Typically, coffee cake doesn’t actually contain any coffee. This sweet, streusel-topped crumb cake gets its name from the fact that it’s so good served with coffee for breakfast. But today, I’m sharing a recipe for coffee cake that actually has coffee in it, with these high altitude Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins. These are moist, tender muffins made with brown sugar and sour cream, spiced with espresso powder and nutmeg, and more espresso powder in the crumb topping for a delicious coffee flavor.
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- All-Purpose Flour. Gives the muffin batter strength and structure.
- Coarse Kosher Salt. Balances the sweetness.
- Baking Soda. Leavens the muffin batter.
- Nutmeg + Vanilla. Flavor.
- Dark Brown Sugar. Adds moisture and sweetness.
- Eggs. Adds structure.
- Sour Cream. Moisture, fat and acidity, for a tender muffin.
- Unsalted Butter + Vegetable Oil. A combination of melted butter and oil makes the muffins light, fluffy, moist and flavorful.
- Espresso Powder. You can use either espresso powder, or instant coffee powder to add the most wonderful coffee flavor to the muffins.
Coffee cake muffins are made of two parts: the cake batter and the crumb topping. The espresso coffee cake muffins are super light and fluffy, sweetened with dark brown sugar, and spiced with espresso powder (or instant coffee), nutmeg and vanilla. They’re flavorful and moist, thanks to a combination of melted butter, oil and sour cream.
With crumb cakes and muffins, the crumb topping is just as important as the cake itself. It’s sweet, a little salty, buttery, and crumbly. Simply the perfect topping for these coffee-flavored coffee cake muffins.
Make the Muffin Batter.
So first, sift together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, coarse Kosher salt, baking soda and nutmeg. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients: dark brown sugar, eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vegetable oil, vanilla and espresso powder or instant coffee.
Of course, espresso powder is a dry ingredient and not a liquid. But the reason I add it to the liquid ingredients is to let it dissolve, which extracts its full flavor, rather than sifting it in with the dry ingredients.
Stir everything together, leaving a few floury streaks. It’s important not to over-mix your coffee cake batter. To scoop it into the muffin pan, I like to use an ice cream scoop/cupcake scoop.
Make the Crumb Topping.
For the crumb topping, just combine all-purpose flour, dark brown sugar, espresso powder and coarse Kosher salt. Then drizzle with melted butter and toss together until moistened and crumbly. Pile the crumbs onto the batter and lightly press them into the batter.
Bake your espresso coffee cake muffins on the center oven rack until the topping is golden brown and the centers of the muffins are done. Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then carefully remove the muffins and set them on a cooling rack. If some of the crumbs fall off the muffins, I just scoop them up with a spoon and pile them back on! No crumbs are left behind.
Frequently Asked Questions
What to serve with these muffins?
Coffee, obviously! I’d suggest keeping things simple. They’re great just as is, warm and fresh from the oven, plain or with a little smear of softened butter.
Can these muffins be made into a coffee cake instead?
Absolutely. Follow all the directions, but instead of baking the batter in a muffin pan, spread it into a greased 8 or 9 inch baking pan. Top with the streusel crumbs and bake until done in the center. A whole cake might take anywhere from 35-45 minutes, so be sure to check for doneness.
What about other spices and add-ins?
These crumb cake muffins are fantastic with pecans. Finely chop a handful of pecans or walnuts, and add them to the batter with the dry ingredients. I also think blueberries would be great in these muffins.
For the spice, I added nutmeg to my muffins, but cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and allspice would all be great, as well. Just don’t overdo the spices, since you want the coffee flavor to be the star.
What if I can’t find espresso powder?
Both espresso powder and instant coffee work great in this recipe. My local grocery store carries this instant espresso coffee powder, and many specialty food brands sell espresso powder on their websites. These muffins should not be made with brewed coffee, since that would water down the batter too much.
Are these still good leftover?
I always think muffins are best the day they’re made, especially warm from the oven. But these are still great for several days after. Store in an airtight container, and rewarm briefly in the microwave for that just-baked texture.
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High Altitude Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins
All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet. See FAQs for adjusting to higher or lower elevations.
- Muffin Pan
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee powder
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee powder
- ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line a standard-sized muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Lightly spray the liners with non-stick baking spray.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and nutmeg.
- Separately, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vegetable oil, vanilla and espresso powder.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir just until combined, but there are a few floury bits here and there.
- Use a cupcake/ice cream scoop to portion the batter into the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt and espresso powder. Drizzle with the melted butter.
- Use a fork, or a pastry cutter, to toss the mixture together until moistened and crumbly.
- Spoon the streusel over the batter, and lightly press the crumbs into the batter.
- Bake the muffins on the center oven rack, for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the muffins in the pan for 3 minutes, then gently remove them, setting them on a cooling rack. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then serve warm.
- Muffins are best eaten the day they’re made, leftovers are still good for up to 3 days, stored in an airtight container. For a just-baked texture, rewarm in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
- It’s normal for some of the crumb topping to fall off when you remove the muffins from the pan. Just scoop up the crumbs and pile them back on!
- Because of the espresso powder, these muffins are not overly sweet, but just sweet enough, with bitter coffee notes. If you like a sweeter muffin, rather than increasing the sugar in the batter, try drizzling the muffins with a vanilla powdered sugar icing. Maple icing would be fantastic, too.
- These muffins are great with chopped pecans or walnuts added to the batter, or to the crumb topping.
- Blueberries would also be a delicious addition.