20 May 2008

Take Back the Coffee Cake

Nothing against coffee drinkers, but it's time us tea freaks reclaim a little treat that has been separated from us for too long: coffee cake.

Fine, so maybe it evolved to accompany some other hot beverage, but its buttery deliciousness makes for a perfect counterpoint to the natural astringency and subtle sweetness in tea.

Coffee cakes (and the Kaffeeklatcsh tradition) have their origins in northern Europe, and were more breadlike than today's version, which is basically a sweet cake, often fruit-studded, with a streusel topping.

One of my absolute favorite versions is the blackberry one pictured, which I served with a grassy, bright-flavored Umegashima sencha (one of my everyday green teas) as a send-off breakfast to an old friend who was visiting from out of town. I hoped it would convince her to stay longer, but no luck. Well, at least I have the rest of the coffee cake to keep me company now.

And since we're usurping from the coffee drinkers already, I can tell you that this recipe is originally from that bastion of middle American housewives, Family Circle. It could stand up to a bolder black tea as well (try Assam or this delicious chai), especially if you can't imagine having this without coffee. But just try it with tea, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Blackberry Coffee Cake
Makes: 12 servings.

Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blackberries

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.

2. Prepare crumb topping: Combine flour and brown sugar in small bowl. With a pastry blender or your fingertips, mix butter into flour and sugar until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in walnuts, cinnamon and cardamom until combined.

3. Prepare coffee cake: Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom in medium-size bowl.

4. Beat together butter and granulated sugar in large bowl until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating until smooth. On low speed, alternately beat in dry flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with dry mixture. Mix just until all ingredients are blended.

5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle blackberries over batter in even layer; sprinkle crumb topping evenly over blackberries.

6. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let pan cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes; cut into squares and serve warm, or let cool completely and store in refrigerator until serving.

3 comments:

marva gladstone said...

That looks awesome. I don't think I've ever had bad coffee cake — I can even put away one of those plastic-wrapped Drakes Cakes coffee cakes with a nice cup of tea — but that blackberry one looks awesome.

christine said...

Did you call me old? How dare you!?

That coffee cake rocked, though. Truly delicious.

ana dane said...

i meant old as in "old school."