A coffee cake with a streusel topping and a glaze drizzled over it

Coffee cake is a beloved pastry that typically contains cinnamon and is served best with coffee, as the name suggests. However, there’s a debate on what toppings to use on the cake – should it be streusel or glaze? In this article, we’ll dive into the origins of these toppings, explore their different textures, and compare their flavor profiles to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether to go for streusel or glaze on your coffee cake.

Why coffee cake needs toppings

Coffee cakes are often served as a sweet and indulgent breakfast or brunch food, and toppings like streusel or glaze add an extra layer of sweetness and crunchiness to the cake. Without these toppings, the cake may be too dense or dry, and toppings like streusel or glaze can elevate the cake’s flavor to the next level.

The history of streusel and glaze on coffee cake

Streusel is a German term that means “something scattered or sprinkled”. The term is used to describe a crumbly topping, usually made of flour, butter, sugar, and cinnamon, that is sprinkled on top of cakes, pies, and other baked goods. The origins of streusel on coffee cake can be traced back to Germany in the 16th century when coffeehouses became popular and cakes were served with coffee. Glaze, on the other hand, is a mixture of powdered sugar and liquid, such as milk or lemon juice, that is poured over the cake to create a thin, sweet coating. Glaze has been used on cakes and pastries for centuries and was popularized in the United States during the 1950s.

Interestingly, the use of streusel and glaze on coffee cake has evolved over time. In the past, streusel was used primarily as a way to add texture and crunch to the cake, while glaze was used to add sweetness and moisture. However, in recent years, bakers have started to experiment with different combinations of streusel and glaze, using them to create unique flavor profiles and visual designs. Some coffee cakes now feature intricate patterns of streusel and glaze, while others use unexpected ingredients like nuts, fruit, or chocolate to add depth and complexity to the topping. Despite these changes, streusel and glaze remain a beloved and essential part of the coffee cake tradition.

Streusel recipe for coffee cake

If you’re a fan of textured toppings, streusel may be your go-to choice for coffee cake. Here’s a simple recipe you can use to add some texture to your classic coffee cake:

  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  4. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 1/4 tsp salt
  6. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
  7. Add melted butter and stir until mixture resembles coarse sand.
  8. Sprinkle over your coffee cake batter before baking.

Streusel is a versatile topping that can be used on a variety of baked goods, not just coffee cake. It can be added to muffins, bread, and even pies for an extra crunch. You can also experiment with different flavors by adding nuts, oats, or even chocolate chips to the mixture. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new combinations to find your perfect streusel recipe!

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Glaze recipe for coffee cake

If you prefer a smoother and more uniform topping, glaze may be the way to go. Here’s a simple recipe you can use for your coffee cake:

  1. 1 cup powdered sugar
  2. 2 tbsp milk
  3. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  4. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.
  5. Drizzle the glaze over your cooled coffee cake.

For a fun twist on this classic glaze recipe, try adding a tablespoon of instant coffee granules to the mixture. This will give your coffee cake a subtle coffee flavor that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the glaze. You can also experiment with different extracts, such as almond or maple, to create a unique flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to get creative and make this glaze recipe your own!

The difference in texture between streusel and glaze

As mentioned earlier, streusel creates a crumbly, crunchy texture on top of the coffee cake, while glaze creates a smooth and thin layer. The texture of the topping you choose will depend on your personal preference – if you enjoy textured toppings, streusel may be more appealing, while if you prefer a more uniform and smooth topping, glaze may be the right choice.

Another factor to consider when choosing between streusel and glaze is the overall texture of the coffee cake. If the cake itself is already quite dense and heavy, a lighter glaze may be a better choice to balance out the texture. On the other hand, if the cake is light and fluffy, a crunchy streusel topping can add some much-needed texture and contrast.

It’s also worth noting that streusel and glaze can have different flavor profiles. Streusel is often made with ingredients like brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, which can add a warm and cozy flavor to the coffee cake. Glaze, on the other hand, can be made with a variety of ingredients, from simple powdered sugar and milk to more complex flavorings like citrus zest or vanilla extract. Consider the flavors of your coffee cake and choose a topping that will complement them well.

Streusel vs. glaze: which one is more flavorful?

When it comes to flavor, streusel and glaze provide completely different tastes. Streusel is rich, buttery, and sweet, and offers an intense cinnamon flavor. Glaze, on the other hand, is very sweet and sugary, and doesn’t offer as much complexity in terms of flavor. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your taste buds and whether you prefer buttery, crumbly topping or a smooth and sugary topping.

