Coffee Cakes A Quick and Simple Treat

Coffee cakes are always crowd pleasers.

And, according to cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie, once you learn the basic techniques, you can easily make any type of coffee cake imaginable. There are many variations on this treat and, once you know the basic recipe, you can experiment with them all.

Ritchie says she likes to give coffee cakes as hostess gifts because everybody loves a homemade coffee cake. Coffee cakes are also great to have on hand for snacking any time of day.

The "cake" part of coffee cake is like a muffin or quick-bread batter, made from flour, sugar, butter and flavorings.

In The Early Show's "Five-Minute Cooking School" Monday, Ritchie showed co-anchor Hannah Storm how to whip up coffee cake. She held class in the flagship store in Manhattan of specialty home furnishings retailer and The Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma.

For starters, Ritchie and Storm made a peach streusel coffee cake. You start by combining the wet and dry ingredients. Ritchie cautions not to over-mix, or the cake will be tough and dense. Over-mixing can also result in your cake having "tunnels" or holes. You then transfer the batter to a buttered pan. Ritchie prefers using a glass baking dish, because she finds that the cake browns better. It's often easiest to use a spring-form pan. You then arrange peaches over the batter and cover with streusel. Keep in mind that you could use almost any fruit here. The crumbly streusel topping is a basic mixture of butter, sugar and flour. You can vary this by adding spices or nuts. Achieve the crumbly texture by cutting the butter into the mixture with a pastry blender. However, you can also place the ingredients in a food processor. In addition to sprinkling the streusel on top of the coffee cake, you can choose to swirl it into the batter itself.

Then, it was on to cranberry-sour cream coffee cake. It's essentially the exact same recipe, substituting sour cream for milk and cranberries for peaches. Ritchie had the cake cut into squares, to show that it's sometimes easier to make coffee cake in a square pan and cut it into squares for a casual gathering or to serve as a snack.

A third variety Ritchie and Storm discussed was spiced apple coffee cake, which calls for a glazed topping instead of streusel. You want to drizzle the glaze over the cake when it's warm, so it absorbs better. Ritchie suggests setting the warm cake on a wire rack over a piece of waxed paper to catch any drips. The glaze is a simple mixture of powdered sugar, condensed milk and vanilla. Condensed milk gives you a thicker, gooey, bakery-like glaze, but regular milk can be substituted if you choose.

RECIPES

Peach Streusel Coffee Cake


Any peach variety is delicious in this coffee cake, from fruits that are bright yellow-orange with a rosy blush, to those that are the palest white. Even ripe peaches, however, may be difficult to peel. To peel them easily, bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a shallow "X" on the blossom end of each peach. Immerse the peaches in the boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Lift out with a slotted spoon and let cool on a work surface. Using your fingers or the knife, slip off the skins.

For the streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter,
cut into small pieces

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 firm, ripe peaches, 1 lb. total, peeled, pitted and sliced 1 inch thick

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round spring-form pan or square baking pan or baking dish.

To make the streusel, in a bowl, stir together the flour, brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wire whisk, beat the egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla and almond extract until creamy, about 1 minute. Add to the flour mixture and beat just until evenly moistened. There should be no lumps or dry spots. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. If using a springform pan, arrange the peach slices in concentric circles from the pan sides to the center. If using a square pan, arrange the slices in rows. Gently press the slices into the batter. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan, if using. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges or squares. Makes one 9-inch cake.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Adapted from "Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins," by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2003)

Cranberry-Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping

Made from butter, flour, sugar and sometimes nuts, streusel cooks into a topping similar to the American crisp and the British crumble, terms that are often used interchangeably. Streusel can be sprinkled over muffins, cupcakes, pies or fresh, soft fruit before baking. In the oven, the butter melts and causes the dry mixture to cook into a crisp, crumbly topping. Without the butter, the mixture would simply scorch.

For the streusel topping:
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, drained and squeezed dry

To make the streusel topping, in a chilled bowl, combine the butter, sugar and flour. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of fine, moist bread crumbs. Work the mixture with your hands until it will hold together when compressed, then squeeze it between your hands into several firm pieces. Cover and refrigerate until the cake is ready to go into the oven.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking dish with butter.

Place the sour cream in a bowl and sift the baking soda and salt into it. Stir to blend evenly and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Sift the flour and baking powder over the top and mix in, then beat in the sour cream mixture. Scatter the chocolate chips and the drained cranberries over the top. Blend in with just a few turns of a rubber spatula.

Scoop the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the surface. Scatter the streusel mixture evenly over the top, breaking it up into large crouton-size pieces (some of the streusel mixture may be small crumbs).

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean but not completely dry, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.

Serves 10.

Adapted from "Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Breakfast," by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2003)

Spiced Apple Coffee Cake

A delicious final touch, the glaze adds a hint of extra flavor and an attractive sheen to this coffee cake.

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tart cooking apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, 1 lb. total, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. strained fresh orange juice, lemon juice or apple juice
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the vanilla glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tbs. condensed skim milk, warmed, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan or square baking pan or baking dish (see Note).

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, toss the apples with the juice. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. Add to the apples and toss to coat. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 2 or 3 additions and beat well until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the apples just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, the 2 Tbs. milk and the vanilla until smooth and pourable. Adjust the consistency of the glaze by adding more milk, a few drops at a time, if needed.

Remove the sides of the springform pan, if using, and place the cake on a wire rack set over a piece of waxed paper to catch any drips. While the cake is warm, drizzle with the glaze. Let the cake cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges or squares to serve. Makes one 9-inch cake.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Adapted from "Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins," by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2003)
  • Brian Dakss

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