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The stockings are nearly full, the gifts are either wrapped or en route to our home, and countless cups of cocoa have been consumed. There has been Christmas music playing for weeks, opening of advent doors, and readings of a humble birth. We’ve seen lights, reindeer, a Space Needle all lit up, and a camel named Curly. With only a few more traditions to cross off our list the day is approaching quickly and we all are counting the sleeps.


It’s true, I’m giddy at the thought of nine kidlets and cousins joyfully tearing into their presents, and thrilled to imagine the warmth of a fire I’ll sit next to for countless hours, but it’s this coffee cake that is making the days leading up to Christmas feel as if they are taking far too long to pass.

I made this cake last week to test if it was Christmas morning worthy. Since then I’ve resisted making it again and again. Now the anticipation is making me weak.

Let me assure you, it is Christmas morning worthy.

This coffee cake makes eating cake seem perfectly appropriate for a morning’s activity. And really Christmas morning needs no excuse to be eating cake, but this one avoids being overtly sweet with layers of tanginess from both creme fraiche and cream cheese. A subtle citrus flavor runs throughout complementing the soft bitterness from the cocoa nibs.


Let’s pause there for a moment so I can convince you that your pantry needs cocoa nibs. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago when I myself felt no need to have cocoa nibs be a part of my regular routine. Then a packaged arrived from the kind people at Theo chocolate. There were many delightful things inside but it was the nibs that intrigued me the most.

Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted and cracked. They’re bitter and nearly savory and yet you can recognize that it’s chocolate. They look as though their texture could break your teeth but as you bite into them it’s a gentle crunch that softens as the cocoa butter melts. In this coffee cake they are the perfect accessory for texture and flavor and one of the many reasons that makes this cake worthy of a holiday morning.

Happy Holidays to you all!



This recipe appears a bit daunting by the sheer length of it. I know I would roll my eyes at all the steps but I assure you all those messy bowls are well worth the trouble. I am counting down the days until Christmas morning when I will enjoy this coffee cake once again.

2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute half whole wheat if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, soft

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)

Pre-heat your oven to 350*F. Butter a tube pan or a bundt pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and light, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is on medium low. Add the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again then add the creme fraiche. With the mixer on low add the dry ingredients. Stop the mixer while streaks of flour remain. Finish mixing by hand to prevent over mixing.

Set aside ½ cup of the batter.

Cream Cheese Filling

4 oz cream cheese, soft

1 Tablespoon butter, soft

¼ teaspoon orange zest

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup coffee cake batter (reserved from above)

Beat in a mixer or medium bowl until smooth. Stir in ½ cup cake batter.


½ cup almonds

¼ cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

½ teaspoon cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

⅓ cup cocoa nibs (can be found at fine grocery stores, specialty food stores or ordered online)

Add ingredients, except the cocoa nibs, to the bowl of a food processor and processor until coarse crumb. Stir in the cocoa nibs.

Add half of the cocoa nib crumble to the bottom of the pan. On top of that add half of the batter. The batter is stiff and hard to spread around without disturbing the crumble so I find that spooning the batter into the pan works best. Add a layer of cream cheese filling around the ring than cover with the remaining batter.Try and make sure no cream cheese is left exposed so as not to burn that layer.

Top with the remaining crumbling topping.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 45-50 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for about an hour before running a knife around the edge of pan then inverted. Invert the cake one more time so it’s back to the original baking position. Served warm is best but it’s also great the day after baking (even the day after the day after).

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