Butterscotch Coffee Cake

A Georgia reader tells of her aunt's heartwarming instant pudding coffee cake, and we reimagine it as a from-scratch tube pan marvel drizzled with a rich butterscotch glaze.

Whoever said it’s the simple things that matter most in life had it right. There’s not much to my Aunt Peg’s butterscotch coffee cake except for butter, eggs, sugar, pecans, and vanilla and butterscotch instant puddings, but every time Aunt Peg made this for me when I was a little girl, it was enough to fill me with a warm and comforting feeling. It was a simple stir-together recipe baked in a 13×9-inch pan, but the rich butterscotch flavor and crunchy streusel topping made it unbelievably satisfying.

Neither my parents nor my grandparents baked for my brother and me when we were growing up in Indiana. Only Aunt Peg did, but she lived hours away in Michigan. During school holidays, my mother, grandparents, brother, and I piled into the car to drive to Aunt Peg’s for extended visits. As we drove along, I paid little attention to the scenic views. I had only one thing on my mind: Aunt Peg’s butterscotch coffee cake. As soon as we’d arrive, Aunt Peg would shuffle us into her kitchen where the cake would be cooling on her table. It always made me feel special that Aunt Peg baked for us when no one else did—it was her way of showing love.

When I got engaged in 1975, Aunt Peg gave me her butterscotch coffee cake recipe for my bridal shower. Of all the recipes I received that day, that’s the one I’ve made the most over the years. I’ve brought it to family dinners and birthday parties, but these days, I bake it every week and leave it on my front porch. There are a lot of sick and elderly people in my community who’re unable to care for themselves, but they know they can come to my porch and grab whatever they need. The coffee cake is always one of the first things to go. I hope it helps those in need feel just as special and comforted as Aunt Peg made me feel all those years ago.

—Myrna Stanczak, Cumming, Georgia


Butterscotch Coffee Cake
Makes 1 (10-inch) tube cake
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups (440 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
  • Butterscotch Sauce (recipe follows), divided
  • 2 large eggs (100 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups (313 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons (11.25 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  • ¾ cup (180 grams) whole buttermilk
  • 1 cup (113 grams) chopped pecans*
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a 10-inch tube pan with baking spray with flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, place melted butter. Whisk in 1 cup (220 grams) brown sugar, cup (180 grams) Butterscotch Sauce, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk in buttermilk just until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together pecans, cinnamon, and remaining 1 cup (220 grams) brown sugar.
  5. Pour two-thirds of batter (about 745 grams) into prepared pan, smoothing with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with half of pecan mixture. Top with remaining batter (about 373 grams), smoothing with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with remaining pecan mixture.
  6. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes, covering with foil after 30 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and drizzle with remaining Butterscotch Sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Butterscotch Sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Just let it come to room temperature before making the cake or serving. (Alternatively, you can microwave it on high in 10-second intervals, stirring between each, until warm and fluid.)

*We used Sunnyland Farms Raw Georgia Pecans Halves



Butterscotch Sauce
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup (220 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 grams) heavy whipping cream
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in vanilla bean paste, brown sugar, and salt until dissolved. Add cream, and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool to room temperature.



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