Tuesday 13 December 2011

Jack's Favourite Coffee Cake

I apologize for not posting yesterday. I tend to underestimate my limitations and to overestimate the amount of stuff I can accomplish in a single day.

I’m healthier these days and can go for days without remembering that I’m dealing with a chronic problem.  When that happens, I’m a whirlwind of activity; busy with at least ten different things at once and working full tilt from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning.  I commit to all sorts of activities and then, when I least expect it, my limitations creep up on me and bite me in the butt. 

My weekend was very busy and I paid for it yesterday, scarcely getting out of bed the whole day, and entirely missing the few hours of good light I needed to take photographs for my blog.  To make up for my absence, I’ll be posting two recipes today; one now and one this evening.

This first recipe is yet another taught to me by my friend Anna Genoe.  Anna, if you’re reading this, I hope you know how much I appreciate the things you’ve taught me over the years. 

I’m including this one in my holiday collection because my husband has been asking me to bake it for weeks.  I’m quite sure that he doesn’t view it as strictly a holiday recipe, but coffee cake is his all-time favourite breakfast-time (or any time) treat.  I don’t serve sweets for breakfast all that often, so he viewed my holiday recipe posts as an excuse to get me to make it for him.  I don’t mind really.  It is very good and it’s quick to bake too; a good recipe to have in your files for when unexpected company drops in.

The cake is really very simple:  A vanilla batter, topped with generous amounts of brown sugar and cinnamon.  The magic happens when you drizzle melted butter over the topping before putting the cake in the oven.  The butter wants to sink through the batter and as it does so it draws the topping with it, creating random pockets of wonderful sweet cinnamon and caramelized sugar throughout the cake.

To make Coffee Cake, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1-1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • About 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup oil (Anna told me to always use Mazola in this recipe but I use sunflower oil now.  Any neutrally flavoured oil will work just as well.)
  • Brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping

Put the butter in a saucepan, on medium-low heat, to melt. 

While the butter is melting, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of waxed paper. 

Gather the corners of the paper together, two in each hand, to loosely fold the paper lengthwise with the flour mixture inside the fold.  Use the paper to transfer the sifted ingredients into a bowl. 

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. 

Crack the egg into a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 cup of liquid in total.  Add the vanilla extract to the egg and milk, and whisk these ingredients until they’re well combined.   

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir to mix well.  Add the oil to the batter and stir again until it’s completely incorporated.

Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch square pan.  (I greased mine with oil this time and it tended to well up in the corners of the batter.  You may want to use butter instead.)

Generously cover the surface of the batter with brown sugar.  Sprinkle it on, don’t pack it down, but don’t be shy about the amount.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the brown sugar.

Pour the melted butter over the topping, trying to distribute it evenly. 

Bake the cake at 350ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is excellent served hot from the oven but it’s also very good served at room temperature.  Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap.  I’m sure they won’t be leftover for very long.