Coffeecake: slice, savor and share

When company's coming or even if not, at this time of year, a coffeecake is never out of style. Warm and inviting. Cinnamon-y and rich with butter and sour cream, dotted with fruit and nuts, or plain and simply delicious. Serve them with coffee, with tea or with milk for children. For a more adult touch, serve with milk punch spiked with brandy or dessert wine.

Coffeecakes are for the most part, easy to prepare. We did add one that's a bit more work, but the results are worth it. Mostly, this is a collection of some of my favorite easy cakes to bake and serve for mornings in winter or any time.

A few things to think about: More newspapers and books are giving weights for baking, which is much more accurate. I held off because I know most readers don't have scales, so careful measuring is important. Flour should be first stirred in the bag or canister and then spooned into a dry-measure cup and leveled off (never packed in). Brown sugar is always packed and leveled. Semisoft ingredients like yogurt or sour cream are measured in dry-measure cups as well, not graduated glass measures. Those are for liquids.

Eggs are always large. Butter is unsalted, unless indicated otherwise and I simply love the new half sticks from Land O'Lakes, but don't get confused. They're not 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup), they are 4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup.

Coffeecakes freeze well, so you can bake them ahead of time. They'll thaw overnight. Or get up a little earlier in the morning to start baking.

Guaranteed everyone will wake up in a good mood.

After-The-Opry CoffeeCake

PG tested

This light as a cloud cake would be good after any event, not just the Grand Ole Opry, though what fun that would be. The recipe comes from Tammy Algood's "The Complete Southern Cookbook." If you can't find self-rising flour (Pillsbury makes it, I've got a bag; I can lend you a cup) use this conversion from cookbook author Nathalie Dupree: To 1 cup all-purpose flour, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.

  • 1 cup self-rising flour

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 5 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) seedless raspberry jam or spread, melted

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch round cake pan.

In large bowl, put flour, granulated sugar, cream cheese, 4 tablespoons of the butter, milk, lemon zest, egg and extract. Beat with electric mixer at low speed until moistened. Raise mixer speed to medium and beat 2 more minutes. Spread in prepared pan.

Spoon raspberry jam by teaspoons over batter. With table knife, swirl jam into batter to marbleize.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until cake is browned, puffed and springy to the touch. Cool on wire rack until only slightly warm.

Meanwhile, for drizzle, in small bowl, mix remaining 1 tablespoon butter, confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over lukewarm cake. Sprinkle with pecans and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

-- Adapted from "The Complete Southern Cookbook: More than 800 of the Most Delicious, Down-Home Recipes" by Tammy Algood. (Running Press, 2010)

Cherry-Almond CoffeeCake

PG tested

After 3 or 4 iterations of Peach and Raspberry Crumble Cake, my husband, always a willing taster, still thinks this cake may be his favorite. It's from a lovely book, "Breakfast with Friends," by my friend Elizabeth Alston.

Elizabeth suggests that you double the recipe to make two cakes, and freeze one, which is what I always do. The reason is that it uses a half a can of cherry pie filling per cake. You could also freeze the leftover pie filling. But it's great knowing there's a coffeecake in the freezer, ready to take to a party or serve to friends.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt

  • 8 tablespoons ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup (half a can) cherry pie filling

  • 1/2 cup sliced natural almonds (with the skins)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 9-inch springform pan.

In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In large bowl of electric mixer, at medium speed, beat butter. Add sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in extracts. Scrape bowl.

At low speed, add flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with sour cream, about 1/3 cup at a time, mixing only until batter is smooth.

Spoon half the batter into prepared pan. Add half the cherry pie filling and swirl it once through batter with rubber spatula. Spoon remaining batter evenly over top, then remaining pie filling, but don't swirl it. Sprinkle with almonds; press lightly into surface.

Bake until cake is brown on top, shrinks from sides and toothpick comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes in pan on wire rack. Loosen and remove pan sides and serve warm.

Makes 12 servings.

-- Adapted from "Breakfast with Friends: Seasonal Menus to Celebrate the Mornings" by Elizabeth Alston. (McGraw Hill, 1989)

Cinnamon-Walnut CoffeeCake

PG tested

This super-moist, delicious coffeecake comes from my friend Deborah Mintcheff, a food editor and life coach in New York City. Follow the directions carefully and don't do what I did, which was to mix the chocolate chips into the topping. They go in the middle, Deborah told me, after she looked at a photo of the cake. They melt better that way. The really great thing about this cake, besides how wonderful it tasted, was that you make it in minutes in the food processor. And you probably have most of the stuff on hand.

For the topping

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the cake

  • 8 tablespoons ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened, somewhat (Deborah has made this cake with butter practically just out of the fridge and it works fine.)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat and I bet you could use nonfat Greek yogurt, too)

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 8- or 9-inch springform pan; line pan with parchment paper round.

