Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life
Let Us Eat Cake
By Suzanne Lenzer
Remember how in old television shows neighbors used to stop in at each other’s houses in the middle of the day for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake? Ethel was always hanging around Lucy’s apartment hatching a plan and having a cup of coffee. And long before Samantha made Darrin his evening martini, Esmerelda would have been around for a cup of Sanka and a touch of bewitching mayhem.
Back then everyone seemed to have time to sit and talk over coffee and cake; no one checking their blackberry or fielding cell phone calls in the midst of a chat. In those days, an afternoon coffee wasn’t just a jolt of caffeine, it was an excuse for a break from the day. And the coffee cake? That was a further reason to linger an extra half hour or so; a nostalgic reminder of the days before Atkins, personal trainers, and Pilates ruled our lives.
I realize it’s old-fashioned, the notion of a friend swinging by for a coffee and a slice of cake, but it’s a nice idea. There’s something decadent these days about having time (in the middle of workday no less) to just sit and talk with a cup of joe. In the movies there was always a pot already made, and even better, there was that alluring cake, inevitably just out of the oven.
Who has a fresh pot of coffee, let along a coffee cake, sitting on the counter anymore? I certainly don’t. But perhaps because I’ve been feeling like so much time is spent focused on work these days, I’ve been hankering for a way of life that only seems to exist in reruns; one where friends linger idly, the air smells of French Roast, and cake in the middle of the day is a guilt-free affair.
With all this in mind, I decided a homemade coffee cake was in order—something that would leave a trail of moist yellow crumbs and brown sugar, evidence of an afternoon well spent doing pretty much nothing.
While the recipe is utterly old school, I did take a few liberties in an effort to modernize this sentimental sweet. Based on the traditional Sour Cream Coffee Cake (the kind with that nutty streudel strewn on top and in the middle), I’ve substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream. I’ve also added lemon juice for a fresh, brighter flavor. While minor, these alterations do make it a little healthier. However, if what you’re after is the reassurance that only a slice of cake can bring, this will still do the trick. You may even want to invite the neighbors over to share.
Updated Old-Fashioned Coffee Cake
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of a lemon
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup blueberries or other fruit
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter, cut in small pieces
1/4 chopped pecans
1. Heat the oven to 350dF. Butter and flour a bundt pan well (you can also use an 8-inch pyrex baking dish if you prefer to serve the cake in squares).
2. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy; add the eggs one at a time, combining well after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and the zest and set aside.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add one third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine well, then mix in one third of the yogurt. Continue alternatively adding a third more flour and yogurt until it’s all well integrated and the batter is smooth; set aside.
4. Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Using your fingers or two knives, cut the butter into sugar and flour until you have a coarse, crumb topping. Stir in the chopped pecans.
5. Spread half the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the berries evenly over the batter and sprinkle them with half of the crumb mixture. Use a spatula to spread the rest of the batter on top of the crumb and berries and finish with the rest of the crumb mixture. Bake for one hour or until a thin-bladed knife comes out clean. Let cool for about ten minutes and then unmold the cake and serve crumb-side up.
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Tags: coffee cake, French Roast, let them eat cake, let us eat cake, old-fashioned, TV reruns, Updated Old-Fashioned Coffee Cake