minutes for my cake to bake completely.
Once the cake is baked, remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then, turn it over and allow it to cool sitting “right side up” for an additional 10 minutes before gently removing from the pan to cool completely.
While you are waiting for the cake to come to room temperature, make the icing. There are a couple of variations I use with this icing, depending mainly on what I happen to have in my fridge. The base always consists of powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste. The liquid, however, alternates. Milk is the standard liquid used in this type of icing, as it is simple and consistent, and works with a wide variety of cakes – not just this coffee cake.
My personal favorite for this coffee cake, however, is not milk but pulp-free orange juice. The juice adds a brightness to the cake, making it taste less like a heavy dessert and more like something I want to enjoy for breakfast or brunch. The citrus tang nicely compliments the abundant vanilla flavors in the cake, elevating this cake to something people will remember – and will request the recipe.
Whisk together your chosen icing ingredients and add additional liquid, as necessary, until the icing reaches your desired viscosity. Drizzle the icing over your coffee cake once it has cooled completely – then slice and serve!
I hope you (and your guests!) enjoy this coffee cake! If you make it at home, don’t forget to tag @WhiskAverseBaking on social media, or leave a message in the comments below.
Classic Coffee Cake
- Bundt pan
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 3.4- ounce box instant vanilla pudding
- ¾ cup butter melted (1.5 sticks)
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar – for filling
- 3 tablespoons cinnamon – for filling
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 4-6 tablespoons orange juice (can substitute milk if necessary)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
- Combine cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, melted butter, vanilla, and milk using an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Continue to beat for an additional 7 minutes; the batter should be relatively fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.
- Pour half of cake batter into bundt pan. Evenly cover with cinnamon sugar mixture before covering with the remaining cake batter.
- Bake for 45 – 60 minutes; the cake is done when a skewer placed in the depths of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before carefully removing from pan to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, prepare icing by whisking together powdered sugar and orange juice. Ice cake once it has cooled completely.