This lightened-up recipe for a pineapple coffee cake from scratch is a great breakfast, snack, or dessert! This lighter coffee cake recipe is nice enough to serve to guests, but not so fussy that you won’t want to make it for just yourself. Wrap slices and freeze for a healthy coffee cake fix whenever you’d like!
There’s something so wonderful about everyday cakes, like this pineapple coffee cake. Instead of being fussy and requiring chilling and frosting, everyday cakes are perfect on their own. This cake in particular is a very nice everyday cake because it’s a bit lighter than your usual cake. Using whole wheat flour, less fat, and less sugar, it’s a great way to enjoy a little cake, reasonably. And if there’s one thing life can always use a little more of, it’s balance.
The recipe for this healthier coffee cake is pretty straightforward. A lot of the ingredients lend themselves well to substitutions, which is great if you’re trying to use what you have on hand.
For example, the whole wheat flour can be swapped and you can use just all-purpose flour in the recipe. I wouldn’t recommend going the other way though and using just whole wheat. Whole wheat has a slightly higher protein content and is a little more absorbent than all-purpose flour. So recipes that use just whole wheat flour require a little more liquid, and often a little extra gluten to help provide the best texture. We want this cake to feel a little more cake-like than bread-like, which is why I use a 50/50 whole-wheat to all-purpose flour blend. If I don’t have enough whole wheat flour (or any!), I just use all-purpose.
The cake recipe also uses less sugar than most coffee cakes. At only a half cup in the recipe, it’s rather modest. It works here because there’s a good amount of pineapple and the pineapple adds sweetness. Another trick is the bit of cinnamon in the batter. Did you know that cinnamon makes things taste sweeter? You don’t notice the cinnamon when you bite into the cake, but it helps bring out the pineapple! That’s a pretty cool little kitchen trick.
We also make this cake a little lighter by using Greek yogurt in place of butter. A full fat, low fat, or fat free yogurt will do. And you can use either plain or vanilla Greek yogurt. If you have pineapple or coconut, that might also be amazing, actually. And to make this recipe dairy free, all you need to do is swap out a dairy-free yogurt for the Greek yogurt. It couldn’t be easier! If you use a flavored dairy-free yogurt though, your cake will be a little sweeter because dairy free yogurts have a good amount of added sugar.
There is a little bit of oil in this recipe, and I’d encourage you to keep it if you can, especially if you are using a fat-free yogurt. Oil adds moisture to cake recipes, and nobody likes a dry coffee cake! If you’d like to replace the oil though, you may with an equal amount of applesauce. Just keep in mind that your results won’t be quite the same. Still good, but the texture will change slightly.
As for the pineapple, I just use the same pineapple tidbits I use in my carrot cake recipe. Get the kind packed in juice instead of syrup to skip the added sugar and get a better texture in the fruit. Don’t forget to set aside a little of the juice for the recipe! It really helps give an extra boost to the pineapple flavor.
One of the best things about a coffee cake is fun toppings! For this coffee cake, I like to add a little crunch with some chopped pecans mixed with 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar. It’s a very simple topping, but it’s a nice finish to the cake. Sliced or slivered almonds or chopped macadamia nuts would also work really well! If you need to keep the cake nut-free, stick to just a sprinkling of coarse sugar, add a little shredded coconut, or dust lightly with a little sifted powdered sugar just before serving.
I hope you love this lighter coffee cake recipe, darlings!
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour (see notes)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (whole milk, low fat, or fat-free)
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice (reserved from the can)
- 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve 1/4 cup juice for the recipe)
- 1/3 cup chopped sliced almonds (chopped pecans or macadamia nuts also work nicely)
- 1-2 tablespoons coarse sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, pineapple juice, oil, and vanilla.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 2 batches. Mix only until just combined.
- Fold in the pineapple tidbits.
- Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and add your preferred topping, if using.
- Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with no more than a moist crumb or two.
- Allow the cake to cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
- Any leftover fully cooled cake can be stored covered at room temperature overnight, refrigerated in an airtight container up to one week, or sliced and wrapped in portions up to 1 month.
- Classic whole-wheat flour or a white whole wheat flour will both work. If you don't have whole wheat flour, substitute with 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour.
- The added sugar in the topping is optional, but a coarse sugar adds a nice crunch and is great alone for a nut-free cake option.
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