This weekend is rainy and damp – the perfect time for baking. Cakes and cookies, the scent of warm cinnamon and chocolate – all these are, to me, the ultimate comfort. A slice of cake, be it carrot, coffee or chocolate, is a welcoming gift to present a visitor, and they pack wonderfully for on-the-go presents. I love cake – the beautiful crumb, the creamy icings, the melding of flavor and texture. Baking a cake is immensely satisfying – the finished product is an act of magic, bringing together simple ingredients and creating a stunning finished product. I dont trust people who dont like cake 😉
And oh, this cake. A humble coffee cake, something you could whip together in half an hour or so, even though it has a filling, topping and batter. Its a simple cake, and it bakes up beautifully – fluffy, cinnamon specked, cream-cheesy interior, with little specs of baked apple, streusel topping. Its surprisingly balanced, and not over-the-top sweet. A wonderful snack, and a delightful breakfast with a cup of hot coffee. My idea of the perfect thing to have in the fridge at all times 🙂
This cake is adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis from her Kitchen Classics book. She got the recipe from her assistant, who got it from her Auntie Fei. So this recipe has been handed down and redrafted at least four times – which is one of the things I love about cooking. You can tell someone how you made a dish, you can even write out a recipe for them. As soon as they get it home, look in the fridge and realise they have raisins rather than an apple, or creme fraiche rather than sour cream, they substitute and change around and add. Its human nature, but its also what makes cooking so personal. As soon as you have any confidence in the kitchen, you know what you like, and you adapt things to that sense of taste and artistry. Its why I love eating other people’s cooking so much. They expose their sense of taste, colour, texture, flavour and fun through what they cook, and how they cook it.
And I must admit something here. This cake actually has nuts in it! I usually dont go for cake with nuts. Ever. I took the nuts out of the sublime carrot cake from yesterday. I would never make anything chocolate with nuts. I love nuts, but not with sweet, except in this cake (well, may be I would use almond meal in a cake in place of flour in a pinch, but thats another story). Here, the nuts act as the texture component, and elevate the coffee cake with their smoky crunchy bite. They also cut the creaminess of the cake well – its made with sour cream, and layered with cream cheese, so its very rich. The nuts help that richness stay balanced. I use almonds because I find them the least offensive of nuts in sweet things, but you could use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or even macadamias if you like.
Making this cake is not hard, but I would certainly make the filling and topping first, before making the batter. That way, the final assembly is quick and easy. Also, you can make it in a bundt pan, but I didnt want to, so I made it in a cake tin. Cooking time is about 10 – 15 minutes less in a bundt pan so watch for that.
Eat this at breakfast or during a coffee break, for a tea time snack or as dessert. Its delicious any which way, but I particularly like it warm from the oven.
- 3/4 cup cream cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
Please make sure you get a good cream cheese. That Philadelphia stuff is full of stabilisers, gums and other chemicals. If you can find a natural, organic or locally made cream cheese, get that. The difference is huge.
Beat all ingredients together till light and creamy, and set aside.
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup toasted sliced almonds, divided (note: you can use any nut you like)
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium to large frying pan, toast the almonds (or other nuts) until they become light golden. Divide into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup. Set the smaller amount aside to use with the filling, and place the 3/4 cup of almonds in a bowl along with the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter, add the vanilla extract to the melted butter, and mix into the almond-flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Set aside.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 200 ml (about 1 cup) sour cream (you can substitute creme fraiche if you like)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream and vanilla.
Beat the dry ingredients and sour cream into the butter-sugar-egg mixture bit by bit – I usually mix in a couple tablespoons flour, then a couple tablespoons sour cream, etc, until you have a smooth batter.
- Cake batter
- 1 large apple (I used a Fuji apple) peeled, cored, and diced (you could use dried cranberries, raisins, or any other fruit you like)
- 1/4 cup reserved almonds
Preheat oven to 180C.
Butter a cake pan, or a bundt pan with removable sides, well. I usually put some baking paper on the bottom of my cake tin, and butter that as well, just to make removal a bit easier.
Pour about half of the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, and smooth. Sprinkle on the diced apple, and then the reserved almonds. Spoon over the cream cheese filling, making sure you get it smeared up against the sides, and dropped throughout the interior of the pan. Top with the remaining cake batter. Smooth the top, and sprinkle over the filling. Using a fork or spoon, fold over a little batter so that you have spots of batter peaking through the filling.
Bake for 55 – 65 minutes depending on your pan, or until a cake tester comes out with crumbs.
Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 – 30 minutes before unmolding, cutting and devouring.
Enjoy with friends.