I have some pretty horrible memories of coffee cake – you probably do, too. Something along the lines of a stale, crumbly pastry filled with some gelatinous mixture reminiscent of cream cheese and a gloopy fruit layer, with a cloyingly sweet glaze on top? Ring a bell? Been there? Yeah, me, too. Let’s not go back there again.
Instead, let’s make new coffee cake memories, starting with this recipe for cream cheese swirled carrot coffee cake = a.k.a., a carrot cake-flavored coffee cake with a decadent cream cheese filling and a delightful streusel topping. And glaze. But not the kind that will make your mouth pucker with the sweetness; rather, it’s the kind that will make you shovel forkful after forkful of this goodness into said mouth again and again.
As I’ve advanced in years, I’ve moved more and more away from the sweet breakfasts of cereal and doughnuts and toaster pastries and more toward the savory egg/bacon/biscuit/bagel/cheese-based variety. That being said, every once in a while I have a hankering for a good sweet scone, muffin, monkey bread or coffee cake: and when that happens, I can’t. Stop. Thinking. About it.
Such was the case for this coffee cake, though I’ll be honest – I really was thinking about carrot cake and how I wanted a slice for breakfast the next day. But because I’m a real grownup (cough, cough), I decided to go for a more morning-appropriate recipe and make a carrot cake-based whole wheat coffee cake. And then I added a sweet cream cheese swirl and buttery streusel and glaze. For the balance, obviously.
The result was a perfectly dense, sweet, spiced, crumbly and buttery coffee cake flecked with fresh carrots and golden raisins. There’s a vanilla cream cheese filling mixed into the batter and swirled on top, too, and then the whole thing is decked out with a cinnamon-brown sugar streusel topping. And glaze (but remember, it’s the good kind). And the whole thing came together into exactly what my taste buds were after. It’s so delicious, I’ve been setting my alarm in anticipation of breakfast the next day. I’m almost – dare I say it – more excited about it than I am about my morning coffee.
Almost. Let’s not get too carried away.
I used whole wheat pastry flour, Neufchatel cream cheese and 2 percent milk in my recipe for just a little bit of virtue, but it’s obviously just as tasty with all-purpose flour, regular cream cheese and whole milk (or buttermilk), so feel free to make those substitutions as you wish. I’ve eaten it both warm and room temperature with equally reckless abandon. And it’s obviously the perfect accompaniment to coffee, but it’s also good with a glass of milk for breakfast, a glass of wine for dessert… I mean, what? I know nothing about that.
Adios, crappy coffee cake. This cream cheese swirled carrot coffee cake goodness is here to stay.
- 1 (8 oz) package Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups grated carrots
- ½ cup golden raisins (optional)
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg until smooth.
- In a separate large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, stir flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined. Use a pastry blender, two knives or fingers to cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in carrots and raisins, if desired.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk milk, vanilla and egg until smooth. Add to dry ingredients along with half of cream cheese mixture; stir until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Use tip of a knife to lightly swirl cream cheese mixture into batter.
- Make the streusel topping: In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter, two knives or fingers to cut butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of cake.
- Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Combine ingredients for glaze, adding extra powdered sugar or milk as needed to create a smooth, drippy glaze. Drizzle over cooled cake and allow to set before slicing.