Crumb Coffee Cake (Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Vegan, Anti-Candida)

The quaint old notion of friends “dropping in” for a visit seems to have disappeared somewhere around the same time as shoulder pads, Eight Tracks, or Electric Light Orchestra.

When I was a child, my mother and her friends would pop over to each other’s homes at a moment’s notice, stopping by without any embellishment (never any makeup, and sometimes still in their slippers and “housedresses,” which were basically just glorified pyjamas). Because, after all, it was just mom and the kids, and for whom would they need to get all decked out, anyway, if the men weren’t around?

In those days, people lived closer together, women were friends with their neighbors, coffee was always on, and there was invariably something home-baked on the counter. Mom’s best friend–who also happened to be her cousin–lived only 3 blocks away.  Ms. Cuz could call up at 9:20 AM and be at our house by 9:40.  In the interim, my mother would put up a fresh pot of coffee and get a cake mixed and into the oven. By the time Cuzzy arrived, the cake would be just about ready to come out of the oven; the women would sit down, light up a cig, pour a cup of coffee and catch up on respective kids and husbands–and by then it was time for cake.

Nowadays, it seems, that’s all changed. Everything in our lives is faster, everything requires instant gratification and everything is immediate–everything, that is, except human contact. I mean, you know it’s gotten bad when couples have to make an appointment just to have a date with each other. Gah!

A while back , I was asked by Marly of Namely Marly to join today’s “Our Panera’s Gluten Free Dream Day” event, which she co-created with Allyson of Manifest Vegan.  The idea was to create a gluten free (and in my case, sugar free, egg free and dairy free) baked good based on something from the Panera menu.  Well, needless to say, I was totally chuffed and couldn’t wait to get started! I took a gander through the online list and immediately hit upon “Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake.”

Why did I choose this particular cake?  Well, it was one of my mom’s specialities when I was a kid, and even just thinking about it brought back a flood of memories.  My parents played cards every weekend with a group of friends, and when it was my mom’s turn to hostess, she always baked at least two sweet offerings for the socializing portion of the evening, after the game.  Without fail, the table held her “famous” Chiffon Cake, often paired with Farmer’s Cheesecake or perhaps fancy cookies, or–this coffee cake.

Well, okay, not exactly “this” coffee cake. My mom’s version was made with white (wheat) flour, white sugar, eggs, and Crisco shortening. It became a staple in my own home when I first moved out on my own, because it was cheap to make, tasted good, and could go from “idea-in-your-head” to “slice-on-your-plate” in under 30 minutes.

My modernized, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, ACD-friendly version is perfectly compatible with today’s fast-paced lifestyle, however.  As soon as you hang up from that impromptu invitation you issued to your neighbor, just start on the cake. This one takes a wee bit longer to execute than my mom’s–40 minutes versus my mom’s 30–but these days, it will take your friend that long to drive from her place over to yours, anyway.

When she arrives, be sure to offer her some cake.

Mum, you know that Chaser and I could get there much faster than that if you ever invited us over for cake.  And we won’t need to put on makeup first, either.”

Here’s a list of the entire group of bloggers (and their recipes) who are part of today’s Dream Day (recipes will appear during the day): 


Allyson Kramer — Jalapeno Cheddar Bagel


Oh She Glows — Apple Crunch Muffins
Veggie Num Num — Pumpkin Muffin
Multiply Delicious — Chocolate Chunk Muffins


Heather Strang — Orange Scones

Breakfast Sweets

Namely Marly — Caramel Pecan Rolls
Ricki Heller — Cinnamon Crumb Cake


Clean Green Simple — Spinach & Artichoke Souffle

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[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. Gosh, you’re so right! These days, I’m scared even to call people rather than text in case I interrupt something – I can’t imagine just dropping by someone’s place unannounced! I hope that, if I make this, no one drops by on me… i wanan eat it all myself. 😛

