Numerous recipes bookmarked, but only limited time available. Sad fact of life #1.
Well, we got to make the best use of the limited time we have. I guess that’s how my brain decided to adapt parts of two recipes and create one simple coffee cake. I should probably confess at this point that for a long time, I had thought coffee cake referred to a coffee-flavoured cake. Only rather recently (how embarrassing) I learnt that coffee cake is basically a term used to refer to any cake that nicely complements a coffee or tea break.
Dorie Greenspan’s “Dimply Plum Cake” is one such cake. However, her recipe does not call for a streusel or crumb topping. I remembered seeing a similar plum cake recipe in The best of Fine Cooking – Breakfast magazine which had a crumb topping, so I decided to sort of merge the two recipes. Oh and I substituted apricots (of the canned variety) for the plums, because I saw canned apricots at the supermarket and bought it and it came with a December expiry date, so I had to use it and anyway the recipe is adaptable, as suggested by Dorie. Wow that was a pretty long sentence.
I think we should get on with the cake!
First, get the ingredients ready. This, at my place at least, involves washing and drying all the utensils, baking pans etc., then laying out the ingredients and hooking up the stand mixer (because it does not have a permanent place on our kitchen counter. how sad right. ok stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s not attractive.)
Prepare the streusel / crumb mixture as directed and place in the fridge while you make the cake batter. Beat butter and sugar till creamy.
Zest a whole large orange by hand without the help of a microplane zester, instead using a regular grater and stop feeling sorry for the fact that you don’t own a microplane zester, and instead be grateful that you have an opportunity to tone your arms, however pathetic this may seem (by “you” of course I mean me, myself and I).
Add the eggs, then the oil, orange zest and vanilla. Just stand and inhale the lovely orange fragrance. Then snap back to reality and resume mixing. Or rather, turn the mixer to medium speed, so that it will continue to mix.
When all the wet ingredients have been mixed, the batter is supposed to appear smooth and satiny; but I have no idea what a satiny batter looks like though. As long as the ingredients are properly combined, I guess it should be fine.
Next, add the dry ingredients (which you would have already measured into a small bowl earlier), a little at a time. Stand too close to the mixer and get flour flying into your eyes. Curse the fact that you’re wearing contacts and blink rapidly to avoid any eye infection. Wonder why you didn’t switch to glasses since you’re at home anyway and it doesn’t matter that you look like a nerd while baking a cake. Stop the mixer after all the dry ingredients have been added. Use a spatula and gently incorporate any remaining flour mixture that had not been properly mixed.
Spread batter into the prepared pan, level it, top with apricots, realise you have spaced them too far apart in the first rows and hence your last two rows appear crammed, console yourself that imperfections are also artistic. Retrieve the streusel / crumb topping from the fridge, distribute as evenly as possible around the apricots. Wash your hands for what seems like the millionth time, and finally place the cake in the oven. Wait patiently for the oven to do its magic, and dive in! Okay, not really, you got to wait till the cake is completely cooled before slicing and serving (as is done for almost all baked goods.)
A perfect everyday cake, lovely for tea or as a sweet breakfast treat. Hope you will like it too!
Dimply Apricot Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted slightly from (Fine Cooking, p 91 & Baking From My Home to Yours, p 41)
Ingredients for Streusel / Crumb topping
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of cardamom / cinnamon ( I used cinnamon)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (more as needed) ( I found 3 tbsp to be sufficient)
Ingredients for Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I added this, felt that almonds complement apricots well)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Scant 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional) (I left this out)
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil (canola or safflower)
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
16 apricot halves (or, in the original recipe, plums)
Make the streusel: Put the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom or cinnamon in a small bowl and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined. Drizzle melted butter over the mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles a clumpy dough. Using your fingers, break the mixture into pistachio-sized clumps and large crumbs. If the streusel is sandy and won’t clump, add a little more melted butter, 1 tsp at a time. Refrigerate the streusel while you prepare the cake batter.
Centre a rack in the oven, preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line an 8-inch square pan with baking paper / parchment paper with overhanging sides for easier cake removal. Butter and flour the paper and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, sliced almonds, baking powder, salt and cardamom (if using) together.
Beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter (4 rows of 4 halves each), pressing the apricots lightly so they settle into the batter. Sprinkle the streusel around (not over) the apricots until the streusel mixture is used up.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.(Mine took about 1 hour for the centre of the cake to be properly baked, so do ensure the cake is done instead of simply removing it at the 40-minute mark!)
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then lift the cake out of the pan using the overhanging sides of parchment paper and cool completely before serving.
Note from Dorie Greenspan: (about the original dimply plum cake) cake does not freeze well.
Update 12/12/13: Cake is moister the following day, and the top fruit and streusel layer is slightly pudding-like. Soft cake is almost always a good thing in my book!