Here is a delightful coffee cake for you. I love everything that Rose Levy Beranbaum creates, and this cake, from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, is no exception. It is similar to the sour cream coffee cake recipe from her older book, The Cake Bible, but, as she explains in the recipe intro, she has made a key change here: baking the cake for a half hour before adding the crumb mixture. This keeps the crumb topping from sinking too much into the cake batter and out comes full, luscious crumbs. You might want to make this cake for someone special on Valentine's morning...and special could just mean you! It's also delicious with jam in the center instead of or along with the apples--I like it with blueberry. Just spread the jam on top of the apples or on top of the batter if using it alone, top with the remaining batter, and there you go.
Apple-Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
Cinnamon Crumb Topping:
1 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup light brown sugar, preferably Muscovado
2 T granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup (sifted into the cup and leveled off) plus 1 T
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon until the walnuts are coarsely chopped. Remove and set aside 1/2 cup to use for the filling. To the remainder, add the flour, butter, vanilla, and pulse briefly to form a coarse, crumbly mixture. Scrape it into a medium bowl and refrigerate it for 20 minutes to firm up the butter and make it easier to crumble.
1 small tart apple, such as Granny Smith
2 tsp lemon juice
2/3 c sour cream, divided
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c bleached all purpose flour (sifted into the cup and leveled off)
1 c superfine sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter
Prepare your pan and oven: Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan and, if you have one, encircle it with a cake strip (don't forget to soak it in water). If you want to get fancy, you can add a parchment round to the greased pan and then coat the parchment round with grease and flour. Preheat the oven to 350 and set the rack in the lower third of your oven.
Prepare the apple slices: Just before mixing the batter, peel, core, and slice the apple about 1/4 inch thick. (You should have about 1 heaping cup of slices.) Sprinkle with the lemon juice and set aside.
Mix the liquid ingredients: Whisk together the eggs, 3 T of the sour cream, and the vanilla until just combined.
Make the batter: In a mixer bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Starting on medium speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Scrape about two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula. Using your fingers, sprinkle lightly with the reserved 1/2 c crumb topping (do not press it into the batter) and top with two rows of overlapping apple slices. Drop the remaining batter in large blobs over the apples and spread it evenly.
Bake the cake: Bake for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, use your fingertips to pinch together the refrigerated crumb topping, breaking up the larger pieces so that about one-third of the mixture is formed into 1/4-inch balls or clumps and the rest is in small particles. (Do not make them too large because they will make it difficult to cut when serving.) Let them fall onto a large piece of parchment and add the rest of the lightly pinched crumbs.
Finish the cake: Remove the pan from the oven and gently place on a wire rack. Using the parchment as a funnel, quickly and evenly strew the surface with the crumb topping. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 20-30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool on rack 10 minutes, then loosen sides of cake and remove the springform sides. Cool completely, 1 1/2 hours.
This cake is pretty simple to make and could easily be made the night before you plan to serve it. I took part of this one to the New Hartford Historical Society where I volunteer every Wednesday night, and I'm pretty sure people loved it. That, or they were just being polite!
Speaking of the Historical Society, I've been thinking a lot lately about work. Mainly, the purpose of work and the ways in which work fulfills us. For me, teaching has always been incredibly fulfilling work, and I can't imagine doing something that didn't challenge me in new ways and fulfill some kind of larger purpose. By helping others, I felt I was always serving a purpose, even though I wasn't crazy about all of the practical aspects of teaching: arriving to work at 6 am (I am far from a "morning person"), being surrounded by over a hundred people all day long, performing all day (if I could just teach 1 class per day, that would be the perfect amount of performance for me, but teaching is not like that!), and having to follow the same darn routine day in and day out. That last part was the hardest for me. I was a big fan of the schedule my own high school followed, where our classes met every other day and for different amounts of time each meeting. It mixed things up a bit and cut through the monotony. I am just not a routines type of person.
Since quitting teaching, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do instead. I haven't come up with the perfect answer yet, if there is a perfect answer. But, in the meantime, I find a lot of fulfillment from the volunteer work I do with the Historical Society, the Collinsville Farmers' Market, and the Women's Club. These commitments don't take up a lot of time, but they allow me to feel as though I am doing something useful for my community while I search for other work, and they make me immensely happy. What are your thoughts about work?
If you buy no other cake books besides The Cake Bible and this one (a bit fancier cakes but still has some basics), you will be happy and will be able to impress your friends with delicious cake.