There is something about coffee cake in all its seemingly endless variations that I find more satisfying and comforting than any other cake. Maybe it's the image I conjure up when I hear the words coffee cake: a quiet, calm afternoon with no other company than a cup of dark, hot coffee and a big slice of buttery cake that's layered and topped with streusel and glaze. It's a bliss that's difficult to match.
Coffee cakes are always rich and crumbly, and some have nubby, streusel toppings or pops of fruit embedded in the base. My recipes tend to be lavish— including generous amounts of tart and thick sour cream, butter, eggs, and a middle layer of streusel. The recipe for the base of the cake is almost always the same because the gorgeous, thick, heavy batter produces a picture-perfect cake.
This recipe is a very literal play on the genre of this cake, but despite how pedestrian my pun might be, the cake is stellar. The batter is made deep and dark with espresso and coffee liqueur, then layered with a crunchy, nutty streusel of toasted hazelnuts and intensely earthy cocoa nibs. The mixture is added at the base of the pan, then again in the center: the cake will have a textured crown and a finely pebbled center that perfectly contrasts the velvety crumb. For added indulgence, there is a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate and coffee liqueur.
You might try this with a glass of cold milk, but there's nothing wrong with being overJoe'd.
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About the author: María del Mar Sacasa is a recipe developer, food stylist, and author of the food blog High Heels & Frijoles. Behind her girly façade lurks a truck driver's appetite. Read about her cravings and suffer through her occasional rants on Twitter @HHandFrijoles and Pinterest.