Brown Butter and Cardamon Coffee Cake

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Brown-Butter-and-Cardamon-Coffee-CakeBC1“On Christmas morning, there must be crumb coffee  cake” – Holiday House Rule #2

When my husband was growing up, there was always a little crumb coffee cake on Christmas morning – you know, the little one that comes with it’s own pan that you mix and bake the cake in? Well, it’s one of my husband’s favorites and since Christmas is also his birthday we try and make the day not just about Christmas – so crumb coffee cake there will be!

So, I could of course pick up 3 of those little boxes (since each of “the boys” can eat one all by their little ole self) but I just can’t really bring myself to do it.

And therein lay the dilemma.

You see, I am one of those people who believes that coffee cake is best fresh out of the oven.  Baked the day before and warmed up just does not do it for me. It sounds silly, I know – but that is just the way ” I roll” as they say.

So,  how to have a fresh and warm coffee cake without violating Holiday House Rule #1 – not making anything for Christmas morning that I have to fuss with – which means no hauling out the containers of flour and sugar, sink full of dirty prep bowls to wash, etc., etc?

Hmm… maybe that boxed coffee cake wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Ah, but lucky for me (and I seriously hope, for you!) there is a solution. A coffee cake that you can prep the day before and bake in the morning!

TA DA!! Problem solved. Deliciously as well, I might add.

Brown Butter and Cardamon Coffee Cake
Prep time
Cook time
This recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated. I used two 9 inch springform pans but you could also use two 9 inch cake pans - I prefer the springform pans since it makes serving the cakes easier! Don't be tempted to bake the cakes in 1 large pan - the outside will be overdone before the center is done. I have also made this with reduced fat sour cream which works fine. The cake is not as rich, but it still has a nice crumb. I used toasted walnuts in this but pecans or almonds could also be used.
Serves: 12 to 16 servings
  • Crumb Topping
  • ⅓ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Cake
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1¾ cups sour cream
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, browned
  1. To make the crumb topping. Combine the sugars, flour, cinnamon and butter together until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If you have a few pea sized lumps of butter, that's fine. Stir in the walnuts and set aside.
  2. For the Cake: Spray two 9 inch springform pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Cook the butter until it turns a golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. You will notice that the milk solids will float to bottom of the pan and will turn dark brown/black which is what you are looking for! Take the butter off the heat and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamon and salt together. In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, sugars, eggs and browned butter together. Stir the dry ingredients into the sour cream mixture, mixing just until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. You don't want to mix it too much! Sprinkle the crumb topping over both cakes, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight if desired.
  3. To bake cakes, pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake refrigerated cakes for 35 - 40 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. For cakes that aren't refrigerated, bake for approximately 25 minutes.
  4. These cakes can also be frozen - to bake frozen cakes, unwrap from the freezer and bake for 45 minutes.



  1. says

    My new motto..kind of like bacon ‘-Everything is better with brown butter in it’, and this cake is certainly no exception. The addition of cardamom is lovely! Gorgeous, mouth-watering and bookmmarked! OH..I totally agree about coffee cake being best right out of the oven!

  2. says

    How funny , crumb cake is a part of my husband’s family Christmas traditions! They always had some growing up and it’s a tradition that I’ve very happily accepted of course, b/c who doesn’t want to wake up to a slice of that on Christmas morning. Just beautiful!

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