It’s worth noting that streusel and glaze also differ in texture. Streusel provides a crunchy, crumbly texture that adds a nice contrast to soft baked goods like muffins or coffee cakes. Glaze, on the other hand, creates a smooth and shiny surface that can add a decorative touch to pastries like donuts or cinnamon rolls. So, in addition to considering flavor, texture is another important factor to keep in mind when deciding between streusel and glaze.

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How to make a decision on which topping to use for your coffee cake

When making a decision on which topping to use for your coffee cake, consider your personal preferences, your audience, and the occasion for serving the cake. If you’re serving the cake to a group of people with varying palates, it might be a good idea to include both a streusel and glaze topping to cater to different tastes.

Another factor to consider when choosing a topping for your coffee cake is the texture. If you prefer a crunchy texture, a streusel topping made with butter, sugar, and flour would be a great choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a smooth and creamy texture, a glaze made with powdered sugar and milk would be a better option.

Lastly, the flavor of the topping should complement the flavor of the cake. For example, if you’re making a cinnamon-flavored coffee cake, a streusel topping made with cinnamon and brown sugar would be a perfect match. Similarly, if you’re making a lemon-flavored coffee cake, a glaze made with lemon juice and powdered sugar would enhance the citrusy flavor of the cake.

The impact of toppings on the nutritional value of coffee cake

Both streusel and glaze can add calories and sugar content to the coffee cake, thereby increasing its caloric and nutritional values. However, the nutritional impact of the toppings will depend on the ingredients used in the toppings and the portion size of the cake. It’s best to enjoy coffee cake in moderation and opt for healthier, homemade toppings instead of store-bought ones with high sugar content and artificial ingredients.

One way to make coffee cake toppings healthier is to use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar. These sweeteners not only add flavor but also provide some nutritional benefits. Additionally, incorporating nuts or seeds into the toppings can add healthy fats and protein to the cake, making it more filling and satisfying.

Another factor to consider when it comes to the nutritional value of coffee cake is the type of flour used in the recipe. Whole wheat flour or almond flour can be used instead of white flour to increase the fiber and protein content of the cake. This can help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels.

Tips for storing coffee cake with streusel or glaze topping

If you’re planning to store coffee cake with streusel or glaze topping, it’s best to store it in an airtight container or cover it with plastic wrap. This will help prevent the topping from becoming stale and keep the cake fresh for longer. However, it’s important to note that streusel toppings may lose their crunchiness over time, so it’s best to consume the cake with streusel topping within a day or two of baking it.

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Creative variations of streusel and glaze toppings for your coffee cake

There are several variations you can make to the classic streusel and glaze toppings to add some variation to your coffee cake. For example, you can add chopped nuts or dried fruits to your streusel mixture for some added crunch and flavor. Alternatively, you can experiment with different liquid bases for your glaze, such as chocolate, maple syrup, or honey, to create new and exciting flavor combinations for your coffee cake.

The best type of coffee to serve with a streusel or glaze-topped coffee cake

Coffee cakes pair best with coffee that has a medium to dark roast profile, as this complements the cinnamon flavor in the cake. Additionally, if you’re serving a sweeter coffee cake with glaze topping, you may want to pair it with a coffee that has a more complex flavor profile, such as a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, to balance the sweetness in the cake.

How to present a streusel or glaze-topped coffee cake for maximum appeal

Presentation is key when serving coffee cakes with toppings like streusel or glaze. If you’re serving the cake for a special occasion, you can add some decoration to your cake – for example, a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of melted chocolate on top of the glaze. You can also use a cake stand or serving platter to showcase the cake and make it more appealing to your guests.

The cultural significance of streusel and glaze-topped coffee cakes around the world

Streusel and glaze-topped coffee cakes have a rich cultural significance in several parts of the world. In Germany, for example, coffee cake is known as “kaffee und kuchen” and is served as a traditional afternoon snack. In Scandinavia, coffee cake is known as “kaffebrod” and is often served with strong coffee or tea. In the United States, coffee cake has become a popular breakfast and brunch food, often served with a generous helping of either streusel or glaze toppings.

Expert opinions on the superiority of streusel or glaze topping for coffee cakes

When it comes to the superiority of streusel or glaze topping for coffee cakes, opinions may vary. Some experts prefer the crumbly and buttery texture of streusel, while others prefer the smooth and sugary taste of glaze. Ultimately, it boils down to your personal preferences, the occasion, and the audience of your coffee cake.


In conclusion, both streusel and glaze toppings offer unique and delicious flavors and textures to coffee cake. Your choice between the two will depend on your personal preferences, the occasion, and the audience. Whether you go for streusel or glaze, coffee cake is an indulgent treat that should be enjoyed in moderation and with a cup of hot coffee. Experiment with different variations and have fun exploring the different flavors and textures of this classic pastry.

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