At the crack of dawn (or at least what feels like daybreak) on Christmas morning, the excited footsteps of children running into our bedroom is our wake up call. Our mobile alarm clocks do not have snooze buttons. It is the one day in the…


At the crack of dawn (or at least what feels like daybreak) on Christmas morning, the excited footsteps of children running into our bedroom is our wake up call. Our mobile alarm clocks do not have snooze buttons. It is the one day in the year when we reverse roles, where waking up is easy for them, and when we would much rather pull the covers back over our heads and sleep 15 minutes more.

Minutes later, we find ourselves downstairs, by the tree, holiday music playing, and wading through a sea of wrapping paper.

For the kids, clearly, they have their priorities – opening presents. But for the grown ups, we need sustenance. We need coffee. And because I don’t want to miss a single gift opening, I make it a point to avoid cooking breakfast during the madness.

Luckily for us, we are blessed with a dear friend and neighbor who loves to bake. During the holidays, we get especially excited when she delivers her Spanish Coffee Cake. We save it, hard as it may be, for Christmas morning. As the children are opening up presents from Santa, I unwrap Cheryl’s cake, a beloved family recipe. It is the perfect breakfast treat to start our Christmas morning.

Cheryl’s Spanish Coffee Cake is simply phenomenal, and I was so excited when this year, she delivered her cake along with the recipe. So, we unwrapped it, even before Christmas morning, and dug in.

What will we eat on Christmas morning, you ask? Well, I have the recipe! Now I can bake another, and so can you.

{Sincerest thanks to our friend, Cheryl Donatell, for sharing her family recipe! Merry Christmas to you and yours!}

Spanish Coffee Cake

Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Donatell

Cake may be baked in a 9×13 baking pan, a spring-form pan, or extra large muffin pan.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, granulated white sugar and cinnamon. Add oil.

Take 3/4 cup of this mixture and add chopped nuts; this is the streusel topping. Set aside.

To the mixture without nuts, add buttermilk, egg, baking powder and baking soda. Mix until just well incorporated. Pour batter into baking pan and sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.


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  1. sippitysup

    Merry Christmas! There is no pitter-patter of little feet in my house, but I know that excitement nonetheless. You realize I am talking about coffeecake, not Santa… right? GREG

    • Liren

      Merry Christmas, Greg! I hope you had a wonderful one!

    • Liren

      Merry Christmas, Jun! Hope you and Dennis had a good one!

  2. Roxan

    Mmm, Liren, this sounds so delicious! I think my coworkers are getting tired of me bringing in cookies but I think they would be over the moon excited if I brought in this coffee cake – we are all huge coffee drinkers and a slice of cake to go with our starbucks would be lovely. Thank you! And I hope you have a beautiful christmas weekend.

    • Liren

      I agree! I do get cookie-d out over the holidays – this is always a welcome change of pace! I’m sure your coworkers would love it!

  3. Sara @CaffeIna

    I’m always in for a coffee cake, but on Christmas day, while you are opening gifts or dealing with last minute food cooking, it seems just perfect! Happy holidays, Liren!

  4. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels

    Oh how I LOVE coffee cake, it’s one of my favorite morning treats. Now I wish I had THAT coffee cake for tomorrow morning. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

  5. Amy

    This looks scrumptious with that crumbly topping and the walnuts! I would love to get some of this all wrapped up on the holidays! Great recipe, thanks for sharing :)!

  6. Chef Dennis

    that coffee cake looks delicious! we just have the pitter patter of doggies paws to wake us up….
    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

  7. Becca

    What a wonderful way to enhance your Christmas morning! Liren, I can’t thank you enough for lighting up my life (and my kitchen!) with your happiness, ideas, and great recipes.

    May your 2011 be a year of great health, great success, great friends, and great food!

    • Liren

      Becca, thank you for your sweet comment. This past year of blogging has been amazing and I thank it for introducing me to wonderful people like you! Hope you had a great holiday :)

  8. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Merry Christmas Liren to you and your family. What a lovely Christmas morning breakfast – I wish I could be so lucky but down here in Los Mochis, I think we will be eating whatever we can find this morning. I will close my eyes and imagine it’s this!

