Coffee cakes used to be a requisite part of anyone's baking repertoire because you never knew when someone might drop by for coffee.

But now that so many of us take our coffee dates in coffee shops, bake our cakes with coconut oil and have dozens of kinds of cinnamon to choose from, what exactly is a coffee cake?

I'd argue that a slice of cinnamon babka or a streusel-topped lemon shortbread serves a similar purpose to the traditional crumb cake-style cake that my great-great-grandmother served to other Swedish immigrants in a group they formed in Southwest Missouri in the early 1900s. My grandmother remembered her mother continuing the tradition of serving coffee cake to the Swedish-American group, and in particular the china on which the cake was served. 

A version of that recipe became one of my grandmother's favorite baked goods, but now that it's fall and we have plenty of time indoors to churn up sweets and cozy moments, I thought I'd share a handful of coffee cake (or coffee cake-inspired) recipes to keep on hand in case you decide to host a morning get-together at your house or are hosting guests over the holidays. You might even feel inspired to break out the china.

Cinnamon Babka

By its very definition, babka is a rich, tender dough. But go too far in that direction and the dough will collapse under the weight of the cinnamon-sugar filling, leaving large holes in the bread. We wanted a rich loaf that would support lots of layers of sweet filling. Once you've added the butter to the dough, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl after 5 minutes of mixing, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra flour. The test kitchen's preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if you use a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier than specified in recipe.

— America's Test Kitchen

For the filling:

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg white

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the dough:

1/2 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)

2 large egg yolks, plus 1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

For the filling: Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon filling.

For the dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Grease large bowl. Whisk milk, egg yolks and vanilla together in 1-cup liquid measuring cup.

Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt on low speed until combined. Slowly add milk mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and add butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough has risen slightly, about 1 hour. Place in refrigerator until dough is firm and has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Line an 8 1/2-inch-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over edges. Punch down dough on lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to 20-inch-by-14-inch rectangle. Spread all but 1 tablespoon reserved filling over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges. Working from short side, roll dough into cylinder and pinch along seam to seal. Position cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until stretched to 18-inch length. Spread reserved filling over top of cylinder. Fold cylinder on top of itself and pinch ends to seal. Gently twist double cylinder twice to form double figure eight. Place shaped dough seam side down in prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic and let rise in turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Lightly beat whole egg in bowl. Remove loaf from oven and discard plastic. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush loaf with beaten egg. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 190 degrees, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely, about 2 hours. Serves 8.

— From "Cook's Illustrated Baking Book" by America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $40)

Honey-Walnut Coffee Cake

We are the people who eat the tops of muffins first and who pick the streusel off a cake, because that sweet, caramelized crunch is our favorite texture. And a good coffee cake requires a thick layer of streusel on top. The crunch is an important contrast to the moist cake and sticky, sweet cinnamon filling. This delicious cake hits all of our marks and is the perfect complement to a simple cup of coffee. Makes one 9-inch cake.

— Laurel Gallucci

For the streusel:

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

For the cake:

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

2/3 cup honey

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups almond flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

For the filling:

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for the streusel. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides for easy removal.

To make the streusel: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, walnuts, coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt until the mixture comes together. Crumble onto the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the streusel begins to crisp up. Remove and set aside, but keep the oven on at 350 degrees.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. A little at a time, add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring to combine. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it with a spatula.

To make the filling: In a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, coconut oil, honey, cinnamon and salt and spoon over the batter, coating the surface as best you can. Pour on the second half of the batter, and then scatter the streusel over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes, then cover with foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and the cake is puffed and firm. The toothpick test won’t give you an accurate read on doneness as it will come out gooey because of the filling. Once the cake is cooled in the pan, lift it out with the parchment paper and slice into squares. To save for later, wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, but it’s best the same day it’s baked.

— From "Sweet Laurel: Recipes for Whole Food, Grain-Free Desserts" by Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas (Clarkson Potter, $28)

Oatmeal Coffee Cake

Coffee cake always marked a special occasion growing up. If we were expecting overnight guests, my dad would pick up a coffee cake from the local bakery to serve in the morning alongside some freshly brewed coffee. It was such a fun treat, and with this lightened-up version, I don’t have to wait for a special occasion to indulge.

— Addie Gundry

1/2 cup coconut oil, plus 1 tablespoon

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup cooked oatmeal, cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the coconut oil, the eggs, 1 cup of the brown sugar, the oatmeal and the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and the baking soda. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and stir until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour into the baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the walnuts. Evenly sprinkle the mixture over the top of the cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is set. Let the cake cool before cutting. Serves 4 to 6.

— From "The Lighten Up Cookbook: 103 Easy, Slimmed-Down Favorites for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Everyone Will Love" by Addie Gundry (St. Martin’s Griffin, $19.99)

Lemon Shortbread Bars with Streusel Topping

Maybe a traditional coffee cake (or anything with cinnamon) isn't what you want to nibble on when you drink coffee. These streusel-topped lemon shortbread bars from novelist Debbie Macomber might do the trick.

— Addie Broyles

For the crust:

2 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces

2 egg yolks

For the filling:

6 eggs

2 cups sugar

5 teaspoons lemon zest

2/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup flour

For the streusel:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and process just until the mixture forms clumps. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan.

Bake just until the edges are golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until combined. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Pour over the hot shortbread crust and bake until the filling is set, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel over the hot filling and continue to bake until light golden, about 20 to 25 minutes more. 

Let cool completely, at least 1 hour. Cut into 32 bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. These will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

— From "Debbie Macomber's Table: Sharing the Joy of Cooking with Family and Friends" by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine Books, $29.95)