For topping: Mix walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.

For cake: In food processor, put butter and sugar; pulse until well mixed and fluffy. Scrape sides and bottom. Add sour cream, eggs and vanilla; process until well blended. Scrape work bowl once more.

In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to processor and pulse just until mixed well.

Scrape about 1 1/2 cups batter into prepared pan; spread roughly. Sprinkle 1/2 cup topping evenly over batter. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Dollop remaining batter over topping and gently spread with narrow metal spatula. Sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake cake until browned and it starts to shrink from sides, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Loosen and remove sides of pan. Serve.

Makes 8 or more servings.

-- Deborah Mintcheff

Peach and Raspberry Crumble-Cake

PG tested

This is based on an idea from "The Lodge Cast-Iron Cookbook" and a desire to make a peachy cake. If you have excellent, fresh peaches, so much the better, but canned peaches work really well and they don't need peeling. This is winter cake. In summer, who needs cake? Well, maybe not this much cake. Please, don't use peaches in juice or light syrup. They won't be sweet enough.

For the topping

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt

  • 8 tablespoons ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

  • 29-ounce can or 2 15.25-ounce cans sliced peaches in heavy syrup, drained (about 2 1/2 cups), cut any fat wedges in half

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen unsweetened raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter bottom of 10- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet.

For topping: In small bowl, put flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Mix with fork. Add melted butter. Mix with fork, then with your fingers until crumbly.

For cake: In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed, beat softened butter. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape sides. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla; scrape sides. With mixer at low speed, stir in half flour mixture. Stir in all yogurt, then remaining flour mixture, mixing just until blended. Scrape into prepared pan and spread fairly smooth.

Arrange drained peaches on top in single layer. Sprinkle with raspberries. Crumble topping over.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes until cake is browned, shrinks from sides and toothpick inserted in several places comes out almost clean (a few crumbs are fine). Transfer to rack. Serve warm. Remove any leftover cake from skillet to a plate because it could pick up metallic flavors from skillet.

Makes 8 servings.

-- Miriam Rubin

Cranberry Pecan CoffeeCake

PG tested

This recipe comes from a new book by superb baker, author and teacher, Nick Malgieri. In this cake, the tangy flavor of dried cranberries provides a perfect contrast to the sweet dough and icing with the richness of the nuts. Because it's a yeast dough, this cake takes a bit more time, but it's well worth the effort and a nice wintry-day project. Be sure to read the directions carefully first, and choose a heavy pan so that it bakes evenly.

For the sponge

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, scalded and cooled to 100 degrees

  • 4 teaspoons fine active dry or instant yeast

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level)

For the dough

  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

  • 13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing pan

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour

  • 1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar (or in a pinch, light brown sugar)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 1/4 cups pecan pieces, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

For the icing

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, strained before measuring

For sponge: Whisk milk and yeast in small bowl; stir in flour. Cover with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix dried cranberries and orange juice in small bowl. Set aside, covered.

For dough: Once sponge has risen, in large bowl of stationary electric mixer with paddle, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in salt, then eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat until smooth. Beat in orange zest and vanilla.

With mixer at lowest speed, beat in sponge, then the flour, a little at a time. Once all flour is added, scrape bowl, cover with a towel and let rest 10 minutes. Then beat on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes longer. Halfway through, beat in soaked dried cranberries.

To assemble: Thickly grease heavy 16-cup Bundt or tube pan with soft butter. In small bowl, crumble together raw or brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Spoon a little less than a third of the dough into bottom of prepared pan and spread evenly (as best you can). Sprinkle with half the pecan mixture. Spoon in half the remaining dough and level it; top with remaining pecan mixture. Spoon in the last of dough and level it (as best as possible, using your fingers to help you). Cover with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let dough rise until it nearly fills pan, 1 to 2 hours, or more (my kitchen was rather cold, so it took longer).

Once dough has started puffing, place rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375 degrees. When fully proofed, bake cake until well risen, deep golden and shrinks from sides, about 45 minutes.

Invert rack over pan and, using oven mitts, invert them together. Lift off pan; let cool completely. Transfer cake to rack over a piece of paper or a pan.

For icing: Stir confectioners' sugar and orange juice in small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until just warm, about 110 degrees. With spoon, drizzle icing onto cooled cake. Let icing dry, then slide cake to a platter. Serve on the day baked for brunch or tea.

Makes 12 or more servings.

-- Adapted from "Nick Malgieri's Bread: Over 60 Breads, Rolls and Cakes Plus Delicious Recipes Using Them" by Nick Malgieri (Lyle, 2012, $29.95)

Miriam Rubin: and on Twitter @mmmrubin. First Published January 3, 2013 5:00 AM


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