image credit: BHD

Ruminations on Coffee Cake

Fannie Farmer’s, Quick Coffee Cake, is quick because you make cake batter that does not need rising, other styles of coffee cake use yeast for leavening. I recommend this time tested recipe because it is easily adjusted and takes well to added fruits and nuts.

Point of interest, the 1965 version of Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook is a cook’s cookbook. Meaning, it is written for experienced cooks to jump in, make, and get the meal/treat done. The chapters preceding the recipies are full of information on definitions, techniques, and skills. She, however, plainly states thus, “Good cooking is an art which is easily acquired.” I couldn’t agree more. Failure in cooking/baking is a constant, you just have to label it an experiment before you get to work.

Here is the recipe exactly the way it appears in the cookbook. After I will talk about the variations I have done since my first experiment with this recipe.

Quick Coffee Cake 
Fannie Farmer Cookbook 1965

Butter a pan about 6 by 9 or 9 by 9 inches. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

1/4 cup butter
Beat in
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
Sift together
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add to the first mixture alternately with
1/2 cup milk
Unless you are putting on a more elaborate topping, sprinkle with
1 1/2 teaspoon melted butter
and then with
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with
3 teaspoons sugar
Bake about 20 minutes. Cut in squares or oblongs.

For a crunchy topping, sprinkle with 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons chopped nuts.

Streusel Coffee Cake. Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup chopped walnut meats. Sprinkle over batter.

I don’t own a 9x9 pan. We have two 8x8 glass pans, and some metal cake pans. I like to use the glass one for this because it’s just easier to clean up. I still give it a good slathering of butter. I also lower the temp to 350 degrees F so that the higher density will cook evenly without burning the bottom.

Now, I have found I like to add a quarter cup more milk to this recipe. The first time I made this recipe I did not alter it. I only jettisoned the nuts from the Streusel cake topping. I found it to be extremely thick batter, but the cake was very good. It comes out dense, but very moist. I like to add extra milk so that it is a bit more spreadable in the pan, and adds even more moistness and lightens the texture some.

The coffee cake in the picture has the Streusel topping, and a layer of sliced apples through the middle. The reason the topping is “cratering” is because I didn’t use melted butter, I used room temp butter (62 degrees F about 17 degrees C) and mixed the topping with my hands. If you use melted butter it will spread more evenly, and be more of a crust on top.

You can do this awesomeness with just about any kind of fruit as long as you stick to the preferred method for adding fruit to batter, you have to flour the fruit before adding it to the already mixed batter. You can chunk it up, or slice it. Also, just sticking it on top, or the bottom, cuts out extra fiddling.

Toppings really are up to you. Classic crumble topping is butter, flour, and sugar. Or you can add even more chopped nuts to the Streusel topping to make it even nuttier, not to mention adding nuts to the batter just like you would fruit. The beauty is that this simple cake batter takes on added ingredients so easily because it is not about “light and fluffy”, but about sweetness and filling you up. It’s a tough batter that will incorporate whatever you want to throw at it.

If you have never attempted making a cake from scratch you might want to try this simple recipe first. And remember — it’s just an experiment!

PS. First time bakers. You must mix “wet” ingredients in a separate bowl from the dry ingredients. Then you add the dry into the wet bowl until it is fully incorporated.

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