cherry frangipan coffee cake

cakes are wonderful.  so many flavors to try.  almost as many shapes to bake them in.  honestly, there is something really special about a tube pan.  whether it is baked in the standard angel food pan or a fancy bundt pan, does not matter, either type will work and all of them add a little extra magic to the cake.
bundts and tubes make great cakes for parties, picnics and potlucks.  they generally do not need much frosting and slice well.  for me, the cakes are the perfect gift to take out to the garden to thank my fellow garden volunteers for helping tend to the beds.  they are also a great choice to take to the class each week to share with the interns since slices can be nibbled without the need for a plate or fork.   the biggest challenge i face is choosing a flavor each week, sometimes twice in a week.  
this week, i chose to pair almond paste and tart cherries.  my favorite coffee cake recipe is so versatile that adding almond paste is a great way to make the same cake seem different.  this cake recipe uses the same base recipe as the cranberry-orange coffee cake i posted several weeks ago.  almond paste is easy to find, it is sold in the baking section of the supermarket, usually near the pie and pastry fillings.  the little cans have 8 ounces of almond paste in them and while it seems like a small amount, a little goes a long way in terms of flavor.  

when i open a can, i always cut it into four equal pieces and since i generally use just two ounces at a time for a coffee cake, i wrap each piece and store them in a container in the freezer.  then when i need some, i simply pull it from the freezer, cut it into cubes and let it thaw out and soften before adding to the batter.  to use in the recipe, i generally replace about 1/4-1/3 of the butter with almond paste.

another thing i love about tubes and bundts, you can hide a filling in them without having to worry about the cake collapsing from the weight!  for this recipe, i used some really well drained tart red cherries.

ssshhh…the filling is a secret!

and if the cake wasn’t already enough, i went and added crumb topping.  actually, it could be that the cake was the vehicle for the crumb topping, just sayin…i love crumb topping!

beautifully baked-nothing else needed

however, i just couldn’t help myself.  it seemed like such a waste to pour the cherry juice down the drain.  quickly, i stirred the cherry juice into some powdered sugar.

pink glaze for the top of the cake, add enough juice to make a slightly thin glaze that drips slowly from the spoon rather than running off quickly-a thicker glaze will stay on the cake better than a runny one.
now that’s a coffee cake!  careful little drizzles prevented it from getting soggy and saturated with glaze.

cherry-frangipan coffee cake
1 (10″) tube or bundt cake
serves about 16
crumb topping
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

cake
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces almond paste
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 (14.5 oz) can tart red cherries, drained well, juice reserved
1 cup powdered sugar

to make the crumb topping, place the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking soda into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse a few times to combine.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the mixture and pulse to cut it together.  continue to process the mixture until it begins to clump.  dump the mixture out of the bowl and set it aside.

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the tube pan and set it aside.  to make the batter, place the butter, almond paste, sugar, and salt into the processor bowl and process until smooth.  with the motor running, add the eggs, one at a time and process until mixed.  scrape the bowl and pulse a few times to be sure it is combined.  dump the batter into a large mixing bowl; the rest of the recipe is combined by hand with a rubber spatula or a large wooden spoon.

place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  fold the mixture a few times, sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold it together.  carefully place half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out so there are not huge gaps and vacant areas-it does not need to be perfectly level.  arrange the drained cherries over the batter in the pan and top them with the remaining batter.  sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the cake and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour.  cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes and then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a rack.

to make the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.  while stirring, add enough of the reserved cherry juice to make a slightly thin glaze that pours off a spoon slowly.  drizzle small amounts of the glaze over the cake on the rack-how much you use is up to you, i used the entire amount for this cake.

the cake is best cut when completely cool.  to store, keep it covered in a cake container at room temperature up to 2 days.  to store in the freezer for up to a month, cut and wrap slices well in plastic and place them in a plastic container or bag before freezing.  thaw the slices, still wrapped in plastic, at room temperature.