    • Liren

      Merry Christmas, Mardi! Hope you’re having a wonderful time in Los Mochis (that sounds much more interesting than coffee cake, if you ask me!).

  9. Jessica

    This coffee cake looks delicious! I’ve been looking through some of your other posts & just wanted to say that I love your photos. Everything looks great!!

    • Liren

      Why thank you, Jessica!!! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying my blog!

    • Liren

      Great question. I’ve been wondering, too, what makes it Spanish. This is an old recipe, from what I understand, but I’m not quite sure why it’s called Spanish Coffee Cake. Some seem to suspect that back in the day, it was the use of Spanish/Moorish spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, etc., made this Spanish. I would love to know the history behind it!

  10. Leanne

    What a perfect christmas breakfast! This year my son slept in until 10:30 (and he’s only four!) so I had lots of time to prepare breakfast. I might have to try this next year! (or, more realistically, next week).

    • Liren

      You are so lucky to sleep in till 10:30 this year! Our 5 year old woke up his older sister (and subsequently us) at 4:30 am this year. That’s a record!

  11. Tiny Urban Kitchen

    Merry Christmas Liren! This coffee cake sounds divine, and the combination of that and your kids opening presents sounds like an absolutely perfect morning. :)

  12. Jean

    I feel like I disappeared from the blogging world for a few days and missed this post. What a beautiful coffee cake and what a treat to be able to enjoy this on Christmas morning. My own was spent rushing to finish a cake and a couple of other dishes before we had to head to my parents’. I would have appreciated the less frenetic morning you spent.

    Please thank your friend in advance for me as I definitely want to try this sometime. Happy New Year, Liren!

  13. A Canadian Foodie

    Liren –
    What a GORGEOUS gift – and what a beautiful time of your life, right now, with little feet pitter-pattering through the house, and magic in the air at Christmas. I am still enjoying a wonderful and different phase of my life – but I truly do miss the magic of the little ones at Christmas time. It changes to a warm depth of appreciation for the time one gets with the family… and often, as they are grown and gone, it is only during the holidays. What a special time for us, too.
    Happy New Year to you and your family!
    I cannot wait to see how you bring it in!

  14. Lorraine

    Is the cake supposed to be wiggly after 40 minutes?
    Is the cooking time correct?

  15. Lorraine

    Is the cooking time for a conventional or confection oven? I have found I needed to bake this 18-20 minutes longer than specified in my conventional oven.

    • Liren Baker

      Hi Lorraine,

      Bake time was in a conventional oven, though it can definitely vary depending on your oven, pan type, ingredients (eggs can make a difference, for example), and altitude. 35-40 minutes is a good guideline, though of course, as in your case, it may take longer. I hope that helps!

  16. Liz

    Made this cake to eat with neighbours later this afternoon on the patio – but who could resist it warm from the oven? Certainly not my husband and I! I noted that the recipe said it could be made in a springform or a 9 x 13 cake pan. I chose to use my 9 x 13 pan (lucky because I inherited it from my darling Ma-in-Law). It turned out beautifully and took 35 minutes exactly to bake, as set out in the recipe. As it was a thinner cake, being baked in the big pan, I am guessing that the extra bake time another commentator encountered might have been due to the cake being baked in a springform pan, which would have made for a deeper cake. Whatever, it is divine and is going into our “Home Recipes” binder for sure! Hopefully by tea time on the patio there will be some left for the neighbours to try!

    • Liren Baker

      Liz, I am so glad you enjoyed this cake and that it worked out beautifully in your 9×13 cake pan. It really is a keeper, and I do hope the neighbors enjoy their taste, too! Thank you for coming back to let me know :)

  17. Melani

    This is  my families favorite coffee cake. My grandmother made it forever and for every occasion :)  I always thought it was a secret family recipe :)  I’m making it for my husband to take to school tomorrow! There is no doubt it is good anything of day or night, hot or cool  although I don’t think it lasts long enough in our family to cool off!  Great pictures and I think it was awesome finding your site. 

    • Liren Baker

      So glad you found my site, Melani! This cake doesn’t last long at my house, either, and I have also been sharing this cake with neighbors during the holidays – they disappear quickly!

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