Orange Butter Coffee Cake Recipe


This orange infused coffee cake is an adaptation of the author Jared DownHer grandmother’s beloved recipe, which she prepared for her family and friends every Christmas morning in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for 60 years. Coffee cake is a Christmas staple in the southern United States, something to munch on while opening presents around the tree. Accompanied by a hot cup of coffee, this sticky, nutty, lemony treat is a lovely way to announce a wintry Christmas morning.

Featured in: “Carrying on the torch of my grandmother’s Christmas morning coffee cake tradition.”

Orange Butter Coffee Cake

Citrus-infused and topped with pecans, this coffee cake is the author’s hallmark for Christmas in Tuscaloosa.

Yield: makes a 9 x 13 inch cake


4 hours, 30 minutes

For the cake:

  • 2¼ tsp. active dry yeast

  • 1 cup sugar, divided

  • 2 large eggs

  • ½ cup sour cream

  • 8 c. (½ cup) melted unsalted butter, divided, plus more for greasing

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 C. kosher salt

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, divided

  • 2 tbsp. finely grated orange zest

For the icing:

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • ½ cup sour cream

  • 4 tbsp. Butter without salt

  • 2 tbsp. Orange juice


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the yeast, ¼ cup warm water and a pinch of sugar and let stand until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup sugar, eggs, sour cream and 6 tablespoons melted butter, followed by flour and salt. Mix on low speed until a dough begins to form, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough is very smooth and elastic, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and set aside in a warm place until the dough has almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining ¾ cup sugar, ¾ cup pecans and orange zest and set aside. Butter the inside of a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish and set aside.

  3. Lightly flour a clean work surface and place the dough on it. Lightly knead the dough a few times to deflate it, then using a scraper or large chef’s knife, divide it in half. Roll each half into a loose ball, cover and set aside until the dough has relaxed slightly, about 5 minutes.

  4. Lightly flour a rolling pin and lay one of the balls of dough into an even 12-inch circle. Brush surface with 1 tablespoon melted butter, then sprinkle evenly with half of the reserved sugar-pecan mixture. Cut the circle into 12 triangular wedges. Starting at the wide end, roll one of the quarters towards the center (as if you were rolling a croissant). Lightly press the tip to flatten it slightly. Repeat with the remaining wedges, then with the second ball of dough, then transfer the rolls in 3 rows, point down, to the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the rolls have pushed together, are very gassy and have doubled in size, 1 to 1.5 hours.

  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven (with one rack positioned in the middle) to 350°F. When cake has risen, uncover and bake until evenly browned and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes.

  6. Frost the Cake: In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, butter and orange juice. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the hot glaze over the coffee cake. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup pecans. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

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