cranberry-orange coffee cake; a winter pick-me-up

want to know a secret?  gardeners are optimists.  honest, scouts honor.  think about it for a minute; we put teeny, tiny little seeds into large dirt plots and assume plants will emerge.  as if that wasn’t crazy enough, we nurture those plants with the expectations of picking fruits and vegetables to feed ourselves.  in those terms, it almost sounds as if gardeners are a little on the crazy side.  and truth be told, we are.  who else but a dedicated gardener would go outside while the temperatures are just barely above freezing to plant peas and greens?  
by now, you must be wondering what gardening has to do with a winter pick-me-up of cranberry-orange coffee cake.  it actually has nothing to do with actual gardening but it does lead back to the gardeners themselves.  each january, the master gardeners of davidson county, tennessee, begin the annual 14 week training class.  every thursday evening, the new interns attend a lecture related to gardening and a few of the certified members, like myself, are on hand for mentoring, answering questions and offering support.  we also provide refreshments and snacks.  they quickly learn that i am known as “the cake lady from the demo garden.”  it could be worse, i suppose.  
with a schedule of lectures lasting 14 weeks, finding a new(or different) recipe for each week is a challenge.  oddly enough, chocolate by itself, does not go over well.  if it is a ribbon or a handful of chips, okay; but just chocolate, not so much.  having a few good base recipes and a well stocked larder make all of the difference.  the recipe for the cake in the photos can easily be manipulated to use different fruits with the same level of success as the cranberries.  it is the perfect “go to” recipe for someone who bakes frequently and tires of making the same thing again and again.  

one big advantage to this recipe is that the majority of it can be completed in the bowl of a food processor.  a few quick pulses to make the crumb topping, a few pulses more to coarsely chop the cranberries and a final round to cream the butter, sugar and eggs for the batter.  the batter is rather forgiving and nearly foolproof so even the least experienced of bakers can mix up the recipe using the food processor and be guaranteed excellent results.

simple manipulations, such as swapping lemon zest for the orange or blueberries for the cranberries will still yield a beautiful cake even if the fruit is frozen.  for the more daring, shred some zucchini and carrots, toss in a generous helping of walnuts and a bit of cinnamon.  this cake is also the perfect solution for using that last, over ripe banana or that lonely apple resting in the bottom of the basket.  whichever route you take, this versatile recipe is sure to produce a well deserved pick-me-up to brighten a dreary winter day.

cranberry-orange coffee cake
makes 1 (10″) tube cake serving about 16
crumb topping
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
cake
1 cup fresh cranberries (can be frozen-do not thaw!)
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (3 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon)
to make the crumb topping, place the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking soda into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse a few times to combine.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the mixture and pulse to cut it together.  continue to process the mixture until it begins to clump.  dump the mixture out of the bowl and set it aside.
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the tube pan and set it aside.  place the cranberries into the processor bowl and pulse to coarsely chop them.  if they are frozen, do not thaw them or they will streak the cake batter so be sure to keep the chopped berries in the freezer until needed.
to make the batter, place the butter, sugar, salt and orange zest into the processor bowl and process until smooth.  with the motor running, add the eggs, one at a time and process until mixed.  scrape the bowl and pulse a few times to be sure it is combined.  dump the batter into a large mixing bowl; the rest of the recipe is combined by hand with a rubber spatula or a large wooden spoon.
place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  sprinkle the cranberries over the top of the flour.  fold the mixture a few times to coat the berries with the flour and to begin incorporating them.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold it together.  carefully place half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out so there are not huge gaps and vacant areas-it does not need to be perfectly level.  sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the batter in the pan and top it with the remaining batter.  sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the cake and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour.  cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes and then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a rack.  
the cake is best cut when completely cool.  to store, keep it covered in a cake container at room temperature up to 2 days.  to store in the freezer for up to a month, cut and wrap slices well in plastic and place them in a plastic container or bag before freezing.  thaw the slices, still wrapped in plastic, at room temperature.

pear cranberry crumb cake with almonds

the calendar says spring but the weather says fall.  we seem to be having cooler mornings as if it were heading into fall.  why just last night, they issued a frost warning for our area.  if only our last frost date hadn’t been a month ago, i might not have minded it so much.  we have been working hard in the garden and beds have been filled with plants that cannot withstand such temperatures.  that said, it should not surprise anyone that i am baked a cake laced with pears and cranberries rather than the typical sour cherries or strawberries found this time of year.  

how can you not love a crumb topped cake?  especially if it is hiding a layer of spiced fruits!  if you take it a step further and add chunks of almonds to the crumb topping and a little almond paste to the cake-you have a heavenly excuse to put down the garden tools and take a cake break!

when cranberries come into season, i always tuck a few bags into the freezer.  it is a nice surprise when i am digging around in search of inspiration for a cake.  keeping a can of almond paste in the closet is a good idea too.  when i purchase a new can, i open both ends, take out the neat cylinder of paste and cut it into 4 equal pieces.  since the can contains 8 ounces of paste, i end up with 4 two ounce pieces.  by wrapping each in plastic and storing them in a container in the freezer, i always have some available.  and that means i always have another tasty inspiration for cake.

pear cranberry crumb cake with almonds
1 (8″) square cake serving 12-16

crumb topping
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
1/4 cup chopped almonds

fruit filling
1 large, ripe pear-i used a d’anjou
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

almond cake
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces almond paste-at room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 cup baking powder
1 cup milk

