"Good morning. Would you like regular or decaf? A piece of our spicy chai coffeecake would be good with that. It's gluten-free."
I'm in a cafe in Viroqua, Wis., a small town a few hours north of Chicago and just down the road from Organic Valley, a farmer-owned co-operative. Around here, and I'm not sure why, it seems that many people eat some version of an exclusive diet: dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, nut-free, non-GMO, low-fat, fat-free, raw and picky. Restaurants gamely try to please.
The GF coffeecake was delicious, something I knew I'd want to make again and again. I asked for the recipe and got it. Once home, I re-engineered it for us omnivores. Chai is very spicy, so don't stint on the spices and pepper. To make the glaze, use a tea bag to brew a cup of chai tea. Remove 2 to 3 tablespoons for the glaze and drink the rest. But when serving the cake, a mug of strong coffee is its best friend.
Spicy Chai Coffeecake
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, soft
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the rack in the middle of the oven, and spritz a 9-inch round spring form pan with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter smooth. Beat in sugar, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and baking powder.
Combine the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.
Spoon and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack, then glaze.
Makes about 8 servings.
For the glaze
Whisk together about 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a few tablespoons of strong-brewed, chai-flavored tea until the consistency is about that of heavy cream.
Dip the tines of a fork into the glaze and make zig-zags over the top of the cooled cake. Strew with 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans.
-- Adapted from "1000 Gluten-free Recipes" by Carol Fenster (Wiley and Sons, 2008)
Correction/Clarification: (Updated Sept. 13, 2013) An earlier version included a headline that incorrectly said the recipe here was for gluten-free diners. The recipe in fact had been re-engineered for people who can eat wheat and gluten products.
Marlene Parrish: Marlene Parrish: 412-481-1620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.