    • And I totally forgot about texting as part of the mix! (can you tell I don’t text?) 😉 I actually *could* have eaten it all by myself. . . glad the HH was a fan or I might have! 😉

  2. Looks great, Ricki! I have never eaten at Panera, but I hope someone recreates their Spinach & Artichoke Souffle, vegan-style, not only gluten-free.. I went to the cutest resto in Kleinburg in my pre-vegan days, and they served something similar… and it was divine. 😉

    • Well, you KNOW I can’t resist a culinary challenge, right–? 😉

      (Actually, it looks like Clean Green Simple is taking on that recipe–just not sure if it will be vegan or not. If not, I’m on it!) 😀

      • A vegan one would be awesome! We aren’t vegan, but none of us can eat eggs. 🙁

        I wish sometimes that friends lived closer together, or you knew your neighbors better and could just pop in. I think our families would benefit in many ways if it was still that way.

        • Thanks, Tammy! Not sure if you realized, but my recipe is vegan–no eggs, dairy, butter, etc. 🙂

          And I couldn’t agree more about neighbors–I sometimes wish we said more than “hello” to each other as we hop in our cars!

  3. Scrumptious. I love your reminiscing about your mom and her friends. I was born in 1978 so I have a sense of life pre-internet, pre-cell phone, pre-texting and it was slower then.

    • Definitely a lot slower then! The new technologies allow for so many great things in life (blogs, obviously!), but it does make one feel a little rushed. . . all the time. Sometimes I do wish we could go back a bit!

  4. Oh wow you’ve really outdone yourself Ricki! I can’t wait to try this cake. Coffee cake is one of my all-time favs. 🙂

    • Thanks, Angela! I love coffee cake, too, so I knew I had to come up with something. Of course, I didn’t write about all the flops that preceded this one. 😉

  5. Oh my GOD. YUM. I love crumb cake. LOVE it.

  6. I adore coffee cake, especially gluten free and sugar free ones! I shouldn’t keep all the goodness to myself though, once I make this, I’ll simply invite my neighbors over to share. 🙂

  7. I knew I would fall over when I saw your post, Ricki! Wow… wow and wow! This looks better than any egg laden, sugar based, gluten filled versions I have ever seen. And now I’m craving crumb cake. Beautiful… <3

  8. oh, ricki. oh, oh oh. i want it!

  9. Ricki, I don’t see your AP flour mix when I click on that link – just a delish looking recipe for blueberry danish. Am I missing something, or is the link wrong? xo Kim

  10. At my parents house people still drop by without calling ahead or something. My parents never lock their door when they are at home during the day. I could never imagine doing that. But you know, looking at your cake, I’d come over right now without any announcement and help myself. Too bad I live so far away.

  11. Absolutely fantastic cake, Ricki. I especially love that second photo. This is a must make cake for sure. 🙂 What a fun idea for a challenge! I admit that I have only been in Panera once in my lifetime. Wouldn’t want to go back now because of the flour flying around, even though they have some gf options I understand.

    Love the memories you shared, too. Yep, very much like that then. Honestly, our families are largely still like that (although I don’t think most indulge in cake on visits), but even though we are not far, we’re off the beaten path a little and don’t get dropped in on much. 😉 Kinda sad AND kinda glad about that. LOL


    • Thanks, Shirley! I knew I had a winner when the HH asked for a 2nd piece! 😉 And I know what you mean by being glad as well as sad–some days, I wouldn’t want anyone to be scared by what they saw if they dropped in unannounced!

  12. Looks so good. I love me a good slice of coffee cake. It was funny to read the portion of your post where your mom and The Cuz would sit with coffee in hand, dressed in house coats and light up a cig. It reminds me of that show, Mad Men. Gave me a little chuckle.
    Ricki, I will be referencing your site much more now because I am going sugar free. Trust me, this will be HARD as I LOVE muffins and desserts and anything sweet. I am super scared about this journey. I made the decision because I found out that sugar increases BP!?! Who knew? In my family we have high BP on my dads side and diabetes & HBP on my moms. I thought I should try to counter this all by going plant strong in my vegan diet and stopping bad sugars. Hence, coming here more often. I hope you won’t mind me maybe pestering you with a barage of questions?