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8″ square baking pan and set it aside.  make the crumb topping by combining the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  using your fingers, rub the butter cubes into the dry ingredients until it begins to form crumbs.  take care not to go to far with this step or the crumb layer will be gummy; they should still be somewhat free flowing and a mixture of loose dry ingredients and small to medium clumps with the oats still obvious.  add the almonds and toss it together gently.  set this aside.

peel the pear and cut it into cubes.  combine it with the remaining ingredients and set it aside while you prepare the cake layer.

to make the cake, cream the butter with the almond paste, sugar and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  add the eggs slowly and scrape the bowl as you go.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  fold it a couple times and then sprinkle the milk over the top.  fold this together until no streaks remain and then scrape it out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  spread the batter out in an even layer.  top the cake evenly with the fruit and the sprinkle the crumbs over the fruit so that it is covered but peeks out in spots.  bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour and 15 minutes.  cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes.  to remove the cake from the pan, place a baking sheet over the top of the cake and invert it.  the pan should slide right off.  place your serving plate over the bottom of the cake and invert it again.  now go out to the garden and eat cake!

if you need me, i will be out in the garden with cake…

cinnamon swirl coffee cake; a comedy of errors

just about every sunday morning, i head out to the demonstration and research garden to work with my fellow master gardeners.  it may sound like a bad way to spend a sunday morning but it is actually a lot of fun when a group of us get together for the purpose of tending the many beds.  yes it is social, but we also have the opportunity to learn about all things “garden.”

did i mention the cake?  it is hard to get volunteers to crawl out of bed early on a sunday morning so i have taken to bribing them with homemade cake.  every saturday evening, i bake a cake to take out there on sunday morning.  on the rare occasion that my husband can join me due to his insane work schedule, i let him choose the flavor; he chose chocolate chips this time.

one of my favorite types of coffee cake is a classic crumb cake.  tons of cinnamon scented streusel on top of a dense vanilla cake dusted with a barrel of powdered sugar.  mmmmmmm…add some chocolate chips and a cinnamon nut swirl and you just hit that one over the fence!  when i want a coffee cake like that, i reach for my worn out copy of the cake bible by rose levy beranbaum and i turn to her sour cream coffee cake recipe.

so, here i was in my kitchen on a saturday evening preparing to bake the coffee cake for my trip to the garden sunday morning.  how hard could that be?  oven set to 350 for preheating.  the food processor came out to make the crumb topping.  then i began to measure the ingredients for the topping and the ribbon since they are prepared first.  light brown sugar(bag of dark is open, i grab that instead), sugar, pecans, cinnamon, cake flour,  CAKE FLOUR!!!  uh oh, no cake flour; out came the all purpose and the corn starch to make a quick substitute.

next up, the butter for the topping and the cake, egg yolks, wait; let’s make that 2 whole eggs rather than 4 yolks-i don’t want left over whites.  back to it; sour cream-hmmm, it shouldn’t be neon pink now should it?  no problem, i’ve got buttermilk.  moving right along, vanilla, cake flour(or should i say pretend cake flour), sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and let’s not forget those chocolate chips!!!

needless to say, it pays to stock the larder and to check it for the ingredients before you get started.  but despite the missing ingredients, the cake came out fantastic and for a change, the squirrels did not get a single crumb!!!

sour cream comedy cake with chocolate chips
1 (8) cup tube pan, serves 8-10
adapted from rose levy beranbaum’s sour cream coffee cake recipe in the cake bible, 1988, william morrow and company.  
topping
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pecan pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup cake flour (or 1/3 cup all purpose flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
place the sugars, pecans and cinnamon into the bowl of the food processor and pulse to coarsely chop the pecans.  measure out 3/4 cup and set it aside.  add the flour and butter and pulse it to form small pea sized lumps of topping.  set this aside and prepare the cake batter.
cake batter
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour (or 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and slightly softened
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8 cup tube pan and set aside.  whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk and the vanilla.  in the mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and the salt and mix to combine.  add the butter and the remaining 6 tablespoons of buttermilk.  on low speed, mix until the ingredients come together.  turn the speed to medium and allow it to cream for several minutes until it is light and almost fluffy.  add the egg mixture in several additions, scrape the bowl after each addition and mix until combined.  add half of the chocolate chips and stir them in by hand.  pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.   sprinkle the chocolate chips and the cinnamon/nut mixture evenly over the batter.  carefully drop the remaining batter over the topping in small dollops and then spread them out to form a thin layer.  sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the cake and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes.  carefully turn the cake out and then invert it onto a rack to cool.  serve as is or with a dusting of powdered sugar.  
and if you are interested in that garden i mentioned, see it here