Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Heart-shaped cinnamon pecan coffee cake

This is a sponsored post by Challenge, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

Going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day is always a big deal, but you may want to consider kicking off the holiday with a special breakfast, especially since it's on a Sunday this year. One of my favorite traditions growing up was a special Valentine's Day breakfast. My mom always made heart-shaped pancakes for my dad and me. It made me feel really special, and I looked forward to Valentine's Day every year. It was the inspiration behind this heart-shaped coffee cake.

Coffee cakes were a big deal on my dad's side of the family. My grandpa would always order them for the holidays, and they were at the center of every family reunion. That being said, I wanted to make a special coffee cake for Valentine's Day, but because I love following a theme, I wanted to make it in the shape of a heart.

The first step when making this coffee cake was deciding what I wanted for the base of the cake. I experimented with a classic yeast dinner roll recipe that I learned in culinary school; I experimented with sweet dough that I purchased from the grocery store (this one is great!); and I experimented with puff pastry. They all worked really well, so use whichever one you prefer.

The second thing I needed to decide was what I wanted for the filling. I like classic cinnamon-sugar and pecan coffee cake, but I've also tried cherry cheesecake with cherry pie filling and sweetened cream cheese. I think Nutella would be really tasty too.

I used Challenge unsalted butter in the filling because their product is 100% natural without the use of the synthetic hormone rBST. You can smell the difference as soon as you unwrap a stick.

There are a couple different methods for making the dough look like a heart, I experimented with this one from The Bread Monk and this one from The Proper Binge Blog. I decided the second one is my favorite. It involves rolling the dough up jellyroll-style, folding the dough, making a cut through the fold, and fanning out the two heart lobes. The key is you need to fan the lobes out farther than what you would think for a normal heart shape because the dough expands while it bakes, and you don't want one big blob.

After baking the coffee cake and letting it cool a bit, I poured a simple glaze over it—just powdered sugar, milk, and maple extract. Using vanilla extract or almond extract in the glaze would also be tasty, or you could make caramel or butterscotch icing, or even a cream cheese frosting would work well, too.

Cake for breakfast is always a good idea, and this heart-shaped coffee cake on Valentine's Day morning will surely become your new favorite tradition.

Heart-shaped cinnamon pecan coffee cake


For the filling

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Challenge unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

For the dough

  • 14 grams active dry yeast
  • 6 ounces water
  • 11 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 7 grams salt
  • 1 ounce granulated sugar
  • 14 grams nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 ounce Challenge unsalted butter
  • 1 small egg



  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

For the glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract


For the filling

  1. Mix brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in medium bowl. 
  2. Stir in melted butter and pecans. Set aside.

For the dough (skip to number 9 if you don’t need to make dough)

  1. Dissolve yeast in water in bowl. 
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, milk powder, 
  3. shortening, butter and eggs in bowl of mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  4. Add the water/yeast mixture; stir to combine.
  5. Knead on medium speed 10 minutes.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl; cover and place in a warm spot. Bulk 
  7. ferment until it doubles, approximately 1 hour.
  8. Punch down dough. Let it rest a few minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Roll dough into rectangle, approximately 10” x 12”
  11. Sprinkle filling across surface of dough, leaving a 1-inch border around edges.
  12. Roll the dough jellyroll-style into a log.
  13. Fold the dough in half on top of itself. The fold should be facing you.
  14. Cut through the middle of the dough, both the top and bottom layers, stopping about 2 inches from the cut ends. 
  15. Move dough to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Open up the cut ends and lay them flat so it looks like a heart shape. You’ll want to pull the two top lobes out farther than you think because they’ll spread when they bake.
  16. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and dough is cooked through.

For the glaze

  1. While coffee cake is cooling, whisk together powdered sugar and cinnamon. Pour in milk and maple extract or vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.
  2. Pour glaze over coffee cake. Sprinkle with additional toasted pecans if desired.

Roll out dough and add filling on top, leaving 1-inch border around edges. Roll up dough like jellyroll.

Fold dough in half. Make cut down center of fold, stopping 1-2 inches from end. 
Fan out cut sides so it looks like a heart and pinch bottom portion so it comes to a point.

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