    • Thanks so much, Rhona! And yes, I suppose my mom was in her heyday around the same time as the Mad Men women. . . I seem to recall Betty wearing one of those house dresses! 😉

      All the recipes on the blog (even those before I started the ACD) are sugar free–no refined sugar in anything. After March, 2009, you’ll find anti-candida recipes that contain no sweeteners except (at first) stevia and yacon; then later, coconut sugar and a touch of agave here or there (ie, all low glycemic sweeteners). I’d love if you have specific questions if you’d ask them on the Candida FAQ page (if appropriate) so that everyone can see the answers and perhaps benefit from them. Happy to answer what I can. 🙂

  13. This looks great! My grandmother used to bake coffee cakes and breads all the time, but especially when we would come visit. A cinnamon crumb coffee cake reminds me of her.

  14. What a cool event! This cake looks amazing Ricki. I am a fan of anything with a lovely and crumbly topping. Mmmmm!

    • I agree–crumble toppings are always good! 🙂 And Marly/Allyson get all the credit for the event. . . I just played along. 🙂

  15. I love coffee cake, but don’t make it often. Yours looks terrific! I agree with Shirley, that second photo is particularly nice (especially since I’m terrible at taking that kind of shot).

    • Thanks so much, Linda! I’m the same way–when I do make it, I really enjoy it, but don’t make it often. And as for the photo. . . it’s still all luck where I’m concerned–must some day learn what all the buttons on my camera are for! 😉

  16. Okay, I just discovered your blog and am so excited! I’ve been following a Candida cleanse for almost a month now, and while I’m absolutely LOVING it so far, it’s nice to find a fellow blogger who is mindful of candida issues!!

    You’ve got a new follower, for sure! 😀

    • Great to know–thanks so much! I’m off to check out your site as well. Always interested to see how others approach the diet! 🙂

  17. Oh my, this looks super tasty and especially love the sound of that topping and you know I have never heard of coconut sugar, will be keeping my eye out from now on!

    • Coconut sugar is a fantastic low glycemic sweetener–sometimes called palm sugar. It’s light brown and sort of caramelly in flavor. . . fabulous!

  18. oh my, healthy vegan coffee cake. this is amazing!!!

  19. always love hearing about your mother – she sounds like a great social person – I see where you get it from! Your comments about not dropping into a neighbours house seem so right – I remember my mum and her neighbour who lived two doors down exchanging gossip and recipes and haircuts (the neighbour was a hairdresser).

    It saddens me even to remember how so many friends lived nearby in my student days and we would walk to each others houses. Then I remembered that I now have a neighbour who we drop into each others houses every now and again – I even occasionally go into the front yard, leave my door open and find myself wandering across the street to say hello – so maybe there is hope that these days aren’t gone altogether.

    I know the sort of cake you mean – not the one my mum made regularly (although I think she made one a bit like it) but one of the ones I used to lust after in magazine recipes as a girl. Imagine the coconut sugar would be wonderful in the topping!

    • How great that you are still that casual with your neighbors! I don’t even know our neighbors names, sadly. And glad you like the sound of the cake–it is, somehow, a very “social” cake! 🙂

      • I think we have got to know some neighbours because we have kids a similar age but we also know some of our neighbours because we live in a units where we are members of a body corporate – however I think it is nice to know neighbours who have kids that play with sylvia because I get to socialise less with work colleagues and friends as a result of sylvia – swings and roundabouts i figure.

        • The same has happened with all of my friends who have kids–an entirely new social circle opens up. I was hoping we’d have a something similar with the dogs, but Elsie’s antisocial behavior with other dogs (except Chaser, of course) has totally ruled out that possibility!

