Monday, November 22, 2010

Coffee Cake: "I feel like a huge idiot! All these years I’ve never tried coffee cake because I don’t like coffee. I didn’t know it didn’t have coffee in it."

Coffee cake cupcakes having a moment in the sun before a taste test with friends.

Often, I read the reviews and comments of the recipes I intend on trying out myself. Usually this is informative, but sometimes it's a little amusing. I don't think it's an uncommon assumption that coffee cake has coffee in it. Let's go along with the idea that it is referred to as coffee cake because it's great with a nice, hot cuppa.

 Blending the brown sugar and cinnamon topping with my favorite tool, the pastry blender.

If this cake were to be named for something that's in it, I'd go with butter. Sure, there's a generous amount of sugar, both brown and white, but who is ever shocked at the amount of sugar in a dessert? Certainly not me. This cake (now is the time you might want to look away if you've already had a slice) contains three sticks of butter. That's around 350g, for the metric folk out there. Before you start crying, I reduced my version down to 250g, or a bit over two sticks of butter. Not really out of fear of cardiac arrest, but rather out of necessity; I only had one brick in the fridge.

The cake batter is thick; be sure to have a rubber scraper on hand because even hard whacking against the counter won't settle your batter evenly in the pan.

If you can get past the outrageous amount of butter, you can begin to appreciate this cake for being remarkably delicious and Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman for wrangling this out of her mother's recipe binder.

Coffee Cake
 Adapted from Ree at Pioneer Woman
Yields one 9"x13" sheet cake and nine cupcakes

Cake
1 tsp  salt
3  egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 C or 172g)  unsalted butter, soft
2 scant C (345g)  sugar
1 T  Kahlua or vanilla, optional*
3 C (298g)  all-purpose flour
4 tsp  baking powder
1 C  milk*
1/4 C  plain yogurt*

Topping
5 T (75g)  unsalted butter, cold*
3/4 C (75g)  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C (302g)  brown sugar (not packed down)
2 T  cinnamon
1 C (130g)  pecans

*These are deviations from the original recipe. These are the original ingredients and amounts: No Kahlua or vanilla, 1 1/4 C whole milk, no yogurt, 1 1/2 sticks (172g) softened butter for the topping.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (177C) and grease the cake pan and line the cupcake tins.
  2. Combine the egg whites and salt and beat until stiff; set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar and then mix in the Kahlua and yogurt.
  5. Alternately mix in the flour-baking-powder and the milk; do not over mix.
  6. Fold in the whites.
  7. Combine all the topping ingredients and cut together with a pastry blender.
  8. Fill the cake pan and cupcake tins about 2/3 to 3/4 full and sprinkle topping on.
  9. Bake the cake 40-45 minutes and the cupcakes 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool to a temperature that won't burn your mouth (room temp is always a safe bet) and enjoy!
Coffee Cake Reflections

 The cake didn't bake up around the topping as much in the sheet pan compared with the cupcakes, but it was just as yummy.

I caught the cupcakes right at the point where the batter goes from goopy to solid, affording me the softest cake I've had in my life. The topping was crisp and a bit crunchy, a very nice contrast to the delicate sponge. This magic is a combination of the right recipe, not over mixing, and pulling the cupcakes from the oven at just the right moment.

The recipe made what I'd consider to be way too much topping for the portions I made. Perhaps if it was all done in a deeper pan or one with more surface area, the amount would have been just right. The topping recipe above is how I did it, so feel free to halve that (reduced butter) or the original recipe.

Something not so magical: My butter had been in the freezer up until I needed it. Sooo it wasn't exactly softened when I went to go cream it. I also, rather mysteriously, threw the sugar in with the other dry ingredients to be sifted. Awesome job, brain. Way to get those synapses firing at full speed at 10:30 in the morning. Despite my rough start, everything came together. The textures and flavors in this cake are pretty perfect. I think it has something to do with all that butter.

The cake made its official debut at a housewarming hosted by my friends at Ming and Milo. It became a part of the wine tasting later in the evening, which featured wines from my home state! If you happen to be in Singapore and are scouring the island nation for the best pairings, they are your guys.

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