The Subtle Difference Between Coffee Cake And Crumb Cake

What goes better with a cup of coffee than a slice of coffee cake? You may say crumb cake, and you won't be wrong. Both cakes are deliciously moist with a hint of cinnamon, pair beautifully with coffee or tea, and serve as the perfect breakfast treats or desserts. The difference between the two cakes is subtle, often confusing pastry lovers, and lies in the quantity of that irresistible streusel crowning the cakes. 

What's streusel? It's a crumbly topping often made from butter, flour, cinnamon, and brown sugar, adding a delightful textural contrast to the softness of the cake beneath. When it comes to coffee cake, the streusel is sprinkled on sparingly, often appearing as a thin layer or even as an inserted ribbon. It's a flavorful addition, but not overly dominating. 

On the other hand, a crumb cake is all about the streusel, making up to half the height of the cake itself. Hence, the streusel volume gives crumb cake its name and sets it apart from its coffee cake cousin.

While you can skip the streusel with coffee cakes, streusel dominates in crumb cakes

The streusel on the crumb cake is left intentionally clumpy and dominating, providing a noticeable contrast in texture to the tender and moist cake below. Finally, on top, you can dust the crumb cake with confectioners' sugar, adding an appealing snow-white layer to the brown streusel. 

Another difference between the two cakes (and this is less subtle) is that while it's common to add streusel to coffee cake, it doesn't always require it. You could always substitute the crumb topping with other toppings like icing, nuts, fruits and berries, and confectioners' sugar to make different varieties of coffee cake; however, you simply can't skip the streusel layer when it comes to the crumb cake.

Despite these subtle and not-so-subtle differences, coffee and crumb cakes are delightful companions to your tea or coffee. So, whether you're a streusel lover or prefer tender cakes with just a touch of crumb, there's a treat out there waiting to tickle your tastebuds.