  20. Ricki – First, let me just say that your website has been such a wonderful help to me over my 3-month ACD saga…not sure what I would have done at the beginning without you! I recently discovered I can tolerate coconut sugar pretty well, and was SO excited to see this post! I do love a good coffee cake, that is for sure. Quick question, though. After I put the first half of the batter in the pan and sprinkled the topping on, the remaining batter was very difficult to spread over the top – it was very sticky and almost impossible to spread, actually. I kind of just mushed everything together, sprinkled the rest of the topping on and hoped for the best. It turned out delicious in spite of not really being layered, which is great! Is the batter supposed to be sticky like this? Any hints on how to ease this problem next time? I did bake it in a 8×11 inch dish, for lack of a square one. Thank you again so much for inspiring me to be a better, healthier cook!

    • Katie, thanks so much! I’m so glad the site was helpful. 🙂

      The batter is fairly thick and sticky. . . that’s why I say to put blobs of it scattered across the filling, then connect them by spreading with a spoon. Because of the flax seeds that absorb moisture, it’s possible that if the batter sits for a while before you spread it, it will thicken up a bit more. I’d add up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra milk if necessary. However, the batter is never thin enough to just pour–it’s more like a muffin batter in texture. Hope that helps!

  21. This updated version of your mom’s cake looks delicious! I love the way things used to be where people just stop by for coffee and cake, instead of how it is now where you have to call and everyone’s so busy.

  22. Super-fantastically yummy! I am following the ACD diet and it’s so reassuring that I can bake something when friends or kids come over that we can ALL enjoy! Great pics too! Thanks again!

  23. Just made this, it’s so good! I think its my new favourite recipe 🙂 only things different i did was substitute quinoa flakes for the oats(no gf ones on hand), and lemon zest for the lemon extract since I didn’t have any.

  24. These look amazing – and im not just saying that b/c i havent had anything sweet in a very long time! One question though – is the 1 3/4 t xanthan gum in the recipe in addition to the 1/2 to 3/4 t that you add to your gf flour mix?
    Thanks & i love this site!

  25. THis looks so yummy ! I wondered if you ever tried adding blueberries (or any other type of berries) and if so, how much liquid would I need to reduce (if I add lets say one cup frozen blueberries)

    • Hi Farzana,
      I’ve never added blueberries to this particular recipe, but I’d likelly not really reduce the liquid at all. . . if so, just a tablespoon or two. You can fold in frozen blueberries (keep them frozen) and then bake the cake a little longer than suggested. As I say, I’ve never tried it, but that’s what I’d do if I wanted to add the berries. Let us know how it works out if you do give it a try!

  26. Gout SOOOOOOOOOO excited about this recipe, with all that neighborly nostalgia & such. Was practically brewing a fresh pot! SUGAR-FREE?! Sign me up! But, um, coconut sugar is, well, sugar! Better, yes, but as a community of neighborhood gals, we’ve got to come up with a less misleading way to express “no beet/sugarcane sugars.” I felt rather cheated actually, when I got to the recipe and found both coconut sugar & stevia.

    • Thanks, Cheyna. And yes, coconut sugar is sugar, just low glycemic and not from the sugar cane plant. I think the general consensus is that “sugar free” means “no cane sugar,” but recently I’ve started writing “refined #sugarfree” to express this. And surely you don’t consider stevia to be sugar?! 😉

  27. Hi Ricki!
    How much coconut sugar or maple syrup is equivalent to 20-30 drops of stevia? Do you recommend I sub with coconut sugar or maple syrup? Thanks!

    • Hi Sandy,

      You’d need between 1/4 cup (60 ml) and 1/3 cup (80 ml), I estimate, for 20 drops. I’ve never made that substitution, so I don’t know how it will affect the texture and flavor, though. I’d suggest using half coconut sugar and half maple syrup to keep the wet/dry ratio about the same. If you do give it a try, let me know how it turns out! 🙂


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