Desserts,  Recipes

Sour Milk Coffee Cake

Sour Milk Coffee Cake
Coffee Cake Made With Sour Milk

In which my mother tries to sabotage me by giving me bogus recipes:

More. Than. Once.

Allow me to back up…

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders in mid-March 2020, I went food shopping and bought a little extra, hoping not to have to go out for a while. While we used up almost everything, after a few weeks, the quart of half and half I’d purchased for my coffee started to sour with almost a pint left in it.

My mother has a recipe for a sour milk coffee cake that she’s been making since she was 12 years old, given to her by her best friend’s mother. It’s really good, and I love it, but I’ve never made it myself. I asked her if I could use half and half instead of milk and she said yes. I then asked her to send me the recipe and she did.

I made the coffee cake and while it was good, it wasn’t as good as hers and it seemed a bit dry. When I brought my mother a piece, I told her I wanted to change the recipe and she told me I probably hadn’t added enough oil.

I followed the recipe you sent me!” I said, frustrated.

I always add more oil“, she said.

Wait, what? Why did she give me a recipe that was wrong? As someone who works with recipes for a living making sure they are 100% accurate, this goes against every fiber of my being.

It was just a mistake, she said.

Later, she sent me revised versions of the recipe created for different pan sizes and those recipes were also missing ingredients. I’m telling you, it was deliberate sabotage! (Just kidding)

I made another sour milk coffee cake, tweaking the recipe a bit, and was happy with the outcome.

I brought her a piece.

She said, “I think it needs more spices. I always add more…


Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I love you! Thanks for sharing your recipe! 🙂

This post was updated with new photos and some minor recipe adjustments in February 2021.

Sour Milk Coffee Cake
Sour Milk Coffee Cake

Recipe for Sour Milk Coffee Cake:

Sour Milk Coffee Cake

A spiced cake made with sour milk.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake, dessert
Servings: 12 Servings


  • 9" Springform Pan


For the topping and batter:

  • 3.25 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.25 cups brown sugar packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1.25 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1.25 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1.25 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 cup neutral oil canola, grapeseed, etc

For the batter:

  • Remainder of the recipe above see instructions (reserve 1.25 cups for topping)
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.25 cups soured milk (or buttermilk)


Prepare the pan:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pan or spray a 9" Springform pan with pan spray and then coat the inside with flour (about 2 tablespoons).

For the Topping

  • In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together the first 8 items; flour, brown sugar, white sugar, 1.25 teaspoons each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ground ginger, and oil until they resemble lumpy bread crumbs.
  • Set aside about 1.25 cups of this mixture for the topping.
    Crumb topping for cake

For the Cake Batter

  • Add the baking soda, baking powder, and the rest of the cinnamon to the remaining dry mixture in the large bowl. Add the soured milk and the eggs to the bowl and stir with a mixing spoon until thoroughly blended.
    Sour Milk Coffee Cake Batter
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and then sprinkle the reserved topping over it.
    Sour Milk Coffee Cake
  • Bake the cake in the center of the oven for about 40-45 minutes. Start testing for doneness at about 35 minutes by sticking a wooden skewer in the center. If the skewer comes out sticky, bake for another 4-5 minutes and test again until it comes out clean in the center of the cake.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool on a baking rack. Wait at least 20-30 minutes before running a flat knife around the inside of the springform pan and then removing the ring.


If you don't have sour milk you can add about a teaspoon of vinegar to a cup of milk, leave it for a few hours and it will sour.
You can also use buttermilk instead of soured milk.
This is the type of 9" Springform pan I use.
Sour Milk Coffee Cake
Sour Milk Coffee Cake

Pin the image below to save for later!

Sour Milk Coffee Cake
Coffee cake made with sour milk or buttermilk on


  • Doug

    The center never really set, and the center was gooey. Not sure if it is safe to eat. The first 8 ingredients did not resemble lumpy bread crumbs. Disappointed.

    • formerchef

      Hi Doug-

      I’m very sorry to hear that. If the center isn’t set and is gooey, no I would not eat that. Did the mixture of the first 8 ingredients resemble the photo in the recipe? I’d love to help you figure out what went wrong. Did you make any changes to the recipe, any substitutions, or use a different pan size? Are you certain your oven’s temperature is accurate? Too low or too high could impact the baking (I’ve had this happen to me, unfortunately).

  • Lola

    No more sour milk aha moments for me. Love this coffee cake. I don’t have a spring pan but baked it in my brownie pan. Thanks so much!

  • Christine Baughman

    All of the topping went to the center of the cake while baking. I used a 9X9 square pan and there was literally a 3X3 square of topping baked into the middle. It looked very cool, but not was we were going for-haha. Any idea why this happened? The cake is delicious!

    • formerchef

      It could have something to do with oven temperature. Sometimes when an oven is too hot, the sides will rise too fast and the center will sink. Another thing that can cause a problem is expired baking powder.
      I’m kind of surprised the topping didn’t stick. I’ve never seen that! Glad you liked it anyway!

      • Pelusa Woman

        Baked it in a 9×13 pan using virgin coconut oil to decrease the linoleic acid content. Adding coconut to the topping would have been good if I had some. Since I’m not a fan of hands in food, I used a pastry blender to mix, which works well. Should have set aside 1½ to 1Âľ c. for the topping, considering the larger surface area to cover. Baked for 40 min, possibly 5 min too long. I will check it more closely next time. Good stuff, Maynard. I could see it with apple chunks or grated orange peel, too.

  • viki

    This was good! no sour taste. I did have the topping receding towards center as it rose. ( I had put pecans one hand and that half stayed in place better).

    • formerchef

      Hi Mary-
      In the US, a “Coffee Cake” is typically a cake meant to be eaten with coffee, not a cake made with coffee. If you don’t like to use canola oil, you can certainly substitute another neutral oil of your preference.

  • Teresa M Lohan

    sorry.. didn’t work for me at all.. it’s … well.. liquid still… I’ve baked it for 30 extra minutes and it’s just firmed up now.. as soon as I pulled it out of the oven it collapsed. double checked the recipe. all the right ingredients. the stove is brand new and I’ve checked the temp.. it’s right.. sigh..

      • Mary

        Tried recipe to test my new Oster countertop oven and to use up 4 ingredients. Outstanding recipe!! Added large chocolate chips to half recipe and toasted pecan pieces to topping. Baked in 4 small Nordicware round cake pans + 1 small oval pan. Cakes are tender, really flavorful with the liberal use of spices and freeze well. Shared with friends who prepared a Thai dinner, a perfect dessert served in small slices.

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