I am going to start off by saying that this ma’amoul coffee cake is divine. It is light, aromatic, and bursting with textures. You have crunch from the chopped walnuts and stickiness from the chopped dates. The cookie spice which has notes of cinnamon and anise makes this cake even more reminiscent of the well-known ma’amoul cookie.
What is ma’amoul?
Now, you may be thinking what is ma’amoul? It is a very popular Arab holiday cookie often served around Ramadan, Eid, and Easter. It is buttery and traditionally stuffed with date paste or nuts. The most popular nut is walnuts mixed with cinnamon and sugar. These cookies also have notes of anise in them from the cookie spice then are baked and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. They are so delicious but tedious as each cookie is intricately made. This ma’amoul coffee cake lets your house smell just as if you are baking ma’amoul with half the work! You will be pleasantly surprised that it tastes quite similar too!
You may be thinking, how did I combine a traditional maamoul cookie with coffee cake? Well, the mash-up is quite perfect and ingenious. Ma’amoul cookies are buttery, fragrant, slightly crumbly, and often stuffed with dates or nuts. Coffee cakes are also buttery, light, crumbly, nutty, and cinnamon-forward. The idea to combine the two flavors was purely accidental but a beautiful accident at that. I was blown away by the flavors and textures of this cake and how my kitchen really did smell like the holidays as if I was baking ma’amoul. Better yet, this cake takes half the time and achieves the flavors of ma’amoul we love while giving off coffee cake vibes.
What makes this a ma’amoul coffee cake?
When I was developing this cake, I wanted it to be fluffy, moist, and light. Sour cream does just that. And in most coffee cakes, you will find sour cream in a recipe as it really adds the perfect tang and moist texture to the cake. Also, to add a little extra finesse to the cake; I split the batter in half and topped in half and layered the cake while baking with batter then topping then batter then topping. This also gave off the popular coffee cake look of cinnamon in the center and a streusel-like topping.
Ma’amoul comes to play in this dessert in several ways. First, with the pieces of sweet chewy Medjool dates from Natural Delights. Their dates are hearty and add the perfect amount of sweetness, and freshness. Not only that, but they are free of any preservatives or pesticides, and easy to find in most local supermarkets. Check them out next time you are grocery shopping! Dates are such a perfect addition to this recipe and really took this cake to another level.
That and using the spices often found in a traditional cookie in this ma’amoul coffee cake. Cookie spice or ma’amoul spice is often found in Middle Eastern grocery stores in the spice section. I highly recommend purchasing it for this recipe. Alternatively, you can use mainly ground cinnamon & anise, with hints of cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg to achieve a similar flavor for your own maamoul spice blend recipe.
Walnuts are also the most common nut in ma’amoul cookies. They are often chopped very finely or ground in a food processor then seasoned with sugar and cinnamon. The filling and/or topping for this cake is just that. It is chopped walnuts with sugar and cinnamon. This cake really ties in all these flavors that just work together so well. Oh, and if you like to stick to cookies then try my date walnut cookie for a delicious bite!
I work with dates often and have plenty of recipes utilizing this beloved fruit to the Middle East. Feel free to check out some of these recipes if you are a date fan like me!
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below. Share your remakes with me on Instagram! I love to see you making my recipes for your loved ones.
Ma’amoul Coffee Cake
- 1 cup Granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Unsalted butter, melted (1 stick) Light olive oil (must be light) would work as well.
- 2 Eggs
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 3/4 cup Sour Cream plain yogurt is a good substitute but recipe was tested with sour cream
- 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp Cookie Spice (ma'amoul/ka'ek spice)* see notes
- 1/2 tsp Ground Anise, optional add for a more pronounced flavor. ma'amoul spice should already have anise in it too.
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 10 Natural Delights Medjool dates, chopped
- 1 cup Walnuts, finely chopped may need more
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Cookie spice (ma'amoul/ka'ek spice)* see notes
- 3 tbsp Brown sugar
- Powdered Sugar for sprinkling on top
- Cream together the butter and sugar with a whisk or rubber spatula or using the paddle attachment for your Kitchenaid.
- Then, add 1 egg at a time, mixing together. Add in the vanilla as well and give it a stir.
- At this point, add the sour cream and stir everything together.
- Slowly pour the baking powder, all-purpose flour, ground cinnamon, ground anise (if using), and ma'amoul spice into the wet mixture. Mix together until creamy and smooth. Avoid overmixing so the batter remains fluffy and light.
- Gently fold in the chopped dates then set the batter to the side.
- For the filling/topping, mix all the ingredients in that category together really well other than the powdered sugar.
- In a greased 8 or 9 inch round or square baking pan, add half of the cake batter. Then add half of the filling mixture (try to have more of the cinnamon sugar in this layer -reserve more of the nuts to go on top) then add the rest of the batter making sure to spread it well. The batter is a bit sticky so spread it gently. It is easier to add the batter in scattered dollops first then spread. Top it off with the remaining nut mixture covering the surface of the cake. Pat the topping slightly into the batter to help it stick more after baking. *The layers of cake batter will appear thin and not seem like much when being spread in the pan but I promise you it will yield a great end result.
- Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 45 minutes if using a 9-inch pan and closer to 50-55 minutes for an 8 inch pan. You can check if the cake is fully baked by giving it a little jiggle and/or inserting a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cake is baked through. *To avoid over- browning, bake the cake at the bottom rack for 35 minutes and the remaining time on the top rack till baked through.
- Keep in mind that the size pan you use will make a difference with baking time as mentioned above. If a muffin pan is used, bake time may be cut by half. Just keep an eye on the cake.
- Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes before topping with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and slicing through and enjoying! This cake tastes better once its room temperature as the flavors and textures become more pronounced with time. I enjoy it best a few hours after baking it. It keeps well room temperature for 2 days in an airtight container. After that, keep it in the fridge sealed then warm whenever you want to enjoy a piece.
- This cake is absolutely divine with a cup of warm coffee!